GenealogyBank Review

GenalogyBank.com – A Genealogical Treasure Trove

Every genealogy website out there has its collection of genealogical records, but few come even close to the vast archive you can find at GenealogyBank.com.

What You Will Find

GenealogyBank.com has an extensive collection of records, including:

  • Articles and obituaries from more than 9,600 newspapers
  • Social Security Death Index records from 1937 to 2014
  • Government publications
  • Historical Books

In all, the site houses more than 2 billion records that cover every corner of the United States. These can all be searched at the same time, or as separate collections.

Let’s take a look at what each collection has to offer.

Obituaries

If you’ve ever read an obituary, then you know just how much wonderful genealogical information they can supply:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Names of parents and siblings
  • Names of spouses and children (and sometimes other relatives, too)
  • Activities, hobbies, education, career, and involvement in social clubs
  • Church affiliation
  • And of course, place and date of death and burial

GenealogyBank contains an amazing collection of obituaries, more than 250 million at last count and still growing.

These obituaries have been extracted from thousands of different newspapers across more than three centuries and brought into one convenient spot (well, two actually). That lets you eliminate hours of digging through multiple sources.

There are two obituary collections at GenealogyBank.com:

  • The Historical Obituaries collection runs from 1690 to 1976
  • The Recent Obituaries collection runs from 1977 to the present

Within each collection, you can search by first and last name. Advanced search options let you add keywords and narrow your search to a range of dates. If you already know the exact date, you can search just for that day.

One great feature about the Recent Obituaries collection is that it is constantly being updated as new obituaries are being published.

They receive a direct feed from many major newspapers located in all parts of the United States.

You can even find obituaries that appeared in the newspaper as recently as today, and sometimes ones that won’t hit the paper until tomorrow!

Newspaper Articles

As any experienced family historian can tell you, newspapers are an outstanding source of information when it comes to digging through your family roots. You can find just about everything in newspapers:

  • Birth announcements
  • Death announcements and obituaries
  • Engagements and weddings
  • Social events, often with long lists of participants
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Advertisements
  • Hometown news
  • Letters to the editor
  • School news, enrollment lists, and graduation lists
  • Military enlistment and mustering out
  • Legal notices
  • Family reunions
  • Anniversaries and divorces

Historically, newspapers have been full of stories about people doing everything that people do. These stories are perfect for adding some depth to your family tree.

After all, without newspapers, I would never have known that my great-grandfather won the badminton tournament at his Boy Scout summer camp when he was 14.

Newspapers are especially great for firsthand information, which can be used to prove, correct, expand, or disprove stories that have been handed down through the generations and possibly changed many times along the way.

The GenealogyBank collection includes articles from more than 9,600 different newspapers. Many of them (95%, according to the website) are not available anywhere else online.

Again, there are two main categories of newspapers available, although they are all in a single collection and can all be searched at the same time.

For about half of the newspapers, only the obituaries are available. You can search those either with an obituary search or a newspaper search.

For the rest, a wider range of articles has been digitized.

While some major modern newspapers are included, these are mainly older newspapers, with the majority of them being from the 18th and 19th centuries, and into the early 20th century.

If that’s what you are after, perfect. If you are looking for more recent articles, your choices are limited.

Also, be aware that while in most cases the entire page of the newspaper can be viewed, in some cases only the specific article is available with the rest of the page cropped off.

Check out our full guide to newspapers.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

The SSDI may seem like a limited resource at first, but what it does contain can set you on the right track towards finding more in-depth records.

The SSDI lists nearly everyone who ever applied for a social security number and whose death was later reported to the Social Security Administration.

Listings go back as far as 1936, and for most years since 1973, the SSDI has records for about 95% of those who were 65 or older at the time of their deaths. So, while it doesn’t have everyone, it comes close.

Because of certain built-in delays, the SSDI is only searchable up to 2014 right now.

The information you can usually find in the SSDI includes:

  • Social Security Number
  • Given name, surname, and sometimes middle initial
  • Date of birth
  • At least month and year of death, sometimes the exact date
  • Place where the SSN was issued
  • In some cases month and year that the SSN was issued
  • ZIP Code of last known residence

GenealogyBank gives you complete access to the Social Security Death Index using the same easy search features as their other collections.

Government Publications

GenealogyBank.com boasts a wide range of different government publications, such as:

  • Widow’s claims
  • Orphan petitions
  • Land grants
  • Military records
  • Casualty lists
  • Revolutionary War and Civil War pension requests

All of these can be great resources for genealogical information on your ancestors.

Historical Books

You’ll find a variety of different historical books available in GenealogyBank’s collection, including:

  • Biographies
  • Local histories
  • Family genealogies
  • City directories
  • Historical Maps
  • Vintage advertisements
  • And even funeral sermons!

These resources can not only help put your ancestors on the map, they can flesh out some of the dry facts and bring some life into your family history.

Searching GenealogyBank.com

The search feature at GenealogyBank is simple to use but contains enough optional features to help you narrow down your searches and make them more effective.

For a basic search, just enter the first and last name you’re looking for. It’s as simple as that. You have the option of doing your search with Exact Name on or off. Turning it on helps eliminate irrelevant matches if you find yourself getting too many results. Leave it off helps you find your ancestors when their names got misspelled.

Other advanced options include:

  • Searching by a specific date, or a range of dates – again, this is good for weeding out the hits you don’t want
  • Adding keywords to your search – you might try adding the name of a sibling, spouse, child, school, vocation, or employer
  • Removing keywords from your search – if you’re getting a lot of results for the wrong Joseph Wright, for example, try to find a word that distinguishes the two
  • Searching by a specific state – you can also search two or more states at the same time
  • Searching just in a specific city, or multiple cities within the same state
  • Searching in just one newspaper, or searching several specific newspapers all at once

You also have the option of searching all of GenealogyBank.com’s collections at the same time or choosing just one collection for your search.

Unlike some other websites, the search interface is very clean and easy to use, with all of your options laid out clearly. It won’t take you long at all to start finding the results you want.

Saving Your Work

You have several choices when it comes to saving your work with GenealogyBank.

  • Saved articles – you can save full articles or pages from newspapers or other sources
  • Saved clippings – highlight just the part of the page you want, so you don’t have to read the whole thing again next time
  • Saved searches – if you have a basic search that you want to do for several ancestors, you can save it so you don’t have to re-enter it every time

In addition, you can also click on Search History to see what searches you have already done and instantly go back into them if you need to recheck your results.

Getting Help

GenealogyBank makes it easy to get help when you need it. They offer both online and phone support, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

In case you’re just getting started in genealogy, they provide a free eBook to get you headed in the right direction. It covers the basics of using family group sheets and family tree charts and will teach you how to start searching as well as how to document your research.

On top of that, the site includes several webinars free with your subscription. These teach you how to find the results you want, and how to make the best use of what you find.

The website also has a regularly updated blog with a range of articles, including helpful tips, expert advice, upcoming family history events, new genealogical software, and new research tools.

GenealogyBank publishes a newsletter full of tips, advice, and exclusive offers. They also provide links to their past issues in case you missed one.

You can connect with GenealogyBank on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as well.

But Wait, There’s a Store

One feature that you won’t find on most genealogical record sites is a bookstore, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at GenealogyBank.com.

They have collected more than 150 books that cover every aspect of genealogy and family history and made them easy to find by putting them all in one place.

As a subscriber, you receive a 20% discount on the cover price of the books. That can save you a lot of time searching for good resources, and a lot of money in the long run.

Subscription Options

There’s only one main option when it comes to subscribing to GenealogyBank, all or nothing.

Unlike many sites, it doesn’t restrict part of its content to only those users who are willing to pay more. Once you subscribe, you have instant full access to the entire collection.

You can purchase a monthly subscription, or you can buy an annual subscription for a huge cost savings (about 70% off the monthly cost).

Unfortunately, GenealogyBank.com does not have a free trial offer. However, you can sign up for a 30-day trial at half off their regular rate, letting you check out the site out without spending a lot of money up front.

Again, this gives you complete access to everything the website has to offer, so you can make sure it’s right for you.

A Few Drawbacks

As great as it would be, no website out there has everything. So, there are a few things you should be aware of before deciding on a subscription.

First of all, while the site does have articles from more than 9,600 newspapers, for about half of those papers the only articles they carry are obituaries. If your main interest is being able to search all of the articles, this can be an issue.

In addition, of the titles that do include articles other than obituaries, in the majority of cases, they cover only the 19th century and early 20th century. Coverage is much sparser when it comes to the mid to late 20th century or later.

What that means is if you’re looking specifically for a source for newspaper articles, GenealogyBank.com is still a good choice, but it might not be your first choice. But given all of the other great features that it has, it is still an excellent option overall.

On the other hand, if you’re looking mainly for newspapers from the 1800s, GenealogyBank has many unique titles you won’t find anywhere else.

Finally, be aware that GenealogyBank only includes newspapers and other records from the United States. There is no coverage of any other countries.

Excellent Choice Overall

While GenealogyBank isn’t perfect, it is one of the best sites out there when it comes to number and range of resources available.

GenealogyBank carries thousands of newspapers that you won’t find on any other site, and a subscription might be worth it for that fact alone.

Combine that with all of the other unique resources in their collection, and GenealogyBank.com is an excellent pick for just about anyone. Click here to get a 30-day trial.

Also, check out my guide to GenealogyBank vs Newspapers.com.

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