A. When people ask us which genealogy data site is the best, our answer is The one that has the records you need is the right one for you.
Think about what records youd use most, and then see which sites have them. If youre a beginner, youll probably want US census and immigration records. WWI draft cards are helpful, since virtually every man born from 1872 to 1900 (and living in the US in 1917 and 1918) registered.
Newspapers and city directories can fill gaps between censuses. Did your ancestors serve in the military? See which sites have records for wars they fought in.
Also check database sites coverage of places your ancestors livedparticularly if you’ve progressed to international researchas well as nationalities and ethnic groups they belonged to, such as American Indian or African-American records.
Databases in major sites are way too numerous to list them all. Heres an overview and links to learn more about each site. Make sure you verify whether a collection of interest covers the right area and time period. Sometimes a site has, say, naturalization records from certain areas or years.
- Ancestry.com: This site has the advantage when it comes to amount of content. Major databases include US census images and indexes, passenger and border-crossing lists for US ports, WWI and WWII draft registration cards, passport applications, newspapers, and family and local histories.
To see what might be useful, go to the catalog and run a keyword search on a place your ancestors lived or a type of record. Note that database names varya birth index might be called Smith County Vital Records, Birth Certificates, Smith County or something else. The US deluxe membership costs $155.40 per year, $50.85 for three months or $19.95 for one month
- Genealogy.com: The Generations Network has neglected this site, instead devoting resources to Ancestry.com (which has Genealogy.com records). Subscriptions range from $69.99 to $199.99, but you’ll probably get more value elsewhere.
- Footnote: This site focuses on US records, with many records from the National Archives. Civil War content is strong, including Southern Claims Commission records, the 1860 census, and ongoing scanning of Civil War soldiers service records and widows pension records. Youll also find Revolutionary War records, naturalizations, small-town newspapers, WWII photos and more.
- World Vital Records: This site excels at partnering with other sites (many of them free) to aggregate content in one place. That includes Ellis Island passenger lists and immigration indexes from the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild and the National Archives, small-town newspapers, yearbooks, family histories, and UK censuses. Click the green View All Databases button at the top left of the home page, then select a country or record type.
The US subscription is 39.96 per year or 5.95 for a month. The World subscription is 119.40 per year or 14.95 for a month.
- GenealogyBank: This site has a huge collection of searchable historical newspapers, books and documents. Go here to see the titles. If you take advantage of the introductory offer, the price is $69.95 per year or $19.95 for a month.
- NewEnglandAncestors: The New England Historic Genealogical Society site has information on early New England immigrants, town records, vital records, court records and more. Search for collections that may cover your ancestor. A $75-per-year membership gets you access to databases.
- FindMyPast.com: Major collections at this UK site include British censuses, military records and outbound passenger lists (many immigrants traveled through British ports, even if they didnt live in Britain). Click here to see a database list.
Subscriptions range from around $21.50 for 30 days to $129 for a year. You also can pay as you go by purchasing credits (60 for $10 or 280 for $36; theyre good for a limited time) and exchanging them for record views.
- FamilyRelatives.com: This UK site has Irish records, British military records, British parish records, Pigots trade directories and more. Click here for a breakdown of databases by country and record type. Subscriptions cost about $50 per year; pay-as-you-go credits cost roughly $8.60 for 90 units (use them within 90 days).
- Genline: Here, you can search virtually all Swedish church records. Its flexibility helps the budget-conscioussubscriptions range from one day ($9) to a year ($245).
If you cant fulfill all your research needs at one site, consider monthly subscriptions to multiple sites. Need only one or two collections from a site? See if you can get the information free. Many libraries offer HeritageQuest Online (federal censuses, family and local histories), NewsBank (newspapers) and ProQuest Historical Newpapers free to patrons both on-site and remotely from home.
Your library may offer on-site access to Ancestry Library Edition, a version of Ancestry.com. At a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Center, you can use World Vital Records, Footnote and others. Of course, FamilySearch is adding to its record search pilot all the time, and thats free from any computer connected to the Internet.
Readers, what genealogy database(s) would you recommend? Click Comments to tell us. See the March 2009 Family Tree Magazine for more money-saving genealogy advice.