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Genealogy research is growing in popularity, particularly since the Internet has enabled us to search for records so much faster and easier than previously possible in the past. Not only can you discover enlightening (and even sometimes shocking) information about your family and ancestors, but you can connect with other people exploring their family’s past. It isn’t uncommon to find a long-lost distant relative in this way, but at the very least, you can gather tips from others with more family research experience.
It can be quite overwhelming when you begin to research your genealogy. Of the several genealogy search websites available, how do you decide which ones will be the best for your ancestry research? After carefully reviewing the most popular genealogy websites the following ten are my very top picks. These genealogical research websites have fantastic features and are also exceptionally user-friendly.
1. Ancestry.com. With an estimated four billion names in its enormous database and counting, Ancestry.com is likely the best known genealogy website in the U.S. and a favorite of many family researchers. Its Family Tree Maker software is one of its main unique attractions. You can also find video tutorials, a monthly newsletter, and access to other researchers on the ancestry site.
While most of Ancestry’s search capabilities aren’t offered for free, you can still access scans of documents and images, such as birth certificates, court records, and photographs without spending a dime. Obituaries are also available, as well as census and military records, land office records, and school yearbooks from the U.S. You can store the interesting family info you uncover in what is called the “Shoebox” so that you don’t have to repeat your searches. You can sort the list of databases on the genealogy site in a number of ways to make it simpler to locate what you seek.
The ancestry site’s membership options let you choose from either only U.S. records or from the worldwide database, which allows you to refine your search based on location within a specific country. You can also apply filters to the online databases, such as the type of record you’re looking for. Rankings are assigned to the search results via stars so that you can see easily discover the data that matches your genealogy search the best.
2. Genealogy.com. Another renowned genealogy search website, Genealogy.com is a “sister” site of Ancestry.com both owned by the MyFamily network. Targeted to users in the U.S., the niche genealogy website contains info on 300+ million names. More than a quarter of a million new genealogy records are added weekly.
Family Tree Maker is also available on the website. This cool proprietary genealogy software merges your family tree with other family members, allowing subscribers to assist one another in tracing their family tree. You can also search for the family trees of others to find relatives and discover connections. There are photographs of gravestones as well. Another fun feature of Genealogy.com is a list of famous celebrity family trees.
Genealogy.com offers a free 14-day trial. From there, you can choose from three levels of membership – Basic, Deluxe, or Gold. The Deluxe membership includes the World Family Tree, and Gold membership gives you full access to the whole website.
3. GenealogyBank.com. GenealogyBank contains information from all 50 U.S. states starting from the 17th century forward. One of the primary advantages of the site is that it offers access to a very large number of digitized historical documents, newspapers, pamphlets, and books that are not available elsewhere on the Internet, so if you have been unsuccessful in locating a particular family document or clipping, try searching on this genealogy website. To make your family search even more convenient, the digitized clippings can be saved directly on your computer as PDF files.
The complete American State Papers produced between 1789 and 1838 are included on GenealogyBank.com, making for some very interesting research possibilities even if you aren’t researching your ancestry. The website contains African American and Hispanic American newspaper archives for those researching ethnic genealogies. The United States Social Security Death Index is also freely available on the site, along with additional info, such as the day of the week of birth and death dates. Full
4. FamilySearch.org. If you want to start your genealogy research without pulling out your wallet, this free genealogy site run by volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the best place to begin. It boasts in excess of 36 million family names, but it also links you to the International Genealogical Index with over 600 million names of the dead, as well as pedigree charts in the Ancestral File database. Latino and African American records are included, and you are granted access to the LDS church’s Family History Libraries.
The census records on the website start in the late 1800s and include the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Genealogy research centers are listed as well, in case you are planning to visit one (or several) of these places. Thousands of totally free articles written by experts in the site’s Wiki are a major perk because you can learn a great deal about ancestry research that you can then use when you visit other paid membership genealogy websites later, if you desire. Despite its free status, FamilySearch.org also gives help and support services.
5. Archives.com. One of the newest genealogy resources, Archives.com has quickly amassed thousands of users. While the site isn’t free, it costs less than most other genealogy websites and offers a 7-day free trial and family tree-building tool. With a big database of records, the site contains information about the living so that you can potentially find relatives.
Generally, the records include the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. You will discover war records such as World War II enlistment data, as well as birth records from England and Wales and the Dictionary of American Family Names. For African Americans, the site includes an African Heritage section with advice from Henry Louis Gates, the director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
At a discounted rate through your Archives.com membership, you can order vital documents that you may not have been able to locate previously through Vitalchek.com or newspaper clippings from NewspaperArchive.com. You can also order an in-person search in a specific location for court records. Within a matter of hours for a paltry price, you can have your document.
The genealogy website is working on a number of projects such as the Archivest Project to transcribe many public records, and the African American Griots Project to assist African Americans in researching their ancestries. The Genealogical Events Project lets you know about events where you garner info about genealogy research and meet other researchers and people in the genealogical community. Yet another project called the Kidz Project teaches children about ancestry research.
7. WorldVitalRecords.com. This genealogy site’s pioneer collection contains nearly 14 million names in more than 500 databases, including passenger lists, and there are about 300 million military records available. The school yearbook database has over 70 million names. The genealogy research website now also contains a card catalog that allows you to search with a title keyword. Locations are provided with a map with zoom capability.
A monthly newsletter is available, and there are articles and tutorials to assist you. Help is also provided for scrapbooking your family findings, and the message boards allow you to connect with other researchers. Besides phone customer support, there is an online genealogy store.
WorldVitalRecords charges less if you want to search only U.S. records rather than the worldwide database. If you choose the international option, however, you will have access to more than 11,000 databases. You can sample the site free for three days, and there is a 30 day money back guarantee.
8. Footnote.com. What makes Footnote special is that people can post documents for others to discover. So, if someone has a document or record in a private collection that is not otherwise available, you may be able to locate it on this genealogy website, which contains more than 85 million documents and images spanning from the 17th century and organized by era. Even if you simply desire to locate documents not related to your family, this site can be infinitely interesting. An item is featured on the home page, and you can look back at previous featured items on the Spotlights page.
There are numerous documents and pictures from wars in which the U.S. military fought, starting with the Revolutionary War. You can also create a memorial page for someone or a footnote page to display your documents.
A basic site membership is free, and many of the documents are available with this option. Paid website membership gives complete access and is still quite affordable with a seven-day trial.
9. MyHeritage.com. This genealogy website offers its own family tree builder and family webpage functionality, allowing relatives to have a central place to house their family records, making it a combination of family search and social network. You can make your info public or private. If you desire unlimited storage, you’ll need to pay a low monthly fee.
While the website doesn’t have its own databases, its search engine is quite impressive, serving results from more than 1,500 places. The search results include archived medical records and telephone books, in addition to newspapers and the usual official records, some of which are international.
You can search for foreign language names, for example, and if you are unsure of the correct spelling, you can choose to research it using Megadex, a technology that MyHeritage.com developed to fill in the gaps of Soundex, a more limited technology that was developed before the invention of computers and searches for names that “sound like” the name you entered.
10. AncestralFindings.com. Much of the info on this site is free, and it contains some uncommon international inclusions, such as records of people who were executed by guillotine during the French Revolution. The online database also includes records from Sweden and Germany, as well as English-speaking countries, and it contains a list of cemeteries in both the U.S. and U.K.
The help provided on this site is extensive with a list of ancestry books and numerous genealogy articles. Assistance via email is also available, as well as a listing of other genealogy research websites. A website guide helps you to get started, and a blog lets you to ask questions of other genealogy researchers.
Ancestry research can be exciting, fun, and rewarding, connecting you with your history, as well as others who are discovering their family backgrounds. Nothing brings the reality of “six degrees of separation” more to the forefront than researching your family history. You may very well find relatives in unexpected places or even a family lineage that leads to royalty. These top ten genealogy websites should give you a head start to locating the best info to trace your family tree