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10 Best Genealogy Sites Reviewed & Compared by Amanndam
Family genealogy research is fast growing in popularity, especially since the World Wide Web has enabled us to search for family information so much quicker and easier than ever previously possible. Not only can you find interesting (and sometimes totally shocking) information about your ancestors, but you can connect with other researchers exploring their family’s past. It isn’t at all uncommon to discover a long-lost distant relative in this way, but at the very least, you can get tips from other people with more genealogy research experience.
It can be somewhat overwhelming when you first begin researching your ancestry. Of the many genealogy sites available, how do you determine which ones will be the best for your genealogy research? After careful review and comparison of the most popular genealogy websites the following ten made my top 10 list. These genealogy websites have remarkable features and are also very user-friendly.
1. Ancestry.com. With an estimated four billion names in its massive database and counting, Ancestry.com is likely the best known genealogy site in the United States, and a favorite of many genealogists. The Family Tree Maker software is one of the site’s main attractions. You can view video tutorials, get the monthly newsletter, and gain access to other researchers on the site.
While the majority of Ancestry’s search capabilities aren’t offered for free, you can still access scans of documents and images, such as birth certificates, court records, and photographs without breaking out your wallet. Obituaries are also available, as well as census and military records, land office records, and school yearbooks from the U.S. You can store the family findings you discover in what is called the “Shoebox” so that you don’t have to retrace your steps. You can sort the list of databases on Ancestry.com in a variety of ways to make it easier to find what you are looking for.
The site’s subscription options let you choose from either only United States records or from the international database, which allows you to refine your search based on location within a specific country. You can also apply intelligent filters to the databases, such as the type of genealogy record you’re searching for. Rankings are assigned to the result set with stars so that you can easily identify the data that matches your query the best.
2. Genealogy.com. Another popular genealogy site, Genealogy.com is actually a “sister” site of Ancestry.com – both a part of the MyFamily network. Primarily geared towards users in the U.S., the niche genealogy website contains data on 300+ million names. More than a quarter of a million new records are added to their databases on a weekly basis.
Family Tree Maker is also available on the website. The family tree software merges your family tree with other family members, allowing subscribers to assist one another in their ancestry research. You can also search for the family trees of others to discover new family connections. There are also pictures of cemetery gravestones on the site. One other fun feature of Genealogy.com is a list of family trees of celebrities.
Genealogy.com offers a free 14-day trial membership option. You can choose from three levels of membership – Basic, Deluxe, or Gold. The Deluxe membership includes the World Family Tree, and Gold membership gives you unlimited site wide access.
3. GenealogyBank.com. This site contains information from every U.S. state, dating back to the 17th century onward. One of the main advantages of this genealogy search site is that it offers access to a staggering number (over a billion) of digitized historical documents, newspapers, pamphlets, and books that are not available elsewhere on the Web, so if you have hit a brick wall in finding a specific family document or clipping, try searching for it on this site. The digitized clippings you discover can be saved directly on your computer as PDF files, making your family research more convenient.
The complete American State Papers produced between 1789 and 1838 are also included on the site, making for interesting research possibilities even if you aren’t researching your family roots. The website has both African American and Hispanic American newspaper collections for those interested in researching ethnic genealogies. The United States Social Security Death Index is freely available to search, along with additional information, such as the day of the week of birth and death dates. Unlimited access to the subscription-only areas of GenealogyBank is available for an affordably priced 30 day trial. Monthly and annual membership options are available thereafter.
4. FamilySearch.org. If you want to explore your ancestral roots completely for free, this large genealogy site run by volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the best places to begin. It boasts in excess of 36 million family names, but it also links you to the International Genealogical Index with over 600 million names of the departed, as well as pedigree charts in the Ancestral File database. Latino and African American records are included, and you get access to the LDS church’s Family History Libraries.
The census records on the site start in the late 1800s and include the U.S, U.K. and Canada. Genealogical research centers are also listed, which is helpful if you are planning a patronage to any these places. Thousands of completely free articles crafted by experts in the website’s Wiki are a major perk because you can discover a great deal about genealogy research that you can then apply if you visit other paid membership sites later. Despite its free status, the LDS site also offers help and support services.
5. Archives.com. One of the newest genealogy resources, Archives.com has quickly amassed thousands of users. While the site isn’t free, it costs less than most other genealogy websites and offers a 7-day free trial and family tree-building tool. With a big database of records, the site contains information about the living so that you can potentially find relatives.
Generally, the records include the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. You will discover war records such as World War II enlistment data, as well as birth records from England and Wales and the Dictionary of American Family Names. For African Americans, the site includes an African Heritage section with advice from Henry Louis Gates, the director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
At a discounted rate through your Archives.com membership, you can order vital documents that you may not have been able to locate previously through Vitalchek.com or newspaper clippings from NewspaperArchive.com. You can also order an in-person search in a specific location for court records. Within a matter of hours for a paltry price, you can have your document.
6. USGenWeb.com. Solely a volunteer effort, the USGenWeb.com website is completely free and includes a page for each of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, which is then broken down by counties and towns. Marriage, birth, death, census, immigration, and church records are available, as well as a big database of maps.
Searching each state’s info can sometimes provide you with data you might not find on other genealogy websites. It is especially helpful when you have geographical information for the family members or ancestors you are looking for. You may need to search for more than one page to uncover the information you are seeking, but the results are well worth the effort.
The genealogy site is currently working on several projects such as the Archivest Project to transcribe many public records, and the African American Griots Project to assist African Americans in researching their familial roots. The Genealogical Events Project notifies you about events where you can gain knowledge about genealogical research and meet other family researchers. Yet another project called the Kidz Project teaches kids about family research.
7. WorldVitalRecords.com. World Vital Records pioneer collection contains nearly 14 million names in over 500 databases, including passenger lists, and there are also about 300 million military records. The school yearbook database has more than 70 million names. The genealogy site now also has a card catalog that lets you search with a title keyword. An online map with zoom capability provides locations.
They offer a monthly newsletter, as well as helpful articles and tutorials. Support is also provided for scrapbooking your family findings, and the message boards let you to connect with other family researchers. There is also phone support available.
WorldVitalRecords charges a lower price if you want to search only U.S. records rather than the worldwide database. If you choose the international option, however, you will have access to more than 11,000 databases. You can sample the website for free for three days. After purchase there is a 30 day money back guarantee.
8. Footnote.com. What makes Footnote interesting is that users can post documents for other people to peruse. So, if someone has a document or record in a private collection, you might be able to locate these rare, hard-to-find items on this genealogy site, which contains more than 85 million documents and photographs from the 17th century on, organized by era..
There are numerous documents and photographs from wars in which the United States military fought, beginning with the Revolutionary War. You can also create a memorial page for someone or a footnote page to display your documents.
A basic website membership is free, and many of the documents are available with this option. Paid website membership gives full site access and is still quite affordable with a seven-day trial.
9. MyHeritage.com. This genealogy site houses its own online family tree software and family webpage functionality, giving relatives to have a central location to store their records, making it a combination of genealogy search and social network. You share your info publicly or make it private. If you want unlimited storage, you’ll have to pay a small monthly fee.
While the site doesn’t have its own databases, its search engine is quite impressive, aggregating results from more than 1,500 places. The result sets include archived medical records and phone books, as well as newspapers and official records, some of which are international.
You can search for foreign language names, for example, and if you are unsure of the proper spelling, you can research it using Megadex, a technology that MyHeritage.com developed to fill in the gaps of Soundex, a more limited technology that was developed before the invention of computers and searches for names that “sound like” the name that was entered.
10. AncestralFindings.com. Much of the information on this genealogy site is free, and it contains some uncommon international inclusions, such as records of people who were executed by guillotine during the French Revolution. The online database also contains records from Sweden and Germany, as well as English-speaking countries, and it contains a list of cemeteries in both the United States and United Kingdom.
The help provided on this website is very good with a list of ancestry books and numerous articles. Assistance via email is also available, as well as a listing of other genealogy sites. A website guide helps you get started, and a blog lets you to ask questions of other family researchers.
Researching your ancestors can be exciting, fun, and rewarding, connecting you with your own family history, as well as with others who are discovering their ancestral backgrounds. Nothing brings the reality of “six degrees of separation” more to the forefront than researching your family history. You might find relatives in unexpected places or even discover a family lineage that leads to royalty. These ten best genealogy websites give you a great head start into your ancestry exploration. Happy ancestor hunting!
About the Author
Amanda Miller writes about family history related topics for GenealogyBank – a Genealogy Search website containing over 1 billion records for in-depth genealogical research.