March 23, 2017

Genealogy Giants: Which Genealogy Website Should I Use?

“Which genealogy website should I use?” Gems editor Sunny Morton took on that ambitious but all-important family history question in her RootsTech 2017 live-streamed lecture, “The Big 4: Comparing Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage.” Watch it below, catch a summary of what she loves (and things you should know) about each, and read reviews of the lecture.


big 4 genealogy giants

Watch the “Big 4” lecture


The Big Picture: Which website is best for me?

Each site has unique strengths–and each person’s family history research has unique and ever-changing needs. You may determine that one or two of these sites meets your needs now. But learn all you can about what’s on each one so you know your options when your needs or interests change. For example, you may discover an Irish or Swedish ancestor whose records may be hosted on a different site. You may find you need DNA connections, which aren’t available on all sites.

The features discussed below are available to top-tier subscribers of each site. Many are available to Library Edition users and some are available to free users.

All 4 Websites Offer:

  • Indexed and browse-only historical records
  • Powerful, flexible search interfaces
  • Automated record hinting (if you have a tree on the site)
  • Help/tutorials for site users

Historical Record Strengths

  • Claims coverage for 80 countries, with strengths in the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Mexico, UK)
  • Claims coverage for 96 countries, with strengths in the US and globally; unique strengths in Central/South America, Africa, Asia
  • Claims coverage and specializes in 7 countries: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland; growing in US, Australia, New Zealand
  • Claims coverage in all Countries, with strengths in Europe, particularly Scandinavia, Germany, England; also strengths in Jewish records

Online Family Trees

  • Build your own tree(s) with privacy controls, collaborative tools, ability to search others’ trees, automated record hinting. You may upload and download your trees.
  • Contribute to a global or community family tree, with only one record per person who has ever lived. The site has automated record hinting within individual records and options to search at, or You may upload a tree that will merge into the global tree and you may add, edit and delete content, as may others. You may not download a tree.
  • Build your own tree(s) with privacy controls, limited automated record hinting. You may upload and download your trees.
  • Build your own tree(s) with privacy controls, collaborative tools, ability to search others’ trees and automated record hinting. You may upload and download your trees.

Languages supported:

  • English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish
  • Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
  • English
  • 42 languages

Family Tree Software

  • Family Tree Maker software, originally built by, is now supported and sold by Software MacKiev. Full sync-and-search compatibility from RootsMagic is under development.
  • FamilySearch: Does not support any desktop software, but RootsMagic has certified compatibility with the site.
  • Findmypast: Does not support any desktop software. RootsMagic users with Findmypast subscriptions may search record hints from within the software.
  • MyHeritage: supports free Family Tree Builder software, which syncs only with RootsMagic users with MyHeritage data subscriptions may search record hints from within the software.

Genealogy Gems recommends keeping your master tree on your own computer (using RootsMagic software, backed up by Backblaze computer Cloud backup). Read this important article on not losing your control of your family tree.

Access: Subscriptions and Library Editions

This section is updated frequently, but subject to change. Always check websites for the most current pricing, terms and specials). Each site offers free or guest logins with some features.

Subscription options:

  • Monthly and 6-month packages for country-only OR world access. (US-only access: $19.99/month or $99 for 6 months; World access: $34.99/month or $149/6 months.) “All access” multi-site membership adds, Fold3 and Ancestry Academy (educational classes): $44.99/month or $199 for six months.
  • FREE. Create free user ID here.
  • US Starter Package: $34.95 for a full year or $9.95/month. All-Access: $239.50 annually or $19.95/month. Pay-per-view credits available.
  • Premium family website/tree-building with access to others’ tree data: $83/year. Data plan with access to historical records and record hinting: $119/year. Complete plan: Data + Premium Plus family website: $179/year.

Library access options (some site features or records may not be included):

  • Many local public or research libraries offer access to Ancestry Library Edition, Findmypast library edition or MyHeritage Library Edition. Check with libraries near you.
  • Family History Centers around the world offer free access to all three Library Editions.  there to be some limitations to the website tools available.
  • Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have free access available to, and, along with some additional sites. Some site features may be limited. Click here to learn more.

Genetic Genealogy: Which Site Should I Use for DNA?

AncestryDNA quick reference guide

AncestryDNA: Over 3 million DNA profiles. Check out Understanding AncestryDNA quick reference guide by Diahan Southard, available in print or as a digital download.

MyHeritage DNA is up-and-coming! Read our most recent report here.

Additional Genealogy Website Resources

Genealogy Giants: The Big Websites Quick Guide is coming soon, with more in-depth pros and cons of each site! Coming soon! Bookmark this page!


Reviews of “The Big 4” Lecture

“You may have asked, ‘Which is the best online genealogy service for me to use?’….I suspect this video [presentation by Sunny Morton at RootsTech 2017] will answer most of your questions. Topics covered include cost, record types, geographic coverage, genetic testing, DNA matching, search flexibility, languages supported, mobile-friendly, automated matching, and a lot more.

Sunny provides the most information about these four sites that I have ever seen in any other one document or video. This is a keeper! I have been using all four of these web sites for years and yet I learned several new facts about them, thanks to Sunny’s online video presentation. I suspect you will learn some things as well.” –Dick Eastman, Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

“We want to tell you how much we enjoyed the presentation about the comparison of the four major websites. [Sunny] did an excellent job and we were so thrilled with her presentation. She was so prepared and presented it in such a manner as to be understood. Give her our best.” –Eldon and Dorothy Walker

“I am incredibly thankful for your Big 4 session. I’ve never had interest in Findmypast or MyHeritage as I felt FamilySearch and Ancestry had it all…and hadn’t heard of PERSI either. With newly found Irish roots (via DNA), I’m excited to extend some lines that have gone cold.” –a FamilySearch employee