“Which big genealogy website should I use?” Genealogy Gems editor Sunny Morton takes on that ambitious family history question in ongoing comparative coverage of the “Genealogy Giants,” Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com.” Here, find a summary of what she teaches, plus additional resources for understanding these four Genealogy Giants.
The big picture: Which Genealogy Giants website is best for me?
The four Genealogy Giants (Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com) all offer the following to their top-tier users:
- millions of historical records from around the world;
- powerful, flexible search interfaces;
- family tree-building tools;
- automated record hinting (if you have a tree on the site);
- Help/tutorials for site users.
But each has unique strengths and weaknesses, too. You may determine that one or two of these sites meets your needs now. But your family history research needs may change. For example, you may discover an Irish or Swedish ancestor whose records may be hosted on a different site than the one you’ve been using. Or you may find that you need DNA to push back further on your family tree. It’s critical to which sites offer what records and tools, so you know your options when your needs or interests change.
But…it’s not easy to compare the Genealogy Giants
There are so many features on each site–and an apples-to-apples comparison isn’t easy.
Here’s one example: how many records are on each site? Some sites include DNA results and user-submitted family tree profiles in their total record count. Others don’t. One site has a universal family tree–ideally with one record per person who has ever lived–and the others host individual trees for each user, leading to lots of duplication. Does a birth record count as one record? FamilySearch thinks so. But other sites may count a birth record as three records, because a baby, mom and dad are all named. So it’s not easy to compare historical record content across all the sites.
Genealogy Giants Quick Reference Guide
That’s why we created this new guide. It helps you answer one of the most-asked questions in genealogy: “Which genealogy website should I use?”
Use this jammed-packed cheat sheet to quickly and easily compare all of the most important features of the four biggest international genealogy websites: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. Then consult it every time your research budget, needs or goals change. Tables, bulleted lists and graphics make this guide as easy to use as it is informative.
This comprehensive quick reference guide explains:
- How knowing about all four websites can improve your family history research
- How the sites stack up when it comes to the numbers of historical records, names in trees, DNA profiles, site users, site languages and subscription costs
- Unique strengths of each website and cautions for using each
- What to keep in mind as you evaluate record content between sites
- Geographic record strengths: A unique table has an at-a-glance comparison for 30+ countries
- How to see what kinds of records are on each site without subscribing
- How family trees are structured differently at these websites—and why it matters
- Privacy, collaboration and security options at each site
- How DNA testing features differ at the two websites that offer it
- What you can do with free guest accounts at each website
- Subscription and free access options
Watch Sunny’s RootsTech 2017 “Genealogy Giants” kick-off lecture
Additional Genealogy Giants Website Resources
Limited-time only! Download Sunny’s RootsTech 2018 handout, Historical Records on the Genealogy Giants.
- Do your DNA at Ancestry! More than 7 million have tested there. To help get the most out of your testing experience, purchase the inexpensive Understanding AncestryDNA quick reference guide by Diahan Southard, available in print or as a digital download.
- The Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com by Nancy Hendrickson (updated in 2016).
- The Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook by Nancy Hendrickson (new in 2017).
- The Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org by Dana McCullough.
- MyHeritage.com Cheat Sheet by Sunny Morton, available in print or as a digital download.
- MyHeritage DNA is up-and-coming! Read our most recent report here for free.
Reviews of Sunny’s Genealogy Giants Lectures
“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