When I started my family tree online, I joined Ancestry.com. At the time it was the most popular
pay-to-view site on the WWW. I have changed a couple of times since then, but have I changed for the better or not?
To find out I have checked out the top family tree websites for UK genealogists. The best free one is in my opinion Family Search, which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The paid ones are harder to choose.
Churches and Churchyards, Archives and Libraries
If you have the time to travel around the country to the archives and libraries your family tree research takes you, that is still the best way to research as you can check out graveyards and churches too. If you can’t the next best thing is a subscription to a family history website. It could well save you money in the long run.
Top Family Tree Websites
When deciding which website to use, whether pay as you go or a subscription, it’s important to keep in mind that no one site is going to hold all the information you need. Each of the ‘big 3’ websites has their own unique records.
It is best to try before you buy, taking advantage of the free trial period offered by Ancestry, The Genealogist and Find My Past. Also, you can access the websites at your nearest library or record office which provides free of charge access to guests.
During your trial, contemplate about what type of records you’ll be using, for example, parish records, wills, Armed Forces etc. and assess how useful your chosen site would be. Don’t forget you can also pay on a pay-as-you-go basis if you are still unsure.
The majority of you will have seen the ads for Ancestry. While not all of us has royalty, famous people, or even long-lost family to search for, Ancestry can still help you find the history of your family. It can help you find the missing information such as birthdates and places you need.
Ancestry has many tools for researching and building your family tree. There is a version for your laptop, and an app for your phone or tablet and they are simple to use.
You can search as far back as the Crusades in the 13th century.
Like all the genealogy sites we tested it has a family tree builder, and you need to enter the necessary information you know or download a family tree as a GEDCOM file, or some other type of file. I always save a copy of my family tree as a GEDCOM file because all the best family tree sites and programs use it. If you want to use more than one website you don’t have to keep updating the tree manually.
Once you have the family tree entered you will start getting hints about people in your tree, who are in other people’s trees too. You can add the person to you tree giving you more information about people or even new people. You can build your tree from the information you receive. I would, however, check the information added to your tree, as just because someone else thinks it is correct doesn’t mean it is.
You can sign up for Ancestry either monthly or 6 monthly. The prices vary depending on which plan you opt for but start at £10.99 monthly (£54.99 for six months) and go to £19.99 monthly (£99.99 for six months).
Ancestry offers different plans to choose from: The Essentials membership, Premium membership or Worldwide membership which is the one I signed up for. You can try a 14-day free trial if you supply a credit or debit card. Do not forget to cancel if you do not like to though as they will automatically start your membership on day 15.
The memberships vary quite a bit. If your family travelled at all, you will need the Worldwide membership. The Essentials is just the UK and Premium is UK and Ireland.
Find My Past is home to over 8 billion records, with new record releases announced on Friday’s. The site has partnerships with family history societies around the UK to make available their region-specific records, many of which are difficult to impossible to find on other sites. Find My Past is also the only home of the 1939 register, which is similar to a census and bridges the census gap between 1921 and 1951 and also has the most comprehensive online collection of British military records – from 1656 to 2005.
You can also put your tree on here and get hints, similar to Ancestry, to help build your tree.
It is a friendly site and simple to use and full of information.
Find My Past subscription
Starter £8.95 per month (£72 per year), Plus £12.95 per month (£120 per year) or Pro £15.95 per month (£156 per year). Again, you can have a free trial with a credit or debit card.
The Genealogist is a UK-based site which offers the complete tithe maps for England and Wales, and exclusive datasets which include wills, occupational records and directories. The site records date from 1127 to 2005 and consists of a surname concentration chart and the official non-parochial birth, marriages and deaths for non-conformists. It also has an extensive archive image database. The unique search tools and UK records make this an excellent site for those in the UK and those searching for their family in the UK.
Again you can put your tree on and get hints.
The Genealogist subscription
Starter £14.95 for three months, £28.95 for six months and £54.95 for 12 months.
Gold £24.95 for three months, £44.95 for six months and £78.95 for 12 months.
Diamond £119.45 for 12 months.
I have used all 3 of these sites, and at times, such as now, have subscriptions with 2 out of the 3. I search for family trees constantly, either for others or myself and want all the information at once. I have a diamond The Genealogist subscription, and a Pro subscription on Find My Past and I find different sites have different uses.
Which is best though?
That is difficult to say.
Ancestry has the most records, but not necessarily the best choice if you are looking mainly for UK records. It is better if you are looking worldwide though as it has records from over eighty countries. It is also much more expensive than the others.
Find My Past has the 1939 register which gives a lot of information and it was the first to have the 1911 census.
The Genealogist helps you build your family history as well as your tree with a lot of information other sites don’t seem to concentrate on such as Tithe and Land Owners and Peerage, Gentry and Royalty. There is also trade information and other records to help those of us who came from agricultural labourers and coal miners etc.
Find My Past and The Genealogist are much cheaper than Ancestry and around the same price.
I think the best thing to do is look at what you need from a website. Are you searching mainly UK or USA or worldwide? Do you want to build their life stories or just trace their names backwards? Different sites are useful for different things, but my favourite at the moment is The Genealogist as I am finding so much information about the people in my family.
Happy hunting, and if you have any comments or questions about this or any other part of tracing your family tree, please do not hesitate to comment below.
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