Genealogy Search Review
Why Use a Genealogy Search?
For expert genealogists, genealogy search sites are one of many tools in their utility belt. More than that, genealogy searches like our top choices, Ancestry, MyHeritage and Mocavo Gold, are also gateways for beginners interested in mapping their family history. Like everyday search engines, genealogy searches pick through expansive databases to find a variety of records about your family. In these databases, you can find valuable documents such as birth, death, penal and immigration records, as well as extra publications like yearbooks and newspaper articles. Records from the best ancestor search sites date back centuries and are accessible from your computer or a mobile device. Genealogy searches can access information you would find in libraries, churches, county offices or graveyards, but without the travel expenses and long research hours.
In addition to records, some family search websites have extra features, such as DNA testing, family tree builders and blogs, which allow you to find out more about the genealogical process. You'll likely find relatives you didn't know you had as you work on your family history. For more about genealogy and genealogy searches, take a look at our articles in the learning center.
Genealogy Search Websites: What to Look For
The best way to preserve your family history is by discovering and documenting it. Family history searching has expanded to an entire online industry with billions of records available at the click of a mouse. The hardest part is getting started. The best genealogy search sites connect you with libraries full of records and have search options that let you sort the resources you want from those you don't. Features such as DNA testing and professional guidance get you the most information about your ancestry for the price of a subscription, and community features like message boards connect you with other passionate genealogists.
Look for genealogy search sites that provide more than the essentials like birth, death and marriage records. These documents are important, but they won't paint the whole picture of your family or your ancestors’ lives. At minimum, you should be able to find census records two or three generations past your latest recorded ancestor. Marriage, immigration, church and birth records are valuable documents you can find on genealogy search sites. Military, criminal and professional documents are harder to find, but they give you the best picture of the middle part of your ancestor's life.
Extra tools on genealogy sites help you build your family history database. The features we found to be most useful are family tree builders and family hints. These features make a genealogy search engine more interactive, and when you store your ancestors' records in an online family tree, you can build as you research. Family hints go by different names on different websites, but this feature acts as an alert that shows you when the genealogy search engine finds a match between your family tree and the contents of the database. In addition to these tools, some genealogy searches have interesting but more novel features like DNA testing, blogs and apps to make your genealogy process run smoothly and to give you additional information you can't necessarily find online.
The nature of genealogy research requires you to reach out to others for records and personal documents. Genealogy searches with large, accessible communities make it easier to discover new connections and reach out to newly discovered relatives. Interacting with other users on message boards and forums can help you with things like site navigation and research tips for finding more information about your family. Message boards have different threads to fit different user needs, such as tips for starting the genealogy process, research help and finding connections based on location. We encountered some helpful site community members who quickly start digging for information when another user asks for help or runs into a research wall.
Help & Support
Help and support comes in many forms on genealogy search sites. The best genealogy search engines can help you with research and site questions alike. They also have research help available from professional genealogists willing to give you pointers, sniff out research leads or even complete portions of your family tree for you. Quality help and support are crucial for a good genealogy search. Without a telephone number, email or even FAQs center, you have to fend for yourself while navigating massive databases.
The most important features in the best genealogy searches boil down to content and resources for finding the most relevant information linked to your relatives. At their best, genealogy searches should have an abundance of easily accessible records, fun features for your family tree, an active community of users and helpful support for research and site-related questions.