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Want to know when your family migrated to the U.S. or where your great-great-great-grandmother was born? One of life’s biggest mysteries, “where did I come from?” is now a puzzle almost anyone can piece together, at least when it comes to your ancestry.
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?
- Best Websites
- Comparison Table & Terminology
- Other Reviews
- Digitizing Historical Records
Online genealogy continues to be the fastest growing hobby. 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).
Below are our choices for the top three best 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.
Coming in at our top spot for best genealogy website is Ancestry.com. 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 16 billion historical records in 60+ 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.
- 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
- $19.99 per month
- $99 for 6-month membership
World Explorer Plan: access all U.S. and international records on Ancestry
- $34.99 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)
- $44.99 per month
- $199 for 6-month membership
Save $20 when you purchase a 6-month Ancestry membership for $90 (instead of paying $19.99 a month), click here to take advantage of this offer.
Based in Israel with U.S. offices in Utah and California, MyHeritage is one of the largest international genealogy sites with more than 88 million registered users. MyHeritage comes in a close second for best family tree software. It has an intuitive platform, endless features including downloadable tree builder software. Their robust database of over 7 billion records is impressive but does not match that of Ancestry’s 16 billion records.
While they do offer professional assistance, their customer support and help resources lack 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 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
- $99 for the 1st year
- $129 per year
PremiumPlus: all features from Premium, plus instant discoveries and tree consistency checker for unlimited family tree size
- $159 for the 1st year
- $209 per year
Data: up to 250 individuals in family tree, priority support, access to 9.7 billion historical records, record matches and save records to your tree
- $139 for the 1st year
- $189 per year
Complete: all features from PremiumPlus, plus access to 9.7 billion historical records, record matches and save records to your tree
- $209 for the 1st year
- $299 per year
MyHeritage has a mother's day sale with $10 off kits through May 13, 2019. Visit MyHeritage's website to take advantage of this offer.
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 have a free trial, but you can conduct a free search of more than 830 million records to get you started.
- 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
- $9.95 per month
- $9.54 per month for 12-month subscription
Access to records from US & Canada, Britain, Ireland and Australia & New Zealand.
- $19.95 per month
- $19.96 per month for 12-month subscription (including the 1939 Register)
50% off a 1-month Ultimate British and Irish subscription until September 5th, 2018 with code FMPSEP50. Use this link to take advantage of this offer.
|1st: Ancestry||2nd: MyHeritage||3rd: FindMyPast||Archives||Genealogy Bank||MyTrees||OneGreatFamily|
|1st: Ancestry||2nd: MyHeritage||3rd: FindMyPast||Archives||GenealogyBank||MyTrees||OneGreatFamily|
|Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website|
|Price Per Month||$19.99-$49.99||$9.95-$19.95||$9.99||$19.95||$20||$14.95|
|Price Per Year||$198-$398||$99-$299||$114.48-$239.52||$119.88||$69.95||$120||$79.95|
|Free Trial||14 Days||Free Plan||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|
|Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website|
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.
Acquired by Ancestry.com in 2012, Archives.com pales in comparison to its parent website. Yes, it’s much more affordable, but in this case, you get what you pay for — which isn’t much. Archives.com does give you most of the basic ways to search, but the records only go back to the 1500s. 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.
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. Note: their collections date back to 1690.
- $9.95 for 30-day trial
- $19.95 per month
- $69.95 for 12-month subscription
Mocavo was acquired in June 2014 by FindMyPast and is no longer a genealogy site on its own. You can find all of Mocavo’s content on FindMyPast’s website.
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.
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 duplications, 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.
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!)
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.
What are you hoping to discover with genealogy sites?
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