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Want to know when your family migrated to the U.S. or where your great-great-great-grandmother was born? Or learn more about your heritage. Thanks to the best genealogy websites you can.
With the evolution of the Internet, genealogy has become a hot hobby. It’s now easier than ever to trace your family roots back multiple generations online, but where do you start? An online genealogy software program is a great place to begin your genealogy journey.
Why Genealogy Software?
Online genealogy continues to be one of the fastest growing hobbies. In fact, the Genealogy products and services market is projected to be worth over USD 8.5 billion and grow at an annual clip of over 11.2% from 2021 to 2028. And there’s no doubt that genealogy websites will continue to gain new fans, from serious genealogists and hobbyists to casual family history curators, in the years to come.
Discovering your family’s roots is a fun mystery to unravel history (and once you start going down the rabbit hole, it can be quite addicting).
What Are The Best Genealogy Websites?
Below are our choices for the top three genealogy software websites. Each one has billions of searchable international historical records and an easy-to-use family tree maker. See their key features, pros and cons and pricing options to help you decide which family history website is best suited for your family research needs.
Winner: Ancestry Review
Coming in at our top spot for best genealogy website is Ancestry.com. Back in 2012 Ancestry.com was acquired by Permira, a European private equity firm, for a whopping $1.6 billion — a testament to the popularity of the field (and to the company itself). Ancestry sets the bar pretty high with over 20 billion historical records in 67 countries, excellent beginner and advanced search options and an abundance of features. They’ve also recently added millions of Holocaust-related records and images that are free to search and explore.
The FamilyThruLines feature connects you to potential ancestors and see how you’re all related. Another handy feature is the TagMyTreeTags, which lets you add labels to people in your tree to highlight specific details.
While it’s on the expensive side compared to other sites, it’s worth the investment if you’re serious about doing genealogy research the right way. Plus, with a 14-day free trial, you can try before you buy.
|Comprehensive records, with more than 100 million family trees||Credit card required for free trial|
|Easy to navigate website with more ancestry search options than competitors||Jump through hoops to cancel your subscription|
|View public member trees||Consumer feedback that customer service reps aren’t very helpful|
|Learning Center with tutorials, videos, articles, webinars and blog|
|Active online community with a member directory, online forum, message boards and social media|
|Android and iOS mobile apps|
|Free templates to help you keep track of research, sources, charts, etc.|
|Ability to give a gift subscription|
- Easy to use Card Catalog with the ability to filter searches by collection, location, dates and languages
- Hire one of their professional genealogists to do expert research for you
- AncestryDNA: with their advanced DNA autosomal testing technology you can discover your genetic ethnicity and find new family connections with their dynamic list of DNA matches.
- My Shoebox tool lets you store records you find but wish to review at a later time
- Highly active Twitter feed, as well as Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and YouTube
Ancestry.com offers a 14-day free trial.
U.S Discovery Plan: access all U.S. records on Ancestry.com
- $24.99 per month
- $99 for 6-month membership
World Explorer Plan: access all U.S. and international records on Ancestry
- $39.99 per month
- $149 for 6-month membership
All Access: access all records on Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com and Fold3.com (an excellent U.S. military genealogy website and partner of Ancestry.com)
- $49.99 per month
- $199 for 6-month membership
Save up to 30% on an Ancestry gift membership.
Read Our In-Depth Ancestry.com Review
Runner-Up: MyHeritage Review
Based in Israel with U.S. offices in Utah and California, MyHeritage is one of the oldest (launched in 2003) and largest international genealogy sites with more than 96 million registered users and 82 million family trees. They come in close second for best family tree software. MyHeritage has an intuitive platform, and seemingly endless features including downloadable tree builder software. Their robust database of over 13 billion records is impressive but does not match that of Ancestry’s 20 billion records.
While they do offer professional assistance, their customer support and help resources lack compared to those on Ancestry. Otherwise, MyHeritage.com is a major player in genealogical research — and to top it off, they offer a free forever plan for those who just want the basics.
|Free basic plan and affordable pricing for premium plans||Can’t upgrade to Premium or Plus plans without signing up for at least a 1-year subscription|
|82 million family trees and 96 million registered users||Phone support is available Monday through Saturday, 24 hours (no support on Sundays)|
|Some records date back to the pre-1000s||Smaller record base than Ancestry.com|
|Good collaboration tools to sync with other members|
|You can build a Timeline or Timebook documenting your family roots|
|Supports 42 languages|
|Android and iOS mobile apps|
|Customer service is prompt and knowledgeable|
|Active on Facebook, Twitter and Google+|
- Free download of Family Tree Builder software, the preeminent family tree finder used by millions worldwide
- Smart Matching technology uses algorithms to match your family tree to hundreds of millions of profiles in other family trees
- Face Recognition technology: when you upload a photo, the face recognition tool scans each face and finds any possible matches already in their database
- Megadex tool: with one click you can search the world’s top genealogy sources with name spelling variations
- MyHeritage: offers at-home autosomal DNA testing
- Instant Discoveries feature allows first-time users to enter a couple of family members and they’ll find at least one ancestor they think is a match (as well as more information about your family)
- Family Graph API: you can family-enable any app or service to reach a broader number of people
Basic Plan: up to 250 individuals in family tree
Premium: up to 2,500 people in family tree, plus smart matches, priority support and advanced DNA features
- $89 for the 1st year
- $129 per year
PremiumPlus: all features from Premium, plus instant discoveries and tree consistency checker for unlimited family tree size
- $149 for the 1st year
- $209 per year
Data: up to 250 individuals in family tree, priority support, access to 16.1 billion historical records, record matches and save records to your tree
- $129 for the 1st year
- $189 per year
Complete: unlimited individuals in your family tree, all features from PremiumPlus, plus access to 16.1 billion historical records, record matches and save records to your tree
- $199 for the 1st year
- $299 per year
MyHeritage is offering a holiday sale at 38% off for a limited time.
3rd Place: Findmypast Review
Rounding out our top three Best Genealogy Websites is Findmypast. This site is Britain’s foremost genealogy website and owner of The British Newspaper Archive and Lives of the First World War. Findmypast is an excellent website for those who already know that their ancestors are of British origin. They also have a strong emphasis on records from the U.S., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
They’re not nearly as community-centered as other websites, but that’s not their purpose. Their strengths lie in their rare and exclusive records and their easy to use family tree generator. Findmypast doesn’t offer it’s free search any longer, but in its place they now have a 14-day trial.
|Only site we found to offer pay-as-you-go pricing||No weekend customer support|
|Easy to use, intuitive platform||Phone support is 9am – 5:30pm (GMT) on a UK phone number|
|You can add up to 5,000 people on your family tree||Not as community-centered as other top sites we reviewed|
|More than 8 billion historical records, the earliest dating back to 850AD||Premium Plan is expensive|
|You can build a profile for each family member|
|Excellent how-to resources and blog|
|Customer support via live chat, phone and email (located in England)|
|Android and iOS mobile apps|
|Active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube|
- 1,000 exclusive collections that you can’t find anywhere else online
- Extensive U.S. and World Newspaper collections from 21 countries and all 50 states
- Complete U.S. Census records from 1790-1940
- A majority of records are scans of original documents, the gold standard in genealogy research
- Partnered with some of the most well-respected genealogy societies, including FamilySearch.org, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Society of Genealogists, and the UK National Archives
US & Canadian Records
- $14.95 per month
- $129 for 12-month subscription (save up to 29%)
Access to records from US & Canada, Britain, Ireland and Australia & New Zealand.
- $19.95 per month
- $179 per month for 12-month subscription (save up to 29%)
Save up to 29% by paying annually vs monthly.
|1st: Ancestry||2nd: MyHeritage||3rd: FindMyPast||Archives||Genealogy Bank||MyTrees||OneGreatFamily|
|Price Per Month||$24.99-$49.99||$7.42-$16.58 (for first year)||$14.95-$19.95||$9.99||$19.95||$20||$14.95|
|Price Per Year||$99-$199||$99-$299||$129-179||$119.88||$69.95||$120||$79.95|
|Free Trial||14 Days||14 Days||Free Limited Search||14 Days||None||31 Days||7 Days|
|Research Assistance||Hire a professional||Through Partnership with LegacyTree (users get a discount)||Search Results for Professional Genealogists||One hour consult (extra fee)|
|International Census||Only UK & Panama|
|Social Security Death Index|
|Court & Land|
|Family Tree Builder|
|Integrate with Other Family Trees|
|1st: Ancestry||2nd: MyHeritage||3rd: FindMyPast||Archives||Genealogy Bank||MyTrees||OneGreatFamily|
- GEDCOM: a specially formatted text file with genealogical information and metadata linking records together. Most genealogical software programs allow you to import and export GEDCOM files.
- Surname Index: You can search a database of surnames and also get the meaning and history behind each last name.
- Family Hints: As you fill in your family tree, the website will suggest related family members found by their own search engine. It’s fairly hit or miss, but you can get some good leads with this feature.
More Genealogy Site Reviews
Archives.com | GenealogyBank | Mocavo | MyTrees | OneGreatFamily
Archives.com started in July 2009 and shortly thereafter was acquired by Ancestry.com in 2012. While it pales in comparison to its parent site it is more affordable. Archives.com gives you most of the basic ways to search, but the records only go back to the 1500s. They do sport an impressive and growing collection of 11.6 billion records however. If you’re just starting out and looking to make a family tree, you might want to give them a try with their 14-day Free Trial.
|Competitive monthly pricing||Must enter credit card information for free trial|
|More than 11.6 billion records dating back to 1500s||Only includes U.S., U.K., Ireland and Panama records (not Canada)|
|You can pay to have them do an in-house search of county courthouse records||Archive search is not as comprehensive as the competition|
|Living people search||Some customer complaints about still being billed after cancellation|
|Customer support 7 days/week via phone and email|
|Live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube|
Archives.com offers a 14-day free trial.
- $9.99 per month
More of a niche genealogy website with records only from the U.S., GenealogyBank is an excellent resource if you’re looking for historical newspaper content. They do have a decent collection of historical documents (1789-1994) and books (1749-1900) as well as the Social Security Death Index, but the vast majority of their records are newspapers.
If you’re looking for a family tree maker or online groups, this is not the site for you. But for what GenealogyBank.com is, they offer good search options and resources to help you with your discoveries. Their collections date back to 1690 and they offer a 7-day free trial.
|Historical newspaper collections from all 50 states||No international records|
|Ethnic collections search includes African-American, Hispanic and Irish American newspapers||No family tree maker|
|Good Learning Center with tips on how to do genealogy research and how to get the most out of their website||Absence of any member forums or discussion groups hinders your ability to share discoveries with other family history seekers|
|Phone (Mon-Fri 7am-6pm MST) and email customer support||No weekend customer service hours|
|7-day free trial|
|30-day money back guarantee|
|Available on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube|
- Free 7-day trial
- $9.95 for 30-day trial
- $19.95 per month
- $69.95 for 12-month subscription
Save 44% on an annual membership by clicking here.
Mocavo was acquired in June 2014 by FindMyPast and is no longer a genealogy site on its own. Check out our FindMyPast review.
MyTrees has been in business for more than 10 years and has an impressive pedigree-linked database of international records as well as thousands of family trees. While My Trees has many search options, it lacks some crucial types of records such as land, deed and court records. They are also missing Native American collections.
However, they do offer some unique features not found on most other sites like a professional genealogist directory, a date converter and the ability to embed family YouTube videos into your family albums. You also have the option of downloading free software Legacy 8.0 Family Tree if you don’t want your family tree online. MyTrees.com is fun to use once you figure out the cluttered homepage.
|Ancestry Archive tool lets you search 1 billion names and thousands of family trees around the world||A lot of their records are extractions and therefore not as complete as on other sites|
|Create multiple family albums, a family world map and timeline||No member directory|
|Sign up for “Notify Me” to get emails when new content is available based on specified criteria||Absence of court, land records and Native American records|
|Free templates and newsletter||No DNA testing|
|You can upload your GEDCOM family tree||Free trial is conditional|
|Customer support by phone and email 6 days per week|
MyTrees offers a free 31-day trial, but you must upload your family tree to get started (minimum of 15 families; 60 individuals)
- $10 for 10-day subscription
- $20 for 1-month subscription
- $45 for 3-month subscription
- $120 for annual subscription
OneGreatFamily is similar to a genealogy co-op. Unlike other sites, OneGreatFamily.com is a 100% shared community of members and their 190 million unique entries. Using its Genealogy Handprint technology, this website searches for you 24/7, merging two trees when an individual in both trees is an exact match, identifying and eliminating duplicates, and identifying areas on your family tree that have different information from other members’ trees.
Some serious genealogists may not like the automatic updates. You can manually search on your own, but other members submit most of One Great Family’s records, so you’re taking some risk with unverified information. But this is a fun site, and the idea of contributing to a globally linked family tree is intriguing. It’s worth trying out OneGreatFamily’s free 7-day trial before committing to their site.
|Advanced technology does a lot of the searching for you||Credit card needed for free trial|
|Community-centered website is all about connecting and sharing with members around the world||User-contributed content may not be reliable|
|Verification of data feature to prevent conflicts with other users||No searchable international census information|
|Free printable genealogy templates to help with research||No DNA testing|
|Links to other sources for research, learning center and newsletter archives are good resources||No weekend customer support|
OneGreatFamily offers a 7-day free trial.
- $14.95 per month
- $29.95 for 3-month subscription
- $79.95 for annual subscription
- $149.95 for annual subscription, plus a one-hour consult with an expert
Where Else To Look Online To Trace Your Roots
There are a handful of must-see resources online that we don’t review here but absolutely must mention to help you uncover your roots.
- The USGenWeb Project: Volunteer-run, it provides free ancestry sites in every U.S. county and state
- FamilySearch.org: Free genealogy website/database, run by the genealogy experts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- NewspaperARCHIVE: More than 170 million newspaper pages dating back to 1607
- Fold3: The place to go for U.S. military records going back to the Revolutionary War (and it’s just a cool site!)
Video: A Unique Global Effort To Preserve History
Ancestry.com is leading an exciting effort to digitize as many historical records as possible with the help of everyday volunteers. Check out this video to learn more about the Ancestry World Archives Project and how you can be a part of making and preserving history.
What Will Your Past Tell You?
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your family tree. Genealogy is a fun way to find out more about who you are and where you come from. Want to explore even further back in time? Through a simple, at-home DNA test, you can map out your lineage and family’s migration dating back thousands of years.Tagged With:
I can’t believe how expensive these services are. It is really a sin. I would love to share the family genealogies that several different relatives on both sides of my family researched and compiled, pre-internet era, but I am not interested in such high yearly fees. I will have to find a way to upload it and share it on the ‘net another way.
I have had my heritage for yrs. The pricing you list is not accurate to get the full use of the website you must have three subscriptions. Complete, a site subscription and a data subscription. There is also a monthly back up fee. There is absolutely no support, you can’t even find contact information for support (other than user forums) on their page. There has been an ongoing (3 yrs now) glitch in their system that says you have record matches when in fact there are none. The only answer you get from support is a robot “its a known issue and we are working on it” then they close your support case. Emails are not answered by a human (if you are lucky enough to find an email address). The only good thing I can say about them is, if you are a beginner it is easy to use.
Given that there is a good deal of overlap between the big RECORDS sources, and varying peripheral options on each, can you address the differences/advantages/disadvantages for the three or four most popular researching services? Quality of indexing, depth of coverage, etc.? Whether or not I can build a tree or do DNA or upload photos is not material to my question. Indeed, I have tended to find that the more any commercial service (bank, school, store, etc.) tries to be your sole source, the more some of the pieces suffer. I wish data regarding who does best with giving me convenient, accurate access to primary or secondary sources. Can you help?
Thanks for your comment and questions. We’ll be sure to take this into consideration for our next article update! In terms of primary and secondary sources, I’m assuming you mean records. If that’s the case, Ancestry and MyHeritage, and FamilySearch.org come out on top. I encourage you to go on their websites to see which records you can access for the specific information you’re looking for.
I subscribe to Ancestry.com and to MyHeritage.com. I have found that Ancestry has mush more record searches, but MyHeritage records are more accurate. MyHeritage pricing is a bit confusing however. I have both RootsMagic and Family Tree Maker Genealogy Programs that I sync with Ancestry in order to archive all the online records on my personal hard drive.
Very good information. I belong to your top 2, but mostly use MyHeritage. I have ask both to provide to their USA users a timeline of when each Crown Colony started. Too many users list family members as born in a USA city before it existed in a Colony. Our US history classes are bad and even good ones are too soon forgotten.
I would be interested in knowing, for each of these sites, what happens to your data when you stop paying the subscription price? I can see my family tree, but can’t seem to be able to access the records I saved when I was a paying subscriber to Ancestry. I thought saving those records (like death certificates) and linking them to the individuals in my tree would be enough for me to view them, but now I have no access to them. Do the other sites let you view your records after the subscription runs out?
Judith: If you purchase a database program (RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker) and syc them with your Ancestry online tree, it will archive all data and records on your hard drive.
Hi Judith, Unfortunately you need to keep paying the subscription with all of these services to access your records. Wish I had better news for you!
Ancestry is a complete joke. I tried world explorer plus and found nothing but the information I applied. I didn’t expect that I need to make my family tree. Save your money. I could do better with a crayon and paper. Complete waste of time and money.
I feel I got tak en by paying for world explorer also! I found no new info. Newspapers was a joke, no info. The fold 3 gave me nothing. Also Ancestry totally mislabeled my relatives.
I think you misunderstood that the point of these websites is to do research, not to find a ready made family tree. You’ve been misled by the Ancestry commercials which make it look like your tree will be waiting for you.
Eric, I second Nicole’s point! You must enter data and start somewhere with what you know first (living cousins, known relatives) then the more you enter into the tree, the more it grows and recommends relatives which is where the true fun starts to happen. As you start to get 2-3+ generations out the technology can recognize patterns and commonalities to suggest long lost great grandparents and distant cousins and even compare it to other’s so you can link up with the research of other trees. Pretty cool and kind of addicting too!
My opinion of Heritage is low. I added my great neice (an aspiring actress) to my tree, and a young man from Venezuela attached himself to my tree as being related to her. Conversations with my nephew and great niece to discover if they knew this person, they informed me they had the same problem with others “attaching” on Facebook. When I contacted My Heritage, to have this young man removed from my tree, they wanted either my nephew or great niece to contact Heritage for possible removal. They were not concerned that a total stranger was able to access and attract my “tree”. I had to delete each individual and his/her individual data to get out of My Heritage.
Carolyn, so sorry to hear but thanks for sharing your experience with Heritage with us!
I had my Dna test with My Heritage and I am very dissapointed and upset. The results are ridiculous,and bizarre. I also had the test with Ancestry and seems to me Ancestry is very accurate.
I joined Geni not long after it started thinking it would be a great place to gather my family history in a collaborative fashion.
Anyway, I noted that their Record Match, & Smart Match suggestions needed Pro membership, so after 8 & 1/2 years, I decided to take up their offer of 40% discount (just as we were about to go to Fiji for 9 days. We have free WiFi, so I decided to bring my laptop so I could get stuck in while I had time – what a way to relax! 😉
So, now their suggestions often point to MyHeritage, and I thought that by going Pro, these links would be available to me.
Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case, but interestingly, they offer Geni members a monthly subscription at a reduced rate (25-30% off the yearly rates, up to 50% for 5 year subs). I was thinking I might do so short term as it looked like you could take just a month, but as many have said, the info in these trees isn’t necessarily correct, so I doubt I’ll spend $100+ to try it.
So I think I may take membership at FindMyPast instead (as almost all my family is from a UK/Aus/NZ background).
At present I have an account with Ancestry but am looking to change, Can you tell me the price of the Premium plus and a worldwide subscription please. Also I would not like to lose the work I have done so far which is on Family Tree Maker 2014, is this compatable with your site. Will I be able to synk with your site. I don’t understand about this paying separately or what the charge is. Is this different from the synk?
Hi Julie, Our site doesn’t offer genealogy software subscriptions. We only do reviews of what’s offered on the web. I’d suggest contacting Ancestry.com and FTDNA to answer your questions. They both have good customer service reps.
My experience with myheritage.com?
I was surprised when an account existed for me prior to my first visit to the site.
I was puzzled when the information provided showed me US ancestors with an extremely surprising almost exact match to my actual Aussie ancestors.
I decided that the information was suspect and cancelled my account prior to the expiry of my 14 day trial.
Surprisingly I was billed at the end of the trial period, my credit card was deduced almost $100.
I would not use this site again for it’s purported use; but as a pretty clever example of what to avoid.
Not good! I assume you have, or will eventually get a refund?
If you have/had a Geni profile/login, I imagine they might’ve used that info.
I paid 4,000 to a Pro genealogy got a oh this could be your possible grandfather so sad every answer possible.
This site asks the question, ?What are the best genealogy web sites?? The answer is not answered in a clear and concise manner. I cite some examples:
ancestry (1) The overview mentions ?if you’re serious about doing genealogy the right way.? What does this mean? How is this site better than the others? (2) One of the Pros is ?excellent records.? Many of the public member trees are just copies of information from other trees with no sources. I do not consider this information ?excellent? information, but maybe a clue to further research. (3) One item not mentioned as a Con is that two or more members of the same family are required to share the same login information or pay for multiple subscriptions.
MyHeritage: (1) The overview notes that there are 82 million registered users. The number of users was not mentioned for Ancestry. (2) This overview also notes the help resources are lacking when compared with Ancestry. However, there is no further details. (3) The number of pre-1000’s records is noted, but not for Ancestry.
This analysis could be improved by ensuring the same information is mentioned for each of the web sites. It would also be nice to know which dovetail better with a particular genealogy application (e.g., Family Tree Maker, Legacy, etc.).
Thank you for your feedback. We always appreciate constructive criticism, as it helps us improve how we relate relevant information to our readers. We are looking into your concerns in our review process and will make the necessary adjustments. Again, we thank you for taking the time to read our article and let us know your thoughts.
Maybe I read through this too fast, but I didn’t see anything about keeping multiple trees. But I will say, I checked out MyLegacy for about 5 minutes and declined. There are so many bad reviews online they’re uncountable, and most of the problems have to do with billing and customer service. Ancestry is absolutely the way to go if you’re a serious researcher.
The biggest problem Ancestry has is shared by every service, and the Internet in general, and that is all the amateurs sharing their viral misinformation and incorrectly matched records through their trees. Once you accept that Public Trees are best used mainly for clues, and as last resorts for sources (unless a specific tree is provably reliable) you can save yourself a lot of rework and frustration. The compatibility of Ancestry with Family Tree Maker (originally Broderbund’s “My Family Tree Maker”) was just icing on the cake for me, since I began digitizing our family books with that program in the 1990’s before the Internet was of much use in researching my own families.
I would say one major caveat is in order, in my opinion neither Ancestry nor Family Tree Maker is for the less experienced computer operator: navigating both the website and software should prove fairly difficult for the average user.
Good discussion of subscription sites. However, a major point for me is the U.S. National Archives digitization partners. There are only three: FamilySearch, Fold3, and Ancestry.com . Specific record groups are listed here: http://www.archives.gov/digitization/digitized-by-partners.html
One of the Ancestry cons says “If you want to take your family tree offline, you must pay a fee to download”; I don’t see where this is true. Perhaps if you are only using Ancestry a non-member? With their Family Tree Maker software and a membership I automatically have an offline copy of my tree (complete with all the source images). I can also freely export my tree to a GEDCOM file (sans images and notes which are unsupported in that format).
They must have removed that off the “con” list, I don’t see it.
How does Geni line up? Yes, I know it’s owned by MyHeritage but it’s run as a separate company and db.
Steve, appreciate you sharing Geni – from first glance it looks like a basic, free alternative to creating a family tree with the option to upgrade with additional features you’d get from the other big players. But we’ll be sure to add them to our list and look into adding them into our in-depth review in the next update! Thanks again!
Wow, you really got that wrong!
Thank you for doing comparisons on genealogy software/websites. They are very helpful and informative.
Roni, you’re certainly welcome, so glad to hear you found the article useful – hope you enjoy finding your roots!