I did most of it without paying but it is much more time consuming and traveling, census results and church records are good, as is the LDS site. Also if you get stuck on family that migrated there are family history groups overseas, US, NZ and Australia that will help. A cousin used Ancestry.com and found some more, with less effort
I've used both Ancestry and Find My Past over the years and preferred FMP (which at that time had access to newspapers). Haven't used either for some time so don't know which I would prefer now. There is a forum called Rootschat that is free and absolutely excellent - lots of experienced people you can ask questions of, they will help do lookups for people who don't have access to the sites they need, and help to find those elusive ancestors that don't appear in the records where you expect them. Also some nice chatty threads, like GN.