Genealogy websites, digital platforms that help individuals trace their ancestry and build their family tree, have revolutionized the way we explore our family history.
This guide provides an in-depth comparison of top genealogy websites, including Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, and FindMyPast. We’ll delve into their unique features, databases, and pricing structures, helping you understand which platform best suits your needs.
What are genealogy websites?
Genealogy websites are online platforms designed to help individuals trace their ancestry and build their family tree. These websites provide access to a wealth of historical records, including birth, marriage, and death certificates, census data, military records and pension, naturalization, probate, tax and more. They serve as a digital repository of information that can span centuries, connecting users to their past and helping them uncover their family’s history.
It’s important to note that the scope of information can vary across different platforms. Therefore, choosing the right genealogy website often depends on one’s specific needs and objectives, such as the geographical regions of interest, the types of records required, and the budget for subscription fees.
In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the features, benefits, and comparisons of some of the top genealogy websites.
What is the Best Genealogy Website?
The best genealogy website depends on individual needs and goals. Factors such as the depth of the record database, geographical coverage, ease of use, and cost come into play. In the following section, we’ll explore and compare top genealogy websites to help you make an informed choice.
Ancestry.com is one of the most well-known genealogy websites and is often considered one of the best due to its extensive database and range of features. With over 40 billion records and 100 million family trees worldwide, Ancestry.com provides users with a wealth of resources to trace their family history. These records include birth, marriage, and death certificates, census data, military records, immigration documents, and more.
One of the standout features of Ancestry.com is its family tree builder, which allows users to visually map their lineage and easily link individuals to relevant records. The site also offers AncestryDNA, a genealogical DNA test that provides users with insights into their ethnic origins and connects them with potential biological relatives who have also taken the test.
Ancestry.com’s intuitive interface and advanced search tools make it easy for both beginners and experienced genealogists to navigate the site and find relevant information. The website also offers a mobile app, allowing users to access their family tree and research on the go.
While Ancestry.com requires a subscription for full access to its records and features, it often offers free trials for new users. The website offers three subscription plans:
- “U.S. Discovery” plan at $24.99 per month which gets you access to all U.S. records on Ancestry.
- “World Explorer” plan at $39.99 per month which gets you access to all U.S. and international records on Ancestry.
- “All Access” plan at $59.99 per month which gets you access to everything on Ancestry, Fold3, and the NewsPapers.com Publisher Extra plan.
These prices are subject to change and subscriptions auto-renew, but you can cancel anytime. Please be aware that an early termination fee may apply if you cancel before the end of your 6-month subscription.
For a more detailed look at what Ancestry.com has to offer, check out our Ancestry.com Review.
MyHeritage is another leading genealogy website that offers a rich array of features to help users explore their family history. The site boasts an impressive collection of historical records, including census data, birth, marriage, and death records, military documents, and more, from various countries around the world.
One of the unique features of MyHeritage is its robust suite of tools for DNA analysis. Users can take a MyHeritage DNA test to discover their ethnic origins and find genetic relatives. The site also allows users to upload DNA data from other testing services for further analysis.
MyHeritage’s family tree builder is user-friendly and offers smart matches, which automatically finds and suggests potential family connections based on the information in your tree and others. The site also offers a photo enhancement tool that can colorize black and white photos and enhance blurry images, bringing your family history to life.
The website is available in 42 languages, making it a great choice for non-English speakers or those with ancestors from non-English speaking countries.
While MyHeritage requires a subscription for full access, it offers a 14-day free trial for new users to explore its features and resources. The website offers two main subscription plans that include access to historical records:
- The “Data” plan, priced at $189 per year ($129 for the first year), provides access to all 19.4 billion historical records.
- The “Complete” plan, priced at $299 per year ($199 for the first year), provides unlimited family tree size, Smart Matches™, advanced DNA features, Instant Discoveries™, Tree Consistency Checker, access to 19.4 billion historical records, Record Matches, and the ability to save records to your tree.
Please note that these prices are subject to change.
FamilySearch is a unique player in the world of genealogy websites, as it offers access to its extensive database of records completely free of charge. Operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch has a mission to connect families across generations and has amassed a vast collection of historical records from all over the world.
As of June 2023, FamilySearch has 13.36 billion searchable names in historical records, 5.04 billion digital images, and 571,145 digital books online. Its Family Tree feature contains 2.76 billion sources and 1.51 billion people.
The site also offers a comprehensive family tree builder, allowing users to visually map their lineage and connect individuals to relevant records. However I would not recommend using FamilySearch to manage your family tree.
One of the standout features of FamilySearch is its community-driven approach. Users can contribute by indexing records, which involves transcribing information from digital images to make them searchable. This collaborative digitization effort has resulted in an ever-growing collection of searchable records.
While FamilySearch does not offer DNA testing services, it does allow users to link their family trees to DNA test results from third-party providers. This can provide additional insights into genetic ancestry and potential biological relatives.
With its free access and community-driven approach, FamilySearch is a valuable resource for anyone interested in exploring their family history, regardless of their budget.
For a more detailed look at what FamilySearch has to offer, check out our FamilySearch review.
FindMyPast is a genealogy website that specializes in UK and Irish records, making it an excellent resource for individuals with ancestors from these regions. The site offers access to a vast collection of records, including birth, marriage, and death certificates, census data, military records, and more. Unique to FindMyPast are its extensive collections of British newspaper archives and parish records, which can provide valuable insights into your ancestors’ lives.
FindMyPast’s family tree builder is intuitive and easy to use, allowing users to visually map their lineage and link individuals to relevant records. The site also offers a “Hints” feature, which automatically suggests potential records related to the individuals in your family tree.
While FindMyPast does not offer its own DNA testing service, it has partnered with Living DNA to provide users with detailed insights into their genetic ancestry and ethnicity. Users can also upload DNA data from other testing services for further analysis on FindMyPast.
A subscription is required for full access to FindMyPast’s records and features. However, the site often offers free access to certain record collections and provides a 14-day free trial for new users.
The website offers three subscription plans:
- The “Essential British & Irish” plan, priced at $13.33 per month (billed as a single payment of $159.99 per year), provides all the records you need to start your journey and the ability to message people with common ancestors.
- The “Ultimate British & Irish” plan, priced at $18.33 per month (billed as a single payment of $219.99 per year), offers access to the largest online collection of British and Irish records and includes exclusive expert guidance and content.
- The “Premium” plan, priced at $24.99 per month (billed as a single payment of $299.99 per year), provides access to everything on FindMyPast, including the 1921 Census.
Please note that these prices are subject to change.
Each of the genealogy websites we’ve discussed—Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, and FindMyPast—has unique features and databases that set them apart.
Ancestry.com is known for its extensive global database and offers a comprehensive suite of tools, including a robust family tree builder and AncestryDNA testing services. It’s a great all-rounder for most genealogy research.
MyHeritage also has a broad database, but it stands out with its advanced DNA analysis tools and photo enhancement features. It’s also available in multiple languages, making it a good choice for non-English speakers.
FamilySearch is unique in that it offers free access to its vast collection of records. It has a strong community focus, with users contributing by indexing records. However, it doesn’t offer DNA testing services and isn’t as user-friendly. Additionally, many records can only be viewed at a family history center or a public library due to licensing agreements. They also have interlibrary loan.
FindMyPast specializes in UK and Irish records, including unique collections of British newspaper archives and parish records. It also offers a family tree builder and has a partnership with Living DNA for genetic ancestry testing.
Comparing Pricing and Access to Records
Ancestry.com, MyHeritage and FindMyPast require a subscription for full access to their records and features, with costs varying depending on the level of access and services you choose. Both offer free trials for new users.
FamilySearch stands out as it offers free access to all its records. However, it doesn’t provide DNA testing services, although it allows users to link their family trees to DNA test results from third-party providers.
For a more detailed comparison, see: Ancestry vs FamilySearch vs MyHeritage vs FindMyPast.
How to Choose a Genealogy Website
Choosing the right genealogy website can be a crucial step in your journey to uncover your family history. It’s not a one-size-fits-all decision, as each platform offers unique features and resources. In this section, we’ll guide you through key considerations and questions to ask when selecting a genealogy website that best suits your needs.
What makes a good genealogy website?
A good genealogy website offers a comprehensive and diverse database of historical records, including vital records (birth, marriage, and death), census data, and more. It should have an intuitive interface that makes searching and navigating through records easy, even for beginners. Advanced search options for more experienced users are a plus.
The website should also offer tools for building and visualizing your family tree. If it provides DNA testing services, it should ensure privacy and security of your genetic data. Lastly, a good genealogy website should have transparent pricing, reliable customer support, and a strong reputation for accuracy and authenticity in its records.
How do genealogy websites work?
Genealogy websites work by aggregating vast amounts of historical and public records from various sources worldwide. Users can search these databases using names, dates, and locations to find information about their ancestors. Many sites also offer tools to build a family tree, allowing users to visually map their lineage.
Some websites offer DNA testing services, where users can send a sample, usually a saliva swab, to be analyzed. The results can provide insights into ethnic origins and biological relatives. It’s important to note that these websites use complex algorithms and data management systems to organize and present this information in a user-friendly manner.
What should you look for in an ancestry website?
When choosing an ancestry website, consider the following factors:
- Database Size and Scope: Look for a website with a large and diverse database. The more records the site has, the higher your chances of finding relevant information.
- Geographical Coverage: If you’re interested in tracing lineage from a specific region, ensure the website has a strong collection of records from that area.
- Ease of Use: The website should have an intuitive interface and user-friendly search tools.
- Family Tree Building Tools: These tools can help you visualize and organize your research.
- DNA Testing: Some websites offer DNA testing services for more detailed ancestral insights.
- Privacy and Security: Ensure the website has strong policies to protect your personal and genetic data.
- Pricing: Consider the cost of subscription or services and ensure it fits within your budget.
- Customer Support: Reliable customer support can be crucial when you encounter issues or need guidance.
Remember, the best ancestry website for you depends on your specific needs and goals.
Specialized Genealogy Websites
Specialized genealogy websites cater to specific research needs and can be a valuable resource for digging deeper into your family history.
- Newspaper Websites: These sites provide access to historical newspapers, offering unique insights into your ancestors’ lives.
- UK Genealogy Websites: If your ancestors hail from the UK, these websites can be particularly useful.
- African American Genealogy Websites: These sites focus on resources for African American ancestry.
- German Genealogy Websites: If you have German roots, these websites can help you trace your lineage.
- Irish Genealogy Websites: For those with Irish ancestry, these websites offer specialized resources.
- Mexican Genealogy Websites: These sites provide resources for tracing Mexican ancestry.
- DNA Upload Websites: These platforms allow you to upload DNA data for more detailed ancestral insights.
Each of these specialized websites offers unique resources to help you uncover your family’s past. Be sure to explore our guides for more detailed information and tips.
How Accurate Are Genealogy Websites?
Genealogy websites are generally accurate as they source information from official records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, census data, and military records from NARA. However, the accuracy can depend on the quality of the sourced records and the information provided by users. Mistakes can occur, especially in user-generated family trees. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to cross-verify information using multiple sources.
Which Genealogy Site Has the Most Records
Ancestry.com is known to have the largest collection of records, boasting billions of records from around the world. However, the number of records can change as websites continually update their databases. It’s recommended to check the latest data on the websites.
How Much Does a Genealogy Website Cost
The cost of using genealogy websites can vary greatly. Some websites offer free access to certain records, while others require a subscription for full access, which can range from $10 to $25 per month, or more for premium features. Remember to consider your budget and research needs when choosing a website.
What are the Best Free Genealogy Websites?
Free genealogy websites are a valuable resource, especially for those just starting to explore their family history or those on a tight budget. This is noteworthy because many genealogy websites require a paid subscription. Among the top free options available are FamilySearch, Find A Grave, and USGenWeb. Each of these websites provides unique features and databases, which can greatly assist in your quest to uncover your family’s past.
FamilySearch, for instance, offers access to a global database of genealogical records, while Find A Grave focuses on providing user-submitted information about final resting places. USGenWeb, on the other hand, has a strong focus on local US genealogy, with projects covering every US state and county. Utilizing these resources in conjunction can provide a more comprehensive view of your family history.