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Ancestry Find My Past Comparison Essay

I have one living grandparent—my father’s mother, who’s 89.

Nana.

I visited Nana recently and went through the usual activities—talking about myself in a loud voice, fixing her “broken machine” by unminimizing the internet browser window, being told to slow down Timothy and get in the left lane, even though the turn is still a half mile ahead. But I also used the visit as an opportunity to do something I have not done nearly enough in my life—ask her questions about our family.

I don’t know you, but I can almost guarantee that you don’t ask your grandparents (or older parents) enough questions about their lives and the lives of their parents. We’re all incredibly self-absorbed, and in being so, we forget to care about the context of the lives we’re so immersed in. We can use google to learn anything we want about world history and our country’s history, but our own personal history—which we really should know quite well—can only be accessed by asking questions.

During my visit, Nana referred to herself as “the last of the Mohicans,” meaning basically everyone she spent her life with is dead—her husband, siblings, cousins, and friends are all gone. Besides that being the most depressing fact of all time, it was also a jarring wake-up call that a treasure trove of rich and detailed information about my family’s past exists in one and only one place—an 89-year-old brain—and if I kept dicking around, most of that information would be lost forever.

So on this visit, I started asking questions.

She was annoyed.

But it only took a couple minutes for her to become absorbed in storytelling, and I spent the next three hours riveted.

I learned more than I had ever known about her childhood. I knew she and my grandfather had grown up during the Great Depression, but I never really knew the unbelievable details—things like her seeing a mother and her children being thrown onto the sidewalk by their landlord and left there to starve and freeze until every neighbor on the block chipped in a coin or two from their own impoverished situation so the woman could rent a room for one more month.

I learned a ton about my four paternal great-grandparents—again, I had known the basic info about them, but it was the details that for the first time made them real people. Three of them grew up in rough New York orphanages—the fourth left everything she knew in Latvia in her mid-teens and took a boat alone across the Atlantic, arriving in New York to work in a sweatshop.

I even for the first time heard stories about my grandmother’s grandmother, who came over separately from Latvia and lived with the family for her last years—and apparently had quite the personality. Thankfully, she died in 1941, just months before she would have learned that her four sons (who unlike their mother and sister, stayed in Latvia because they had a thriving family business there) were all killed in the Holocaust.

I knew none of this. How did I just learn now that my great-grandmother’s four brothers died in the Holocaust? And now that, for the first time, I know my four paternal great-grandparents and great-great grandmother as real, complex people with distinct personalities, I cannot believe I spent my life up to now satisfied with knowing almost nothing about them. Especially since it’s their particular orphanage/sweatshop/Great Depression struggle that has led to my ridiculously pleasant life.

And as happy as I am that I at least scratched the surface of learning who these people were, I’m now sad about all of these other gray people:

All of this has gotten me thinking about genealogy and how fascinating it is as a concept. What happens if I just keep extending my family tree up and up and up? What exactly is a fourth cousin and how many of them do I have and where are they all right now? How weird is it that to some kid in 2300, I’m one of the old-fashioned-looking dudes really high in his family tree on a level with hundreds of others? Normally, I’d just go internet spiral about this on my own, but since Wait But Why exists, we’re gonna do it together—

The Past: Your Ancestor Cone

So let’s start with the past, and see what happens if we keep going up the family tree, or what I’ll call your Ancestor Cone:

You can see that things get hectic pretty quickly when you start moving back generations. The top row is the 128-person group of your great5 grandparents, or your grandparents’ grandparents’ great-grandparents. The thing that I find surprising is how recently in time you had such a large number of ancestors. Estimating an average generation at 25-30 years, most of those people were your current age around 1800-1825. So the early 19th-century world contained 128 random strangers going about their lives, each of whose genes makes up 1/128th of who you are today.

Who were they all? What countries did they live in? What did they all do with their lives? What tragedies did they endure and what were their greatest triumphs? What were the 254 parent-child relationships in this diagram like? Which of the 252 in-law relationships above were close and loving and which were angry and contentious?

The craziest thing to me is that this diagram, which only represents the last 200 years of your ancestry, contains 127 romantic relationships, each involving at least one critical sex moment and most of them probably involving deep love. You’re the product of 127 romances, just in the last 200 years alone.

Alright, I’m nervous about this, but I’m gonna take a crack at going back even further—

 

Okay that got completely out of hand. This diagram only goes five generations farther back than the one above it and look at the insanity that took place.

The 4,096 human beings in the top section are your great10 grandparents. Most of them were your age in the second half of the 1600s, just as the Enlightenment was getting going in Europe.

You can see why it’s not really that impressive when someone tells you they are descended from famous royalty who lived a few hundred years ago. Look how many people you’re descended from only about 300 years back! Within that top section, there’s probably some royalty, in addition to some peasants, scholars, warriors, painters, prostitutes, murderers, lunatics, and any other kind of person who existed back then.

Finally, I know I already made this point in the evolution post, but look closely at that top section and notice that you can actually see 4,096 distinct tiny people in there—and realize that if you pluck just one of them from there, you would not exist today. Come on.

You may also be noticing that there’s something that doesn’t make sense about the way these numbers are zooming up exponentially—we’re at 4,096 going back three centuries, and continuing at that rate, our ancestor number goes like this:

That puts you at 68 billion ancestors around 1100 AD. The reason that’s problematic is that the world population goes like this:

So how do we explain this?

With a concept called pedigree collapse, which is what happens when people end up with a mate who is somewhat or very closely related to them. So for example, if two cousins had a child, that child would only have six great-grandparents, not eight. Or, to put it another way, there are eight filled great-grandparent spots on that child’s family tree, but two of the spots are duplicates of two other spots—

Before you wince, absorb this fact: according to Rutgers anthropology professor Robin Fox, 80% of all marriages in history have been between second cousins or closer.1

The reason for this is that for most of human history, people spent most of their lives in the same five mile radius, and the other people in that same area tended to be immediate and extended family. To get away from their extended family when courting, men would have to walk over five miles away, which after a long day of hunting you just don’t feel like doing.

In the Western World, this is largely a phenomenon of the past, but in many parts of the world, this is still a common practice—for example, in most of the Middle East and North Africa, over 50% of today’s marriages are between second cousins or closer.2

So that group of 4,096 people above? A number of those spots are undoubtedly duplicates, meaning the real number of distinct people is likely a bit lower—and for someone a few thousand years ago, the number of 10th generation ancestors they’d have would be a lot lower than 4,096.

Because of pedigree collapse, if you extended your family tree way, way back, it would begin to get smaller, resulting in a diamond shape:

The widest point of the Ancestor Cone happens for most of us around 1200AD,3 when our family tree is near the total world population at the time. From that point on, pedigree collapse becomes a stronger factor than the normal upward x2 multiplier, and the tree converges inwards.

The Present: Your Living Relatives

So in this frenzy of procreation we’re all a part of, what’s the deal with our relation to the other people on this Earth today?

The simplest way to think about it is that every stranger in the world is a cousin of yours, and the only question is how distant a cousin they are. The degree of cousin (first, second, etc.) is just a way of referring to how far you have to go back before you get to a common ancestor. For first cousins, you only have to go back two generations to hit your common grandparents. For second cousins, you have to go back three generations to your common great-grandparents. For fifth cousins, you’d have to go back six generations until you arrive at your common pair of great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Since a lot of people get confused about cousin definitions, I made a little chart illustrating what a second cousin is.

So notice that for you and your second cousin, A) your parent is a first cousin of their parent, B) you have grandparents that are siblings, and C) their parents are your common great-grandparents. For third cousins, everything just goes up a level—your parents are second cousins, your grandparents are first cousins, your great-grandparents are siblings, and you have a common pair of great-great-grandparents.

(For the whole “once/twice removed” thing, it’s about being on different generations—so your second cousin’s child is your second cousin once removed, because it’s one generation away from you; your grandfather’s first cousin is your first cousin twice removed. A straight second, third, or fourth cousin must be on your same generation level.)

The number of cousins you have grows exponentially as the degree of distance goes up. You may have a small number of first cousins, but you likely have hundreds of third cousins, thousands of fifth cousins, and over a million eighth cousins.

Because I got a little obsessed with this concept while doing this post, I decided to roll up the nerd sleeves and figured out a formula for this:

(n-1) 2d nd

—where n is the average number of children being had by a family and d is the degree of cousin you want to find the total number of (an explanation for this formula is at the bottom of the post). (P.S. I’m thrilled with myself right now.) (But also scared because there might be a better way to do this, so feel free to add suggestions in the comments.)

So to find out how many third cousins you’d have (d=3) if your family averaged having two children per couple (n=2), it would be (2-1) 23 * 23 = 64.

The number of fourth cousins you’d have (d=4) if your family averaged three children per couple (n=3) would be (3-1) 24 * 34 = 2,592.

Using this formula on yourself is hard, because you don’t know n, the average number of children your extended family is having—but you can get a general ballpark for the number using your nation’s average number of children per family statistic. I calculated some examples below:

Most interesting to me is that these numbers go up so exponentially that taking the world average for number of children per family (2.36)4, you can use the formula to calculate that if breeding were mixed evenly across cultures and nations, the most distant relative you’d have on Earth would be a 15th cousin.

However, since breeding isn’t mixed evenly and is instead contained mostly within nations and cultures, the most distant person within your culture or ethnicity is probably closer to you than a 15th cousin, while the farthest relation you have on Earth is likely to be as far as a 50th cousin.5

In any case, you have hundreds if not thousands of third and fourth cousins and you’re probably friends with some of them without realizing it—you might even be dating one of them.

The other way to look at this is from the top down and see how quickly the distance of relation is magnified as generations move down—while you and your sibling grew up in the same house, your kids will be cousins who might or might not be friends and your grandkids might barely know each other. When it comes to your and your sibling’s great-grandkids, it’s likely they won’t ever meet, and your great-great-grandkids might be best friends with each other and will never realize that their great-great-grandparents were siblings.

A nice example of this phenomenon:

 

The Future: Your Descendant Cone

Maybe you won’t have children, or maybe your children won’t have children. But barring those possibilities, you’re likely to end up being either the great patriarch or matriarch of a Descendant Cone that will eventually make up a sizable chunk of the human race. In its first couple hundred years, before expanding into the thousands, it might look something like this:

Let’s take a closer look at one of your hundreds of great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren:

Little Telia, born right around the year 2300, is as much a mystery to you as your ancestors from the early 1800s up above. She owes her life to you, and somewhere in her personality is a trait or two of yours—but that’s the extent of your connection.

Party’s Over

Now so far in this post, you’ve gotten to enjoy being featured as the key person in all the family trees we’ve drawn. You’ve been the child that thousands of romances have aligned perfectly together to produce. You’ve been the centerpiece of a large extended family with rings of siblings and cousins around you. And now, you’re the great founder of a vast cone of descendants.

But all you have to do is shift the perspective, and suddenly you’re one of some 17th Century guy’s ten thousand descendants; you’re the second, or third, or fourth cousin (it’s weird to think of yourself as just someone’s random second cousin); and to Telia, you’re no grand patriarch or matriarch—you’re an unbelievably random tiny stick figure high up on her Ancestor Cone and you’re fuzzy because Tim can’t figure out how to export high-resolution images from Pixelmator even though he tried a bunch of different things:

Most of those people on the top line are alive today, and you have no idea who’s standing there on Telia’s top line with you—that guy who works at the coffee shop might be her great-great-great-great-great-grandparent too, the two of you just two of her hundreds of nameless, forgotten ancient ancestors.

 

Conclusions

  • Now I feel special and important and also I feel irrelevant and meaningless.
  • Writing this post has really hammered home the point that humans are mainly a temporary container for their genes. In 150 years, all 7,100,000,000 people alive today will be dead, but all of our genes will be doing just fine, living in other people.
  • After the first conclusion point, I was teetering on whether to feel good or bad about all of this. Then, I depressed the shit out of myself with the second point. But to throw my moping ego a bone, I’ll consider an interesting idea, that my descendants might not need to ask their Nana questions to learn about my life and get to know me a bit—technology changes everything. In 100 years, my great-great-grandson might be able to easily pull up all kinds of info/photos/videos and learn whatever he wants to, which I’m sure will be nothing because the last thing he’ll be thinking about is what his great-great-grandfather was like. Dammit.
  • In any case, for now, there’s really only one good way to learn about where you came from—so start asking.

___________

If you’re into Wait But Why, sign up for the Wait But Why email list and we’ll send you the new posts right when they come out.

If you’d like to support Wait But Why, here’s our Patreon.

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Other WBW Posts That Put Your Life in Perspective:

Meet Your Ancestors (All of Them)

Your Life in Weeks

What Makes You You?

 

Explanation of the Cousin Calculation Formula

The formula is (n-1) 2d nd

—where n is the average number of children being had by a family and d is the degree of cousin you want to find the total number of.

It boils down to a simple multiplication of the number of top-level siblings [(n-1) 2d] times the number of “eventual offspring on your generation level” each of those top-level siblings ultimately produces (nd).

Example 1

For a first cousin, the “top-level” is one’s parents’ generation because that’s the generation where we move “sideways” in the family tree before heading “down” to the first cousins. In this example, the number of “top-level siblings” is the number of blood-related aunts and uncles one has, or the number of combined siblings of one’s parents. We get that number by multiplying the total number of children in an average family minus one (that will get us the number of siblings since subtracting the one removes the parent) times the number of our top-level ancestors we need siblings for (in this case, two, since there are two parents). So for a first cousin calculation, the number of top-level siblings if the average family has three children (n = 3) is (3 – 1) * 21, or two siblings times two parents, equals four top-level siblings.

The second part is figuring out how many eventual first cousins each top-level sibling will produce. Since we’re using an average number of children in a family, culture, or nation as a constant n, we just need to multiply each top-level sibling by n to get their number of children. Since their children will have the same number of children n, to go down two generations we would multiply the top-level siblings by n2—this can be simplified as nd. For first cousins, we’d just need to multiply by n once because we’re just going down one generation.

So to get the number of first cousins in a family that always has three kids, d=1 and n=3, and (n-1) 2d nd comes out to 4 x 3 = 12. This is correct because your parents have four combined siblings and each has three kids.

Example 2

To find the number of third cousins someone has if everyone has two kids, we make n=2 and d=3. Here, the top-level siblings are on the great-grandparent level, because it’s their siblings whose great-grandkids are your third cousins—it’s on the great-grandparent level that we move sideways and then down to get to our third cousins.

So the number of great-grandparent siblings here is (n-1) 2d = (2-1) 23 = 8. This makes sense because you have eight great-grandparents and each one has one sibling (since in this example everyone has two kids, or one sibling). Each great-grandparent has nd = 23 = 8 great-grandchildren (since we’re moving four generations down and having two kids at each step), so the total number of third cousins in this example is 8 x 8 = 64.

______

Sources

Richard Conniff. “Go Ahead, Kiss Your Cousin.”

The Straight Dope: 2, 4, 8, 16, … how can you always have MORE ancestors as you go back in time?

NationMaster Fertility Rate by Country

John E. Pattison (2007), Estimating Inbreeding in Large Semi-isolated Populations: Effects of Varying Generation Length and of Migration, American Journal of Human Biology19(4):495-510

The chapter All Africa and her progenies in Dawkins, Richard (1995). River Out of Eden.

This post may contain affiliate links and we’ll be compensated if you make a purchase. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.

Want to know when your family migrated to the U.S. or where your great-great-great-grandmother was born? One of life’s biggest mysteries, “where did I come from?” is now a puzzle almost anyone can piece together, at least when it comes to your ancestry. With the evolution of the Internet, genealogy has become a hot hobby. It’s now easier than ever to trace your family roots back multiple generations online, but where do you start? An online genealogy software program is a great place to begin. We’ve researched many of the best genealogy websites and given you our top choices, as well as some other resources to get you started on your genealogy journey.

A Hobby That Pays It Forward

Online genealogy continues to be the fastest growing hobby. And there’s no doubt that genealogy websites will continue to gain new fans, from serious genealogists and hobbyists to casual family history curators, in the years to come. Discovering your family’s roots is a fun mystery to unravel, and the best ancestry sites we’ve reviewed prove that there’s a ton of answers yet undiscovered.

What Are The Best Genealogy Websites?

Below are our choices for the top three best genealogy software websites. Each one has billions of searchable international historical records and an easy-to-use family tree maker. See their key features, pros and cons and pricing options to help you decide which family history website is best suited for your family research needs.

Ancestry Review

#1

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Coming in at our top spot for best genealogy website is Ancestry.com. In 2012 Ancestry.com was acquired by Permira, a European private equity firm, for a whopping $1.6 billion — a testament to the popularity of the field (and to the company itself). Ancestry sets the bar pretty high with 16 billion historical records in 60+ countries, excellent beginner and advanced search options, and an abundance of features. While it’s on the expensive side compared to other sites, it’s worth the investment if you’re serious about doing genealogy research the right way. Plus, with a 14-day free trial, you can try before you buy.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent records, with more than 70 million family trees
  • Easy to navigate website with more ancestry search options than other sites
  • View public member trees
  • You can create a personal profile
  • Excellent Learning Center with tutorials, videos, articles, webinars and blog
  • Extremely active online community with a member directory, online forum, message boards and social media
  • Free Android and iOS mobile apps
  • Free templates to help you keep track of research, sources, charts, etc.
  • Ability to give a gift subscription
  • Credit card required for free trial
  • Hard to cancel your subscription
  • Consumer feedback that customer service reps aren’t very helpful

Key Features

  • Easy to use Card Catalog with the ability to filter searches by collection, location, dates and languages
  • Hire one of their professional genealogists to do expert research for you
  • AncestryDNA: with their advanced DNA autosomal testing technology you can discover your genetic ethnicity and find new family connections with their dynamic list of DNA matches.
  • My Shoebox tool lets you store records you find but wish to review at a later time
  • Highly active Twitter feed, as well as Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and YouTube

Pricing

Ancestry.com offers a 14-day free trial.

U.S Discovery Plan: access all U.S. records on Ancestry.com

  • $19.99 per month
  • $99 for 6-month membership

World Explorer Plan: access all U.S. and international records on Ancestry

  • $34.99 per month
  • $149 for 6-month membership

All Access: access all records on Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com and Fold3.com (an excellent U.S. military genealogy website and partner of Ancestry.com)

  • $44.99 per month
  • $199 for 6-month membership

Coupon Code

Save $20 when you purchase a 6 month Ancestry membership for $90 (instead of paying $19.99 a month), click here to take advantage of this offer.

Click here to read our in-depth Ancestry.com Review

MyHeritage Review

#2

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Based in Israel with U.S. offices in Utah and California, MyHeritage is one of the largest international genealogy sites with more than 88 million registered users. MyHeritage comes in a close second for best family tree software. It has an intuitive platform, endless features including downloadable tree builder software. Their robust database of over 7 billion records is impressive but does not match that of Ancestry’s 16 billion records. While they do offer professional assistance, their customer support and help resources lack those on Ancestry. Otherwise, MyHeritage.com is a major player in genealogical research — and to top it off, they offer a free forever plan for those who just want the basics.

Pros

Cons

  • Free basic plan and affordable pricing for premium plans
  • 38 million family trees and 88 million registered users
  • Some records date back to the pre-1000s
  • Good collaboration tools to sync with other members
  • You can build a Timeline or Timebook documenting your family roots
  • Supports 40+ languages
  • Free Android and iPhone mobile apps
  • Customer service is prompt and knowledgeable
  • Active on Facebook, Twitter and Google+
  • Can’t upgrade to Premium or Plus plans without signing up for at least a 1-year subscription
  • Phone support is available but difficult to find a contact number
  • Smaller record base than Ancestry.com

Key Features

  • Free download of Family Tree Builder software, the preeminent family tree finder used by millions worldwide
  • Smart Matching technology uses algorithms to match your family tree to hundreds of millions of profiles in other family trees
  • Face Recognition technology: when you upload a photo, the face recognition tool scans each face and finds any possible matches already in their database
  • Megadex tool: with one click you can search the world’s top genealogy sources with name spelling variations
  • MyHeritageDNA: offers at-home autosomal DNA testing
  • Instant Discoveries feature allows first-time users to enter a couple of family members and they’ll find at least one ancestor they think is a match (as well as more information about your family)
  • Family Graph API: you can family-enable any app or service to reach a broader number of people

Pricing

Basic Plan: up to 250 individuals in family tree; 500MB image storage

Premium Plan: up to 2,500 people in family tree, plus Smart Matches and Priority Support

  • $82.50 for 1-year subscription
  • $132 for 2-year subscription
  • $288.75 for 5-year subscription

Premium Plus Plan: all features from Premium Plan, plus Instant Discoveries and Search Trees

  • $131.34 for 1-year subscription
  • $210.14 for 2-year subscription
  • $459.69 for 5-year subscription

Complete: all features from Premium Plus Plan, plus Record Matches and SuperSearch

  • $175.77 for 1-year subscription

Coupon Code

We are not aware of any MyHeritage coupons at this time.

Findmypast Review

#3

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Rounding out our top three Best Genealogy Websites is Findmypast. This site is Britain’s foremost genealogy website and owner of The British Newspaper Archive and Lives of the First World War. Findmypast is an excellent website for those who already know that their ancestors are of British origin. They also have a strong emphasis on records from the U.S., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. They’re not nearly as community-centered as other websites, but that’s not their purpose. Their strengths lie in their rare and exclusive records and their easy to use family tree generator. Findmypast doesn’t have a free trial, but you can conduct a free search of more than 830 million records to get you started.

Pros

Cons

  • Search 830 million records for free
  • Only site we found to offer pay as you go pricing
  • Easy to use, intuitive platform
  • You can add up to 5,000 people on your family tree
  • More than 8 billion historical records, the earliest dating back to 850AD
  • You can build a profile for each family member
  • Excellent how-to resources and blog
  • Customer support via live chat, phone and email (located in England)
  • Active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
  • No weekend customer support
  • Not as community centered as other top sites we reviewed
  • Premium Plan is pricey
  • No mobile apps

Key Features

  • 1,000 exclusive collections that you can’t find anywhere else online
  • Extensive U.S. and World Newspaper collections from 21 countries and all 50 states
  • Complete U.S. Census records from 1790-1940
  • A majority of records are scans of original documents, the gold standard in genealogy research
  • Partnered with some of the most well-respected genealogy societies, including FamilySearch.org, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Society of Genealogists, and the UK National Archives

Pricing

Pay as You Go Plan

  • 60 credits for $10.95; valid for 90 days
  • 300 credits for $37.95; valid for 90 days
  • 900 credits for $82.95; valid for 90 days

Starter Plan

  • $9.95 per month
  • $34.95 for 12-month subscription

Premium Plan

  • $19.95 per month
  • $239.50 for 12-month subscription

Coupon Code

We are not aware of any FindMyPast coupons at this time.

Comparison Table of Ancestry Websites

See our comparison table of all genealogy sites we’ve reviewed to give you the side-by-side picture of record types, features, support, pricing and more. You’ll find terminology below the table.

Terminology

GEDCOM: a specially formatted text file with genealogical information and meta data linking records together. Most genealogical software programs allow you to import and export GEDCOM files.

Surname Index: You can search a database of surnames and also get the meaning and history behind each last name.

Family Hints: As you fill in your family tree, the website will suggest related family members found by their own search engine. It’s fairly hit or miss, but you can get some good leads with this feature.

Other Genealogy Software Reviews

To jump straight to an in-depth review of a particular genealogy website, click on the link in the list below:

Archives.com | GenealogyBank | Mocavo | MyTrees | OneGreatFamily

Archives.com Review

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Acquired by Ancestry.com in 2012, Archives.com pales in comparison to its parent website. Yes, it’s much more affordable, but in this case, you get what you pay for — which isn’t much. Archives.com does give you most of the basic ways to search, but the records only go back to the 1500s. If you’re just starting out and looking to make a family tree, you might want to give them a try with their 14-day Free Trial.

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable monthly pricing
  • More than 4.3 billion records dating back to 1500s
  • You can pay to have them do an in-house search of county courthouse records
  • Living people search
  • Customer support 7 days/week via phone and email
  • Live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
  • Must enter credit card information for free trial
  • You must cancel; otherwise, they begin billing you
  • Only includes U.S., U.K., Ireland and Panama records (not even Canada)
  • Archive search could be more comprehensive
  • Not as sophisticated as many other sites
  • Pricing is very difficult to find
  • Several customer complaints about still being billed after cancellation

Pricing

Archives.com offers a 14-day free trial.

GenealogyBank Review

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More of a niche genealogy website with records only from the U.S., GenealogyBank is an excellent resource if you’re looking for historical newspaper content. They do have a decent collection of historical documents (1789-1994) and books (1749-1900) as well as the Social Security Death Index, but the vast majority of their records are newspapers. If you’re looking for a family tree maker or online groups, this is not the site for you. But for what GenealogyBank.com is, they offer good search options and resources to help you with your discoveries. Note: their collections date back to 1690.

Pros

Cons

  • Historical newspaper collections from all 50 states
  • Ethnic collections search includes African-American, Hispanic and Irish American newspapers
  • Good Learning Center with tips on how to do genealogy research and how to get the most out of their website
  • Phone and email customer support
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube
  • No free trial
  • No international records
  • No family tree maker
  • Absence of any member forums or discussion groups hinders your ability to share discoveries with other family history seekers
  • No weekend customer service hours

Pricing

  • $9.95 for 30-day trial
  • $19.95 per month
  • $69.95 for 12-month subscription

Mocavo Review

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Mocavo was acquired in June 2014 by FindMyPast and is no longer a genealogy site on its own. You can find all of Mocavo’s content on FindMyPast’s website.

MyTrees Review

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MyTrees has been in business for more than 10 years and has an impressive pedigree-linked database of international records as well as thousands of family trees. While My Trees has many search options, it lacks some crucial types of records such as land, deed and court records. They are also missing Native American collections. However, they do offer some unique features not found on most other sites like a professional genealogist directory, a date converter and the ability to embed family YouTube videos into your family albums. You also have the option of downloading free software Legacy 8.0 Family Tree if you don’t want your family tree online. MyTrees.com is fun to use once you figure out the cluttered homepage.

Pros

Cons

  • Ancestry Archive tool lets you search 1000s of family trees around the world
  • You can create multiple family albums, a family world map and timeline
  • Sign up for “Notify Me” to get emails when new content is available based on specified criteria
  • Free templates and newsletter
  • Customer support by phone and email 6 days per week
  • Website is difficult to navigate with dozens of links on the homepage alone
  • A lot of their records are extractions and therefore not as complete as on other sites
  • No member directory
  • Absence of court and land records and Native American records
  • No DNA testing
  • Free trial is conditional

Pricing

MyTrees offers a free 31-day trial, but you must upload your family tree to get started (minimum of 15 families; 60 individuals)

  • $10 for 10-day subscription
  • $20 for 1-month subscription
  • $45 for 3-month subscription
  • $120 for annual subscription

OneGreatFamily Review

Visit Website

OneGreatFamily is similar to a genealogy co-op. Unlike other sites, OneGreatFamily.com is a 100% shared community of members and their 190 million unique entries. Using its Genealogy Handprint technology, this website searches for you 24/7, merging two trees when an individual in both trees is an exact match, identifying and eliminating duplications, and identifying areas on your family tree that have different information from other members’ trees. Some serious genealogists may not like the automatic updates. You can manually search on your own, but other members submit most of One Great Family’s records, so you’re taking some risk with unverified information. But this is a fun site, and the idea of contributing to a globally linked family tree is intriguing. It’s worth trying out OneGreatFamily’s free 7-day trial before committing to their site.

Pros

Cons

  • Advanced technology does a lot of the searching for you
  • Community centered website is all about connecting and sharing with members around the world
  • Data provided by OneGreatFamily is verified and reliable
  • Free printable genealogy templates to help with research
  • Links to other sources for research, learning center and newsletter archives are good resources
  • All subscriptions automatically renew
  • Credit card needed for free trial
  • User contributed content may not be reliable
  • No searchable international census information
  • No DNA testing
  • No weekend customer support hours

Pricing

OneGreatFamily offers a 7-day free trial.

  • $14.95 per month
  • $29.95 for 3-month subscription
  • $79.95 for annual subscription
  • $149.95 for annual subscription, plus a one-hour consult with an expert

Where Else to Look Online

There are a handful of must-see resources online that we don’t review here but absolutely must mention to help you uncover your roots.

  • The USGenWeb Project: Volunteer-run, it provides free ancestry sites in every U.S. county and state
  • FamilySearch.org: Free genealogy website/database, run by the genealogy experts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • NewspaperARCHIVE: More than 170 million newspaper pages dating back to 1607
  • Fold3: The place to go for U.S. military records going back to the Revolutionary War (and it’s just a cool site!)

A Unique Global Effort to Preserve History

Ancestry.com is leading an exciting effort to digitize as many historical records as possible with the help of everyday volunteers. Check out this video to learn more about the Ancestry World Archives Project and how you can be a part of making and preserving history.

What Will Your Past Tell You?

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your family tree. Geneology is a fun way to find out more about who you are and where you come from. Want to explore even further back in time? Through a simple, at-home DNA test, you can map out your lineage and family’s migration dating back thousands of years.

What are you hoping to discover with genealogy sites?

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