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Throughout all of time, people have had a deep personal interest in knowing where they came from. Our family, culture, and geography shape who we are, so it provides a unique perspective about ourselves when we are able to trace our ancestors and learn more about the people who came before us. Studying family history has rapidly grown into one of the most popular pastimes for people in the United States.
It hasn't always been simple to trace our roots. In the past, researching a family tree was a lengthy, often painstaking process. Rather than quickly jumping online and doing a few searches, you would have to track down hard copies of vital documents, which often cost as much as $20 each from government agencies.
Thursday, October 21st
In the world of genealogy, Ancestry is one of the most well-known and widely-respected names in the game. They are based in Lehi, Utah and are the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world. Ancestry has invested over $300 million to build the world's largest collection of family history records. Their purpose is to provide individuals with a deeper understanding of who they are, to strengthen their identity and sense of belonging.
Get started with what you know
There are over 27 billion records to be discovered through Ancestry. To get started on their platform, you simply add what you know about yourself and immediate family members and you'll get connected to ancestors and information about your family that matches the details you provide. Small leaf icons will appear as you go through information, alerting you that there is information about one of your ancestors for you to discover. Hints do all of the searching for you and continue to come as you grow your family tree. Over 2 million records are added to Ancestry daily, so the possibilities for learning about your heritage are nearly endless.
Free learning hub
You can view your family tree or create a new one at any time. Ancestry has a free family history learning hub that goes over Genealogy 101, provides information about all types of vital records, and gives an overview of historic events like The Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and RMS Titanic. You can learn about immigration and the census records in different years to give added perspective to your family history work.
You can search through Ancestry's 27+ billion records at any time by inputting information you have including names, birthdays, keywords, nationality, and other relevant details. The platform is intuitive and makes it easy to gain fast access to a wealth of information about your family. Whether you're familiar with genealogical work or not, you'll be able to easily use Ancestry and be inspired by what you learn.
Ancestry offers a 14-day free trial to give you a feel for how their platform works, how many records they have available, and what features you can use. This is a great way to decide whether or not to commit to a subscription of their product. There are three membership options to choose from:
If you want to cancel your membership with Ancestry, you can do so at any time. If you cancel before the end of your 6-month subscription, a $25 fee may apply. The best option is to cancel at least 2 days before your renewal date through your account settings to avoid any fees. Unless you delete your family trees, they will remain on Ancestry's site whether you have a membership or not. If you delete your account, all information related to your account, including family trees you created will be irreversibly erased.
DNA kit from the comfort of home
In addition to genealogical records, Ancestry also offers DNA testing to give you insight about your ethnic heritage and what parts of the world your ancestors lived. For $99, Ancestry will send you a DNA kit that includes a vile for saliva testing to be mailed back to them. For $119 you can get additional information about personal traits that your genes could influence (heart recovery, lactose intolerance, vitamin D, endurance fitness, etc.). Ancestry's DNA kits come with a lot of detailed information and are a popular purchase for individuals as well as a great gift idea.
Top of the line genealogy service
Ancestry has earned our highest rating for genealogy sites because frankly, although there are other useful and impressive genealogy services, they can't yet compete with Ancestry. The Better Business Bureau gives Ancestry an "A+" rating and users throughout the world generally have good things about the usability of the site, vast amount of content, and reliable customer service. If you're interested in genealogy, get started with their free trial right away to see what Ancestry has to offer.
MyHeritage began as a start-up company out of tech veteran and experienced genealogist Gilad Japhet's garage in 2003. It is now a world-leading company with tens of millions of customers. Japhet has been called the "Sherlock Holmes" in the genealogy space for his achievements in projects ranging from helping trace heirs of stolen properties or looted artworks to reuniting families. News outlets such as The New York Times, TechCrunch, Good Morning America and Fox News have highlighted MyHeritage for their top-notch service.
Get started for free
To build a family tree on MyHeritage, all you need to start with is your name and birthday and some basic information about your close relatives. You can add stories and photos about your relatives as your family tree continues to grow. You'll receive match notifications as MyHeritage discovers new family connections for you. You'll be able to search birth records, obituaries, marriage certificates, census records, and other resources that will uncover information about your relatives.
Unique photo animation tool
One of the most popular features of MyHeritage is the photo animation tool called Deep Nostalgia that appears to bring your ancestors to life. The effects take old photos and make it so faces can smile, blink, and turn their heads, giving life and character to photos of people you likely never got to know.
MyHeritage lets users try out their service for 14 days free of charge before deciding on a membership level. They are a subscription-based company and have five packages to choose from. Anyone can use the service for free and create a family tree of up to 250 people. However, it doesn't include any other features, so you may want to check out one of these other options:
The best option for comprehensive research at MyHeritage is the complete kit. It is not outrageously priced and includes everything you'd need to actually build a comprehensive family tree and learn more about your ancestors. The other subscriptions seem limited and we don't like that they offer either the option to build a good family tree or do research, but not a good mix of both. Luckily, MyHeritage offers a 30-day money-back guarantee in the event that you change your mind about the subscription you pay for and decide you don't want to continue using their service.
Cheek swab DNA kit
MyHeritage also offers a DNA kit that uses a simple cheek swab to help you uncover your origins and find new relatives. The cost for the kit is $79 excluding shipping and reveals your ethnic origins from 42 ethnicities with a percentage breakdown and finds your DNA matches. Results are ready within 3-4 weeks from when your sample arrives at the lab.
Customer reviews for MyHeritage are overall very positive. They receive high praise for their responsive customer service reps and users seem to find the information and tools to discover the family history that they are looking for. The Better Business Bureau gives MyHeritage an "A+" rating, making this a fantastic option for genealogy work. We highly recommend starting with the free trial and giving MyHeritage a go.
LegacyTree began in 2004 as a team of individuals came together with the goal of helping people discover who they are through their family roots. It is a woman-owned business and has won awards for their outstanding service and performance. They've been recognized by other worldwide industry leaders such as MyHeritage, Unlock the Past, FamilyTree, 23andMe, Your DNA Guide, and others.
LegacyTree has connected living children with their birth parents, helped people gain dual citizenship by finding links to their ancestors, made links among living cousins, and even reconnected students with past school teachers. The stories that have come out of LegacyTree are inspiring and have changed the lives of many people. They are a reputable service that links living individuals with other living individuals or helps them dive into their ancestry. It's no surprise that this company has an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau and overwhelmingly positive reviews from users.
Learn about the team
You can read through a bio of each researcher at LegacyTree. Each of them specialize in different things like heir and probate, Brazilian genealogy, Italian emigration, Jamaican genealogy, DNA analysis, historical maps research, Cherokee research, and so much more. LegacyTree works all around the world to track down records. A visual of a map is shown on the website indicating areas where there are currently many, some, or no researchers.
Get a free quote
If you want to work with LegacyTree, the first step is to request a free quote through their website. You'll provide your full name, email address, phone number, country of residence, why you want to hire a genealogist, and if you were referred. However, some pricing packages are already listed on the website to give you an idea of what to expect. They include:
Additional services include DIY DNA for unknown parentage for $575 and a heritage travel plan for $600 ($120/hour). DNA for unknown parentage helps people find their biological parents. You'll work one-on-one through a series of (5) 45 minute virtual consultations. The heritage travel plan helps you prepare before traveling to your ancestors' homeland. LegacyTree will create a personalized travel plan for one ancestral hometown, which may include their home, churches, and other notable places where life events took place. The project is completed in 2-3 weeks.
Expensive, but in-depth
The cost to use LegacyTree far exceeds other genealogy sites. The projects they take on here are in-depth and cater to people who don't have time or know where to start. It takes almost no work on the customer's end before LegacyTree can start researching. Their team of professionals are highly trained in discovering hard-to-find information that could take individuals months or years to find on their own.
Valuable to those who need them
LegacyTree is a top-of-the-line company that is well worth your time and money if you have a big family history project to tackle. If you are looking for a biological parent or child, this is a fantastic place to turn. By submitting a request for a quote, you can get information on what to expect for your project. Although this genealogy service isn't necessary for most people, it could prove extremely valuable for those with difficult family history research and who don't have the time and resources to do it themselves. We highly recommend LegacyTree and they've earned one of our highest ratings.
Findmypast is based out of London and owned by publishing giant DC Thomson. They launched their website in 2001 with the aim to help people trace their ancestral roots. Their partners include NYG&B, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The National Archives, FamilySearch, The British Library, and The National Archives of Ireland.
Build a family tree and grow it with living relatives
The main features on Findmypast include the ability to create or upload your family tree, connect with living relatives to grow your recorded history, order or upload DNA results ($89), get advice from experts, and browse vital records, employment records, and more. Findmypast has twice the amount of Irish records as any other site and has the largest online archive of British and Irish newspapers.
Three monthly subscription packages to choose from
For access to Findmypast, you can first take advantage of their 14-day free trial to decide whether or not this is the genealogical website you want to explore deeper. After your trial period, you can choose from three subscription packages:
All packages come with unlimited family trees, the ability to get common ancestors from other people's family trees, British and Irish civil BMDs, and the British and Irish census. The Plus and Pro package have additional features like British wills and probate, employment records and specialized Irish records. With the Pro package you'll get extensive US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand records, newspapers and PERSI (periodical source index).
Limited geographic range
The main issue we foresee with Findmypast is that not everyone has roots that just trace back to the UK, US, or Canada. This may make it difficult to find a full range of family history information and connect with other family trees like you could through a larger-scale genealogy site.
Cancel and still have limited access
If you want to cancel your membership with Findmypast, you can turn off auto-renewal in your account and you will no longer be charged once your subscription is up. Once your membership ends, you'll still be able to view and build your family tree, and search and view family records (with limited results). Findmypast has a collection of free-to-view records that anyone can access at any time.
Free research tools
We appreciate that there are free tools from Findmypast that anyone can view regardless of if they are a member or not. You can view over 150 free newspaper archives spanning from 1720 to 1880 thanks to The British Library. There are free vital records you can browse as well as US, UK, and Canadian census records and travel and migration records.
Findmypast is not rated by The Better Business Bureau and they have mixed reviews from customers. Some are frustrated that it is not a very intuitive genealogy service to use. Others have had issues with payments and claim it is difficult to cancel. There are also people who are excited about the family discoveries they've made on Findmypast and felt that it was worth their money as soon as they got started. This site might not offer a broad enough spectrum of family history documents for a worldwide audience, but it is still a good resource to check out.
Genealogy Bank was founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of NewsBank. They are one of the largest collections of digitized newspapers from all 50 states in the US dating back to 1960. They offer a Social Security Death Index, obituaries, government publications, and historical books. Genealogy Bank's services have been featured by CNN, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, CBS News, and other prominent news outlets.
Great addition to family tree builders
Genealogy Bank is a fantastic platform to use in addition to highly-rated genealogy sites like Ancestry. Rather than building a family tree and connecting with other family members, Genealogy Bank provides information about past family members that can be added to your account on other sites and provides more information about their life. It's as easy as entering the first and last name of an ancestor and the state they lived in. Up to hundreds of historical records will pull up and you can browse through them and identify the ones that match the genealogy you're researching. States where other records are found will appear as well as census years where their name appears.
Using Genealogy Bank is straightforward and easy. The purpose of their platform is simple and uncomplicated, so users will find this site makes research easy. Genealogy Bank has slowly expanded their search options with newspapers available for specific US cultures like African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, and more.
7-day free trial
To test out the features and usability of Genealogy Bank, you can take advantage of their 7-day free trial. The free trial will allow you access to more than 2 billion genealogy records, over 330 years of newspaper coverage, and the world's largest collection of obituaries online. After your free trial is up, you can sign up for a membership to have year-long access to Genealogy Bank.
The original price is $99.90 for an annual membership at Genealogy Bank. However, at the time of this review (and most likely all the time) a 44% discount is offered, making the membership only $55.95. This is an affordable price considering the amount of records available to you for a full 12 months.
Add to your family tree toolkit
Genealogy Bank receives an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau. They also receive high ratings from users who say their customer service is fantastic and that the records found here add personality to the ancestors they are researching. Customers would like to see Genealogy Bank move to the international market and provide published collections for other countries, which is something the company is currently exploring. Genealogy Bank has continued to make improvements over the years and is a great resource for people exploring their family tree.
Archives began in July 2009 with the aim of making family history research quick and easy. They have billions of digitized records and images and continue to grow thanks to their partnerships with FamilySearch and the National Archives Administration. In 2012, they became part of the Ancestry family and continue to build on their platform to provide good experiences for users.
Owned by Ancestry
Since Ancestry is the owner of Archives, most links you click on will provide the same information as found on Ancestry. You can buy their $99 DNA kits through Archives and all of the records you find on Archives are on Ancestry as well. This is a good thing since Ancestry has the largest collection of family history records and is a reliable, professional service.
All the basic tools
At Archives you can create your family tree, link with other family members, and upload important documents, photos, and stories about your ancestors. You can browse through Archives' collection of vital records (and print them from your computer), military records and make notes to help you stay organized.
Free trial, then billed monthly
You can try out Archives' service for free by taking advantage of their 14-day trial. This gives you instant access to over 11 billion genealogy records, the family tree tracing tools, and unlimited search access. After the trial ends, you'll automatically be billed $9.99 every month until you cancel. This is a good price when compared to other genealogy sites, so it might make it one of the most affordable resources out there.
Interesting to people of all experience levels
It doesn't matter if you're a genealogical expert or not: the Archives platform was built for hobbyists, beginners and experienced professionals. It's easy to navigate and takes minimal effort to use since you'll be saving on trips to the courthouse, cemetery, churches, or records offices like people used to have to do.
Working to improve
Despite their professional presentation, Archives receives poor ratings from users over the last few years. They do not have their own Better Business Bureau profile or rating (Ancestry has an "A+" ), but based on the feedback from people who have subscribed to their services, it's clear that they've had some hiccups and are working to improve. Common complaints include cancelling and being charged for memberships months and even years later. This ended in credit card disputes and headaches for those who had to deal with it. It seems they are continuing to refine their processes after their merger with Ancestry and working hard to grow, but in the meantime it is best to just use one of our higher-rated sites.
Lineages was founded in 1983 by Johni Cerny, the lead genealogist for several television series on PBS including "African American Lives', "Faces of America" , and "Finding Your Roots." Cerny passed away in 2020 and passed on her legacy of in-depth and precise ancestry research to her peer, Richard Price. He has continued to expand Lineages with a team of researchers focusing on England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, all European and Eastern European countries, Scandinavia, Russia, and Central and South America.
Step-by-step research process
Lineages is a service that does a lot of your family history work for you. If you've hit a roadblock in your research or don't have the time to continue it, you can hire Lineage's team of genealogists to trace your ancestry. Their services are designed to meet your research needs in 4 steps:
36 products to choose from
To dive into a more specific project, you can choose from one of 36 products offered by Lineage. These include preliminary, beginning, standard, and advanced research projects for African Americans, Americans, Native Americans, and Europeans. You can also purchase a family group chart, four, five, or six generation family tree, and even purchase gift cards.
Detailed explanation of each project
For a full explanation of what each product entails, you can read about them individually on the website. Most of them include over 20 hours of research, DNA analysis, on-call updates and help from a consultant, and an in-depth report after the completion of the research. You and a consultant will design a plan together to make sure you are able to accomplish your family history goals.
Cost depends on time required for completion
The cost of a project ranges from $350 - $6,000 depending on how many hours will be required. Initial consultations are free and this can help you determine which product you should purchase. If you end up needing more than the allotted time for a genealogist to work on your family history, you can buy extra hours for $90/hour.
No refund information
Unfortunately, the link for the refund policy at Lineages was broken, so we aren't sure what happens if you pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars and your research goals aren't met. However, since this is a process that you're so involved in with a consultant, it's likely that you will know what to expect by the end and be satisfied with the results you're able to get. If you need to contact their team, you can email or call them at any time.
Doesn't hurt to have a consultation
Lineages is not rated by the Better Business Bureau and they don't have very many customer reviews online. However, both the founder and current owner of this company are reputable and seem to genuinely care deeply about the work they do for people. Since your initial consultation is free, it's not a bad idea to contact Lineages and let them know what your genealogy goals are and see if the pricing and procedure they spell out for you seems reasonable. The in-depth nature of this company isn't for everyone and the pricing is definitely reflected in the amount of work involved, but for those wanting to do minimal work on their family tree, this is a good option.
One Great Family claims to be the world's largest online family tree that started in 1998. They are a cooperative effort that allows users to create and share family trees by uploading their own family information. Based on the appearance of their website, we believe that at one point this was a modern and useful resource, but it doesn't appear to have the functionality and professionalism that their competitors do.
Website needs work
The first thing we noticed about One Great Family is that their graphics and text are really small, which could prove frustrating for many users. Sometimes text runs on top of other text and it makes it difficult to read. Overall the website is outdated (blogs haven't been posted since 2014) and doesn't provide as much straightforward information as customers would need to make an educated decision about whether or not to subscribe to this genealogy service.
Ineffective if the site isn't widely used
One of the primary benefits One Great Family says you'll receive from them includes the service being fast and easy. You'll simply enter what you know about your immediate family members or upload your GEDCOM file and the system will search its files and connect you with matching data. The issue is that if not many people are using this system, it will be hard for you to grow a comprehensive family tree with the help from others.
You can get a 7-day trial for free before subscribing to One Great Family's service. They have three plans that include:
Overall this is one of the least expensive genealogical websites online, but we still aren't sure that it's worth the money. If users aren't able to browse the billions of worldwide documents available online and continue to learn as the company adds more, it doesn't matter how much money you'll save on the site. In addition, no refunds are given at any time for any reason once an individual has completed a free trial and paid for a subscription.
Few reviews, most unsatisfactory
One user left a review about One Great Family on their Better Business Bureau page saying that it is nearly impossible to reach their customer service team. The user claims that One Great Family illegally lists the private data of foreigners on their site. The response from the company is that since they don't themselves enter the data on their site (it is submitted by users) they have no way to verify whether or not it is correct and therefore cannot manipulate or remove it.
Better choices available
There aren't many reviews about this site online and of the few that we found, most of them were unsatisfactory. One consolation is that The Better Business Bureau does give them an "A+" rating, but this isn't enough reason for us to recommend One Great Family. We feel there are better choices for your genealogy service needs.
People would travel far to find gravesites of family members to gather what local information they could, read through old journals, and put in hours worth of phone calls to try to connect the dots. Oftentimes language barriers, hard-to-read handwriting on old documents, or distance led genealogical enthusiasts to a dead end.
Thanks to the people who laid the groundwork for genealogy the hard way, online platforms have been created to compile everyone's histories into a simple, searchable database. Since these services have launched, it has opened doors for billions of people to find lost family members and learn about their ancestors. It's never been easier to dive into your genealogy. Some services offer a look into your lineage with just a vial of saliva or swab of the cheek through DNA testing.
As you browse different genealogy services, there are some important things to keep in mind:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best genealogy services available online. We hope this information helps you learn more about yourself, reconnect with estranged loved ones, and be inspired by those who came before you.
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