Best Genealogy Search of 2018

Ryan Brown ·
Updated
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We tested nine of the top genealogy search sites to see which are best for helping fill holes in your family history record. We verified data in an existing family tree and pulled census records with each service. After testing, we determined that Ancestry.com is the best genealogy search website overall. Ancestry has the largest selection of information for ancestors outside the U.S. The company has transcriptions of databases and census records, many of which are translated into English and other languages.    

Best Overall

Ancestry.com

Ancestry has multiple research tools and a huge selection of records for people with overseas ancestry. There are billions of records and an intuitive website to help you research.
Best Value

FamilySearch

If you want to start researching your family’s genealogy for free, FamilySearch hosts billions of records and has hundreds of physical locations where you can get free help with your family tree.
Best for Original Documents

Archives.com

Archives.com is our top pick for searching original documents. It lets you search digitized newspapers, immigration documents, yearbooks and adoption records. The website interface is organized and it’s easy to search and browse scanned images.

Our Test Results

Product
Price
Overall Rating
9.8
9.3
8.7
7
6.8
6.5
6.1
5.5
5
Searchable Records
9.3
9.3
9.3
9.3
10
8.5
7.3
7.8
10
Research Tools
10
9
8
5
5
5
4.4
5
2.5
Community Connections
10
10
8.3
5
5
5
5
2.5
Help & Support
10
8
10
10
5
8
10
6
8
Countries Documented
200
200
134
7
6
7
1
37
200
Native American Records
N/A
N/A
N/A
Birth Records
Marriage Records
Death Records
Military Records
U.S. Census
U.S. Immigration Records
N/A
Cemetery Records
N/A
Earliest Records Available
1300s
pre-1000s
1600s
1700s
1200s
1500s
1600
pre-1000s
pre-1000s
International Census
N/A
N/A
Total Resources Available
15 Billion
5.7 Billion
15 Billion
4.6 Billion
1.6 Billion
190 Million
6,500
580 Million
835,000
Court, Land and Probate Records
N/A
Surnames Index
N/A
N/A
Social Security Death Index
Newspapers
N/A
Obituary Collection
N/A
Biographies
N/A
N/A
Family Hints
N/A
N/A
N/A
Android App
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
iOS App
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Blog
N/A
N/A
N/A
Gift Membership
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Upload GEDCOM
N/A
N/A
N/A
Upload Media
N/A
N/A
N/A
Create Family Tree
N/A
N/A
N/A
DNA Testing
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Member Directory
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Twitter
N/A
N/A
YouTube Channel
N/A
N/A
User Forums
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Facebook
N/A
N/A
Build Personal Profile
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Telephone
N/A
Tutorials
N/A
N/A
N/A
Research Assistance
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Email
FAQs
Best Overall

Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com is our top pick for genealogy search because it has over 15 billion records, making it one of the largest sites we tested. This service has records from over 200 countries that date back to the 1300s.
If you’re searching for records for foreign ancestors, this company has transcribed records from many databases and it has one of the best collections of immigration records. You can search for birth, death, marriage and military records, directly from Ancestry’s website. If you find records with images, you can view the images directly from the website. This image viewer is available to all of Ancestry’s subscription tiers and it helps you find what you’re looking for right on the scanned document or image. One of Ancestry’s best tools is its DNA test kit that you can purchase separately. This test kit compares your DNA with over 4 million users and helps you find genetic cousins who share common ancestors. ures cost more than other companies we tested, but it does offer access to family history experts who you can hire to help get you out of tough spots in your genealogical research. You can also contact other members on the site for questions and help. Ancestry has a great support staff to help with any technical questions as well.
Pros
  • Ancestry has over 15 billion records available
  • You can take a DNA test and connect with your genetic cousins
  • This site has one of the best collection of immigration records
Cons
  • Subscriptions to Ancestry are more expensive than other sites
  • This service doesn’t have access to the extremely old records
  • No surname index
Best Value

FamilySearch

FamilySearch has a huge database of free family history and genealogy records and this service is our top pick for best value. Signing up is free and simple, and you can search billions of records thanks to FamilySearch’s partnership with Ancestry.com and other genealogy websites.
If you’re looking for Native American records, this service has records of individuals from the Dawes Roll, an archive from members of the Five Civilized Tribes and other Native American databases. However, there are no obituaries or obituary databases on this site, which could be a major drawback. FamilySearch has an included, family tree builder to save your family tree information as you find it on the site. The service also generates hints to help you find and sift through potential connections to find sources that document actual connections. Unfortunately, this service doesn’t link with any DNA tests, so you can’t use any kind of DNA to help find genetic cousins. The site does have a useful mobile app for Android and iOS devices that helps you browse connections and look through record hints. If you want in-person help, you can visit one of FamilySearch’s hundreds of physical locations and talk to volunteers who can help with your genealogy.
Pros
  • This service is free
  • This site has a useful mobile app
  • FamilySearch has Native American records
Cons
  • This site doesn't create or export GEDCOM files
  • You can't upload DNA results to see connections
  • There are no obituaries on this site
Best for Original Documents

Archives.com

If you’re looking for actual records to help you expand your family tree, Archives.com is our top pick for genealogy sites with original documents. This service has a huge selection of records, over 4.6 billion, and you can browse easily using the site’s built-in search.
Unfortunately, this service only caters to people with ancestors in the U.S. or the U.K. Even other English-speaking countries like Australia or Canada aren’t represented in the database. However, if you’researching newspapers, immigration documents or census records, this genealogy service is one of the best we found in our testing. When you browse records on this site, you can adjust resolution, rotate and the enhance the quality of each scanned image. Archive has graphics that pop up on images to help mark the information you’re looking for. If a record has an image, it appears higher up in this service’s search results. This site also offers a free trial so you can determine if the service works for your research needs. After the trial, there’s a monthly fee to continue to access records. A benefit to the subscription is the alerts you can receive if the service discovers records related to your family tree.
Pros
  • Archives has a wide selection of scanned documents
  • The site sends you alerts for new records
  • You can zoom in, rotate and improve document quality
Cons
  • This service lacks records outside the U.S. and U.K.
  • No Native American records
  • Records only go back to the 1700s

Why Trust Us?
We tested genealogy search sites by using a real family tree. This enabled us to use each of the services like a real-user and also let us compare the accuracy of the sites.

Instead of focusing on the biggest names in the genealogy industry, we expanded our search to find sites that might cover specific niche areas of genealogy. We found that Archive.com is great for English-language records from the U.S. and U.K. dating back to 1700 Whereas, Ancestry and FamilySearch have access to more records and databases that give you the resources you need to find your ancestors.

Top Ten Reviews has reviewed tech products, software and services for over a decade. We’ve published reviews and ratings about genealogy search sites since 2005. 

How We Tested
We first compared each ancestry website by searching for family records. We compared the sources each website used to find matches and how many were found.

We started by verifying the information we already knew about our tester’s family tree and checked the transcription of certain records to make sure each service showed the correct records. We found census records with most of the search sites and used each site’s tools to look for marriage records and cemetery records.

We also checked the usability of each service by looking at the organization tools for saving and adding matches to your family tree. The most significant features we looked for in our testing were GEDCOM file creation, file export options and if the site could create a family tree.

Our top overall pick, Ancestry.com, makes it easy to create and export a GEDCOM file. FamilySearch, our top value pick, however, doesn’t export GEDCOM files – it only has the capability to import them. 

Choosing a Genealogy Search Service Ancestor Databases
The genealogy search services we tested provide good information for most genealogy questions, but if you need access to specific databases to fill a gap in your family tree, it’s important to find a site that specializes in your area of genealogy. If you have Native American ancestors, for example, using FamilySearch’s Native American databases helps you more than another service that doesn’t have access to those databases.

In many cases during our testing, we found unique information on each service. This means that you may have to sign up for more than one search website to find ancestors.

Additional Family History Equipment
In addition to a computer, you’ll likely need a digital scanner so you can upload any documents or photos in your possession. Most sites allow you to attach these documents to your family tree so you can share that information with other relatives who may share your ancestors.

If you want to capture memories of living relatives, a digital audio recorder has better sound quality than a cellphone recording, and most can connect with an external microphone if you want to make your interviews sound even more polished.

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