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The Best Genealogy Websites – Free and Paid Resources

How to Choose a Genealogy Website

Commencing genealogical research can feel like an overwhelming task with the abundance of research options currently available on the internet. Researchers can narrow down choices by first ensuring that the genealogy website they select meets five primary criteria.

The best family tree websites will offer the user the following:How To Choose A Genealogy Website

  1. A sizable genealogy database to search
  2. A user-friendly interface
  3. Family tree building tools
  4. Automated record hinting
  5. User tutorials/aids. 

Other Genealogy Website Factors to Consider 

Along with the big five factors listed above, selecting the best websites for genealogical research depends on a few other factors:

  • Cost.
  • The size of the genealogy database hosted by the site
  • Record types.
  • The privacy, collaboration, and security perimeters of the site.
  • Geographical coverage.
  • DNA testing and research.
  • Subscription vs. free options.
  • Search flexibility. 
  • Languages supported. 
  • Mobile-friendly design.

Family historians should decide which factors are integral to the parameters of the project and then spend a time with a few to determine which will work best.

Both free and paid (subscription) genealogy websites are available for gathering data.

Paid Genealogy Websites vs. Free Genealogy Websites

Doing a search query for “best family tree sites” or “best genealogy websites” will return a deluge of options. Sifting through all the options requires a bit of knowledge about the difference between a paid genealogy website or a free genealogy website. 

Paid genealogy websites require a fee for services. Access to a subscription database can save valuable time if a project requires contacting churches, libraries, repositories, or other agencies for information.

But subscription genealogy websites are not required to build a family tree. There are many free websites that will get the job done nicely without necessitating any money down. 

Consulting with an ancestor research service about the range and scope of a family history project before you make the decision on paid or free genealogy websites can help make the choice clearer.

The following table lists the best genealogy websites in both the paid and free categories:

BEST FREE GENEALOGY WEBSITES

BEST PAID GENEALOGY WEBSITES

Access Genealogy. Accessible Archives
Afrigeneas.com American Civil War Research Database
Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana Ancestry.com
BillionGraves Archives
FamilySearch FindMyPast.com
Find A Grave Footnote
Freedman’s Bureau Genealogy Today
JewishGen Genealogy.com
Legacy.com GenealogyBank
Library of Congress Godfrey Memorial Library
National Archives and Records Administration MyHeritage
New York Public Library MyTrees.com (Kindred Konnections)
Research Guides for Ship Passenger Lists and Immigration Records National Genealogical Society
Rootsweb New England Historic Genealogical Society
U.S. Census Bureau New York Genealogical & Biographical Society
USGenWeb Project World Vital Records
WorldGenWeb Project  

Understanding the pros and cons of each of the above options can help researchers pare down the options available. Read on to learn more about some of the more popular genealogy websites in each category.

Best Free Genealogy Websites

Free genealogy websites offer many resources for family historians to build a family tree without requiring any paid subscriptions or fee for services. But there are limitations with free services. 

When possible, engage a professional genealogist to help guide you in your journey. Professional genealogists have spent extensive time researching the best genealogy websites that don’t require fees for service and know how to navigate them all. 

The five most popular, free family history websites—and the pros and cons of each—are discussed in further detail below. 

FamilySearch

This family tree website is one of the best genealogical websites out there. Run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this genealogy site houses more than three billion names and millions of records in their database, all with free access.

Best Genealogy Websites - familysearch

This genealogy website offers automated hinting, family-tree building, family-tree sharing, and photo uploading options. Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage are linked to FamilySearch, making record finding that much easier. 

The cons of FamilySearch are that while it houses millions of records, it still doesn’t offer a researcher as many as the paid subscription sites.

Users are only allowed one family tree per account and no DNA testing/kits are available. Also, a researcher cannot create or export a GEDCOM file. 

Access Genealogy

Access Genealogy is a free genealogy website, housing the largest collection of free genealogy for United States research. It is especially useful for family historians working on Native American research. 

Researchers that need to trace Native American lineage find the tribal history pages, articles, and rolls of Native American records, treaties, trade, and land claims, to be beneficial for making connections.

The biggest drawback to Access Genealogy is that the databases are insufficient for many family history projects. Nevertheless, we still included it in our list of best genealogy websites because its good points outweigh its downfalls.

HeritageQuest Online

HeritageQuest Online is one of the largest online data collections available for genealogical research developed specifically for library patrons. It contains:

  • US censuses from 1790 to 1930.
  • 26,000+ family and local history books.
  • Revolutionary War pension files.
  • The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) to 2.1 million-plus articles in genealogy and history periodicals.
  • Freedman’s Bank records of former slaves from 1865 to 1874.
  • Petitions to Congress back to 1789.

HeritageQuest has an easy-to-use design, but a steep learning curve for many. It is also important to note that HeritageQuest Online is available for free only through subscribing libraries. It is not available for individual subscription. Users also complain that there are no Soundex or wildcard search options and there are head-of-household indexes only.

Olive Tree Genealogy

Free Genealogy Website- Olive Tree Genealogy

Olive Tree Genealogy is ranked as one of the best genealogy websites for a good reason. This family tree site has a large genealogy database, free tutorials, books and resource guides, a free genealogy newsletter, and a genealogical research service (paid).

This genealogy website is known for its vast collection of passenger records, information on Palatine immigrant ancestors, and American Indians, as well as information for residents of orphans and almshouses.

One of the biggest complaints about Olive Tree Genealogy is the site organization. Users voiced difficulty navigating the interface and felt they were “going around in circles.”

RootsWeb

Beginner genealogists agree that RootsWeb is a great place to start but shouldn’t be used as a stand-alone genealogy resource to build-out a family tree. Family historians can use RootsWeb for how-to articles, message boards for making connections, mailing lists, family trees, and surname research. 

Purchased by Ancestry.com in 2000, RootsWeb still provides meaningful data, but is scant in comparison to some of the other free family history sites out there. 

Using the Library for Genealogical Research

Don’t discount the local library for accessing vital genealogical records as well. Libraries are a fantastic resource for gathering paid genealogical records for free. Libraries will often offer cardholders entry into large paid databases for free.

Locating records and information about ancestors from another area of the world is expedited by engaging the services of a professional genealogist  that understands how best to navigate family historical databases and tools. 

Best Paid Genealogy Websites

Researchers with the resources and budget to subscribe to a paid genealogy website benefit from access to larger databases and find they can cast a wider net in the genealogical research process. The following websites are considered to be the top five best paid genealogy websites.

Best Genealogy Websites - Ancestry.com

 

Ancestry.com

Ancestry is one of the best genealogical websites available. Not only is the interface user-friendly and attractive, but it also offers researchers hands-on guidance, collaboration features, and the ability to share family trees across multiple devices with both subscribers and nonsubscribers. 

Ancestry offers its own DNA testing, AncestryDNA®, which you can upload to test for DNA matches against its massive database. Whether you’re looking for your biological father, or wondering where your distant ancestors are from, Ancestry’s DNA matching service is a great place to start.

(Read our recent comparison of Ancestry vs 23andMe DNA tests)

The biggest downside of using Ancestry.com is that the monthly subscription fee can get expensive. Plans are organized according to the range of records a family historian needs access to. 

MyHeritage

Like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage has a large database, attractive features, family-tree building capability, and DNA testing but at a slightly lower price than Ancestry. MyHeritage does require an annual subscription fee–not a monthly one–and lacks in database range and scope compared to Ancestry.

Users enjoy the searchable records, the ability to animate/colorize old family photos, and the ability to collaborate with other users.  

Archives

Like the website name suggests, Archives is the family history site of choice for researchers that need to dig deep on a target subject. With a collection of over 1.3 billion digital documents and 50,000 new digitized records added each day, it is no surprise that this is one of the more popular genealogy websites out there. 

Archives is a great tool for the more advanced family historian who has already made significant progress building out a family tree but needs help filling in some tricky gaps. 

Users love the affordability of Archives but dislike the lack of relative hints and the inability to access a DNA kit/testing.  

FindMyPast.com

Family historians that need British and Irish family history information flock to FindMyPast for researching ancestors.

FindMyPast has over two billion digital genealogy records including U.K. census records from 1841-1911, British military records from World Wars One and Two, as well as parish records from 1538 forward, and millions of migrant records. 

FindMyPast supports DNA testing and allows users to create multiple family trees. Unfortunately, the app has no support, and the site may be somewhat limiting to those not needing access to British and Irish ancestral information.

World Vital Records

World Vital Records contains more than six billion historical records from all around the world, but the majority are for the USA and UK.

Researchers can browse several different collections as well as a wide variety of records, including family tree charts, newspaper archives, ancestral records, censuses, court records, manuscript collections, naturalization records, marriage records, and over 160 million digitized images. 

World Vital Records now offers DNA testing services as well as a popular Family Tree Builder feature.

The biggest complaints the site receives are that it isn’t user-friendly, and the search feature needs work. 

Partnering with a Professional Genealogist

Despite the abundance of paid and free genealogical resources online, there are several reasons why family historians and budding researchers can benefit from partnering with a professional genealogist. For example, the expert genealogists at Origins Genealogy provide:

  • Professional genealogical research familiarity and skills.
  • Access to a wider variety of online genealogical resources and ancestry research tools
  • Access to archives and genealogy databases proprietary to heritage groups
  • Access to genealogical resources outside of your geographical area. 
  • Genetic genealogy experience and connections. 
  • Skills for locating heirs for estate settlements. 
  • Help gaining citizenship to your ancestral country.
  • Critical analysis of kinship and lineage evidence.
  • Strategy for genealogical research plan and goal attainment. 
  • Specialized background on certain types of records, ethnicities, countries, locations, and time periods. 
  • Assistance locating living birth parents, unknown parents, adopted siblings, or lost siblings.
  • Family website creation including history collaboration, writing, and publication. 

Professional genealogists save family historians time while also improving accuracy of results. Researchers can consult with a member of the Origins team to discover how to best leverage the skills and resources of a team member. 

Benefits of knowing your family history - Origins Genealogy

The amount of money that one might spend on a paid genealogy website can potentially be better spent by investing it with a professional genealogy company that has the experience to get the job done right and within a time frame that is reasonable. 

Contact Origins today at (801) 500-0900 to learn more about how our professional genealogists can get you started on the road to finding your family. Request a free case review today to discover and embrace your family heritage.

The Best Genealogy Websites FAQ

Ancestry.com is one of the most respected and comprehensive genealogy resources, but it does come with a subscription price tag. If you’re looking for free alternatives to Ancestry, consider Access Genealogy, Olive Tree Genealogy, FamilySearch, RootsWeb, and HeritageQuest Online.

We have a list of paid genealogy websites at Origins Genealogy that we believe are among the best in the industry, based on years of research and usage: Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, Archives, FindMyPast.com, and World Vital Records.

We can’t pick out one family tree website as the finest because each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. We can recommend the following genealogy websites: Olive Tree Genealogy, Access Genealogy, FamilySearch, HeritageQuest Online, and RootsWeb.

If you’re looking for English and Welsh records, such as census records, civil registration indexes, and birth and death records, these genealogy sites are the way to go: Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyRelatives.com., The Genealogist, MyHeritage, Genes Reunited, and Findmypast.com.

The following genealogy websites are the best and most popular options for Irish people looking for their birth family or ancestors: Ancestry, FamilySearch, AncestryIsland.com, and FindMyPast.com.

While we feel Ancestry is one of the greatest genealogy websites, assuring you of high ancestor research results, there are several free alternatives: WikiTree, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage.

Ancestry.com is a genealogy company. 23andMe is a biotech company. They have different areas of focus. They overlap in the area of DNA testing. We recently compared Ancestry and 23andMe DNA testing, and found that AncestryDNA tests are better for genealogical research, while 23andMe DNA tests are better for health-related purposes.

FamilySearch and Ancestry are two of the most well-known genealogy websites available. FamilySearch, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offers free access to its massive database, which contains billions of names and millions of records. Ancestry is similar; it, too, has a large database. However, because Ancestry is a paid genealogy website, it offers additional features that FamilySearch does not, such as DNA testing, which is critical for genetic genealogy research.

The cost of having your ancestry traced by a professional genealogist varies according to the genealogy company. At Origins Genealogy, we charge per hour, with discounted packages available on our genealogy services page.

If you have the funds available for genealogy research, Ancestry is well worth the money. And if you’re serious about finding your roots, we recommend allocating funds to engage a professional genealogist like Origins Genealogy to assist you in finding records that Ancestry doesn’t have, interpreting DNA test results for genetic genealogy, and even helping you arrange tours to physically reunite with your birth family or ancestors.

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