With so many websites out there, it can be confusing wondering where to plant your metaphorical family tree. So I asked Breanne which genealogy site is best – and why. Her answer was a very solid, “It depends.”
The best genealogy site depends on your research needs and budget. FamilySearch.org is the best free option. Ancestry.com is the best fee-required* option, as it has has a larger record collection, user group size, potential for collaboration, DNA database, and more.
Wondering why that asterisk is there? Well, keep reading and I’ll explain how to get access to the best websites, including Ancestry.com, for free.
The Best Website for Genealogy Research
There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to genealogy out there. It’s crazy how there are so many out there – and how they all offer so many different perks, resources, records, and more.
Even so, let’s first look at the best overall and comprehensive websites for genealogy research. Later, we’ll look at the best regional or specialty genealogy websites. We will not be looking at any of the blog-style or family-specific websites in this analysis.
In looking at the various, comprehensive style genealogy websites, we’ve found four that really stand out.
The top four comprehensive genealogy websites are, in our experience and opinions, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, FindMyPast.com, and MyHeritage.com. They’re the top four because of their databases, options, the ability for research, and the ability to store your research safely.
Let’s compare them really quickly – and then we’ll tell you our top picks (and why that is).
|Ancestry.com||Family Search||Find My Past||My Heritage|
|Cost||$19.99/month (or $99/year)*||Free; no Church membership required||$14.99/month or $129/year*||$99/year*|
|Cost: Free Trial||14 days||N/A||14 days||14 days|
|Access to Online Resources||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Database Size (Records)||20 billion+||5 billion+||2 billion+||10 billion+|
|DNA testing||Yes; regular price $99, health testing $150||N/A||Yes; kit costs $89||Yes; regular price $79, health testing $199|
|DNA user database||14 million users+||None||Unknown||2.5 million users +|
|Genealogy Tree||Multiple||One shared tree||Multiple||Multiple|
|Ideal For:||Global Research (with the right subscription)||Collaboration||Great Britain and Ireland-based genealogy||Global Research, Media storage|
|Picture and PDF Uploads||.bmp, .gif, .jpeg, .jpg, .png, .tif, .tiff, .doc, .docx, .pdf, .rtf, .txt|| .bmp, .jpg, .png, .tiff .pdf|
.txt .mp3, .m4a
|.bmp, gif, jpg, jpeg, .pjpeg, png, x-png, .tif, .tiff, m4a||doc, docx, pdf, ps, pps, ppt, pptx, rtf, txt, xls, xlsx, zip|
|Physical Genealogy Centers||No||Yes – free to public use||No||No|
|Our Rating||Best Overall||Best Free Website||Best For British Isles Research||Best for Media|
*There’s a way to get access to all of these sites for free – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers its members a continuous membership to all of these sites. Keep reading for details!
Ancestry is the overall best if you’re willing to pay a monthly (or annual) fee. It has:
- the largest record collection
- the ability to create multiple public and private family trees
- a huge DNA database (including health information)
- the ability to hire professional services
- the ability to schedule and take a travel cruise
- and a ton more!
Because of the sheer size, options, and capability, Ancestry.com is, in our opinion, the overall best choice for a genealogy website.
Family Search is the best free option, hands down! Not only does it offer a ton of free services, but they also have free physical locations worldwide – so you can go in and ask a genealogist for help in person.
Because of the options, help, and general awesomeness available all for free, FamilySearch.org is the best free genealogy website available.
Find My Past focuses on British Isles research, so it’s not as comprehensive when compared to the other sites. However, it’s a must-have if you have ancestors from there. They have partnered with Living DNA to provide DNA database services.
As such, FindMyPast.com is the best genealogical website if you are looking specifically and only for British Isles related information.
My Heritage has the second-best records collection, a DNA database, and the most amazing media uploads options. Not only can you upload photos and videos (they are the only one that allows both), but they also give you the option to connect to Google and Facebook – so that you can upload your media from Google photos and Facebook directly to their site for genealogical purposes. How cool is that??
My Heritage’s mobile app and associated software download also don’t restrict access to records based on location, unlike some of the other sites (Ancestry has a US-only subscription or an all-access, which limits your access to records based on location). My Heritage gives it all to you for the same price.
Here’s a fun note from Breanne about My Heritage:
I need to play around with their app some more, but I’m really liking what I see! My Heritage is really cool.Breanne, who’s now absorbed in yet another Genealogy site and app. We’ll see her again in a few weeks or so. 🙂
If you’re looking to safely store a lot of media types easily, MyHeritage.com may be your best genealogical website choice.
Best Regional Sites for Genealogy
In our experience and research, these are the best regional and/or specialty websites besides Ancestry or FamilySearch.
This list is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive. It’s just the best of what we’ve been able to find, use, and reference in our own journey. Keep in mind that I’m still pretty new to all of this research – so I’m using some serious Google-fu to look these up. Breanne has more experience to help her find the best regional sites, but even she has her limits. And even after all of that, we still don’t know about all of the best regional sites for some areas of the world.
That’s where we need your help! If you’ve got a better resource we should know about or add to this list, please tell us! Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our contact us page to give us the details on a website or resource that needs to be included in this list.
|Region or Specialty||Best Websites|
|African-American||AfriGeneas and Freedmen’s Bureau Records (FamilySearch)|
|Cemeteries and Graves||FindAGrave and BillionGraves|
|Genetic Genealogy||International Society of Genetic Genealogy|
|Jewish||JewishGen powered by Ancestry|
|Land Records (USA)||Bureau of Land Management-General Land Office Records|
|Maps/Geography||Google Earth and Google Maps|
|Military (USA)||Fold3 and The National Archives|
|Native American||Bureau of Indian Affairs at the National Archives|
|New England||American Ancestors|
|Newspaper||Newspapers.com, Genealogy Bank, and Chronicling America from the Library of Congress|
|Immigration (United States)||The Statue Of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and GermanRoots.com|
|Preservation||The American Institute for Conservation|
|United Kingdom||While Find My Past is definitely the leading website in regards to the British Isles, GENUKI and https://www.freebmd.org.uk/ are also fantastic.|
|Vital Records||vitalrec.com and Vital Chek|
The Best Website for Genealogy Research for Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Because the Church values genealogy and family history so much, the Church of Jesus Christ has made partnership agreements with other major genealogy sites. Yes, the Church gives every member free access to the following genealogy websites and databases:
- Family Search (free to the general public)
- Find My Past
- My Heritage
We’re not sure if the Church just outright pays for your membership – or if there is some records sharing partnership that has to do with our volunteer indexing force or records access. The reason we’re not sure about partnership details is that neither the Church nor the partner websites have disclosed the exact agreement details. However, the details aren’t what’s important.
What’s important is that the Church is providing these resources to its entire membership – and that it’s free. These partnerships were announced back in 2014, too, so they’re more than likely here to stay. To read the Church’s original, 2014 announcement on these partnerships, click here.
So if you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, talk to your local branch, ward, or stake genealogy specialist. They can help you get access to each of these websites for free.
Or, if it’s late and/or you’d rather handle it at home, follow the instructions here on Family Search to get access to all of our top 4 genealogy websites.
In any case, get out and enjoy doing some family history work on your favorite genealogy website. And again, if we didn’t mention your favorite online genealogy resource, please let us know what it is.
How many ancestry sites are there? There are a lot of ancestry and genealogy sites! Cyndi’s List has the most comprehensive list of resources. Beyond that, countless smaller websites are dedicated to showcasing personal family history. We’re working on accumulating a list of the insane number of websites for you.
Do all genealogy sites cost money? Not all genealogy sites cost money; many are free. Genealogical websites that require a fee (or a paid membership) have a free trial access period. Free genealogical resources and websites include Family Search, findagrave.com, billiongraves.com, USGenWeb, and WikiTree.
Is Ancestry.com owned by the Mormon church? No; Ancestry.com is a privately owned and for-profit business. Its founders, Paul Brent Allen and Dan Taggart are alumni of Brigham Young University. Margo Georgiadis is Ancestry’s current CEO.
Cite this article as: “Which Genealogy Site is Best and Why.” Genealogy Pals, 10 January 2020, genealogypals.com/which-genealogy-site-is-best-and-why/.