“Which big genealogy website should I use?” Genealogy Gems takes on that ambitious family history question in ongoing comparative coverage of the “Genealogy Giants,” Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. (Disclosure: this article contains affiliate links. we will be compensated if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting this free blog.)
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.
Comparing the Top Genealogy Websites
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.
Click here to read what Genealogy Gems loves about MyHeritage.
Reviews of “Genealogy Giants”
“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
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Millions of British Isles descendants—whether still living in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales or dispersed to the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, may find their ancestors in these new online records that include medieval maps, BMD and immigration...
The latest tech news from Google Earth, FamilySearch and MyHeritage
Alice’s Story – genealogy research with blogger Julianne Mangin
Cemeteries – both for ancestors and their pets
Please take our quick PODCAST SURVEY which will take less than 1 minute. Thank you!
Google Earth News
Jennifer in California sent me a fascinating item recently , and she says “Thought you might get a kick out today’s blurb from Google, where they pat themselves on the back for what can be done with Google Earth. No argument from me; it’s amazing!”
So, what can be done with Google Earth besides all the family history projects that I teach here on the podcast and in the Premium videos? Well, Peter Welch and Weekend Wanderers in the UK are using Google Earth to find treasure!
FamilySearch.org, the free and massive genealogy website from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has added a new way for you to add more memories to your tree.
In addition to photos you can now add audio both at the websiteand the FamilySearch FamilyTree and Memories apps which you can download from your mobile device’s app store.
So now as you’re selecting and uploading family photos to familysearch, you can also gather and record the stories that go with those photos. It’s sort of like being able to write on the back on the photograph, but in an even more personal way.
Your voice, and the voices of your relatives can now be part of your family’s history.
From the FamilySearch website: “Photos and audio attached to deceased ancestors can be viewed by other users on the FamilySearch Family Tree. To protect privacy, photos and audio attached to living people can be seen only by the person who added the memory unless that person shares the memory or album with another user.”
MyHeritage App update
Among the newly introduced features are Family Timelines, the ability to view family trees that you’re matched with, the ability to choose which information you extract from Smart Matches™, an improved research page, and more. Read all about it here
From Craig: “After finding my Paternal grandfather and great-grandfather, I looked for my Paternal GG Grandfather in the same area. No luck. I went to the R.B. Hayes library in Tiffin, Ohio and started looking at every page in the burial listing for the township I thought he would be in. And there he was – last name misspelled! (The “A” was changed to a “K”.) I was able to drive over to the cemetery and located his stone – still readable after his burial in 1885. I plan to go back to the area this summer to look for his wife, who was buried elsewhere (they were separated.) I wish I could get someone to update the lists with the correct spelling, to match the gravestone and census papers, but that seems impossible to do.”
“My brother Ray says we have visited more dead relatives than live ones. Trying now to visit the relatives above ground!”
Spent many hours walking, crawling, pushing through brush brambles and briers just to find and take pictures of tombstones. I regret only one such adventure. If I may. My sweetheart and I went to a small cemetery in New Jersey to gather family names and pictures for Billion Graves and our personal records. While I was taking pictures, my wife was clipping brush and bushes from the stone that identified her families plot.
We had a great day. I filled two clips of pictures and my sweetheart did a magnificent job on that stone. It was only a few hours later, when she started itching that I really “looked” at the pictures and realized that the brush that she cleared from that stone was poison ivy. Wouldn’t have been so bad, but when she found that I’m not affected by poison oak, ivy or sumac. She was not happy.
I have recently started doing ancestry research and have been astounded at what I have found. No creepy tree stories. However, it is nice to know that some ancestors took special care to by buy family plots even though they knew eventually the girls might marry and want to be buried with their husband. I found it interesting that both my grandfather and my grandmother are both buried with their individual parents.
Shirley’s story jogged my memory. My mother died in 1934 when I was 4 years old. She is buried in her father’s plot rather than my paternal grandfather’s plot. I have wondered for years why the burial was arranged that way and imagine all sorts of situations. Were the families feuding? Was one family more financially able to foot the bill. Did my paternal grandfather not like my father? Hmmmm………
I checked out this book from the local library about a month ago. Decided I needed my own copy. All genealogist should read it. It is very informative & entertaining.
About 5 years ago I found the farm on which my gr great grandparents were buried. The tall granite marker with the parents’ names had been knocked over, the foot stones stacked and several large rocks were around the monument and it was in the middle of a field that was being planted and harvested. We made contact with the owner and received permission to have it raised.
In the meantime, I found an obituary for a son who was buried on the family farm. I also found an article about a woman who did dowsing, contacted her and she agreed to come perform the dowsing. I was videoing it when my phone went totally dead! I had never had that happen and it was charged. Thirty minutes later it came back on mysteriously!
She found 2 adult women, 2 adult men and three toddlers. After further search I found another obituary for a grown daughter buried there and 3 toddler grandchildren who died in 1882. She said that the large rocks would have marked the graves. Sadly, they had totally desecrated the family cemetery. But I was excited to learn all I did and was startled by the phone totally dying.
We first talked to Julianne last year in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 219. In that episode we explored the tragic story of Julianne’s ancestors, the Metthe family. It was a riveting case study of the twists and turns that genealogy can take us on.GEM: Checking in with Julianne Mangin
Julianne had originally been a bit of a reluctant genealogist. But after a 30 year career in library science, including 14 years as a librarian and website developer for the Library of Congress in Washington DC, she could couldn’t help but try to find the truther in the piecemeal stories that she was told by her mother.
Julianne has continued to research and write at her Julianne Mangin blog, and I thought it would fun to check back in with her and see what she’s been up to.
Her latest blog series is called Alice’s Story. It follows the path of discovery she followed to uncover the story of a previously unknown aunt.
The research began where most good genealogical research begins: at the end of Alice’s life and her death certificate.
Institutional Records – But with few records and no first-hand interviews available, Julianne turned to researching the institutions themselves to dig deeper into Alice’s experience. Resource: Genealogy Gems Premium Video: Institutional Records (membership required)
State Census Records can help fill in the gaps between the federal census enumerations. Search for “state census” in the card catalog:
“Copies of many state censuses are on microfilm at the Family History Library. The Family History Library’s most complete collections of state censuses are for Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. However, censuses exist for the following states also:
Old Postcards are a great resource for images. Resources: Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 16 and episode 76 feature strategies for finding family history on ebay. (Genealogy Gems Premium Membershiprequired)
Become a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member Gain access to the complete Premium podcast archive of over 150 episodes and more than 50 video webinars, including Lisa Louise Cooke’s newest video The Big Picture in Little Details. Learn more here
If you have immigrant ancestors who arrived in the U.S in the 1900s, these 7 sources can help you track their journey—perhaps even to that overseas hometown, so crucial to your genealogy success! (Thanks to Legacy Tree Genealogists for providing us with this guest...
In this episode we cover a plethora of strategies that will give you access to loads of free genealogy records and resources. We cover:
How to follow the path of least resistance to find what you need for your genealogy research.
The best ways to find free genealogy records online.
What you need to know about the genealogy industry that will help you save money.
How you can bee-line your way to the free records that are to be found at each of the big subscription genealogy websites (Ancestry, MyHeritage and FindMyPast).
Two Google secret searches that can help you locate free genealogy resources.
How to search online to find free records offline.
A clever way to get free help with your genealogy brick wall.
Companion Video and Show Notes
This topic comes from my YouTube video series Elevenses with Lisa episode 21. You can find all the free Elevenses with Lisa videos and show notes at https://lisalouisecooke.com/elevenses.
Genealogy Gems Premium Members have exclusive access to the 5-page downloadable show notes handout in the Resources section of the Elevenses with Lisaepisode 21 show notes page here.
Premium Members also have access to all of the archived earlier episodes. To access the Elevenses with Lisa Premium Member archive, log in to your membership at https://genealogygems.com and under in the main menu under Premium go to Premium Videos and click on Elevenses with Lisa.
Elevenses with Lisa Episode 21 – Free Genealogy! Watch the video and read the full show notes here.