When it comes to the best genealogy sites 2021 you won't find a bigger company than Ancestry.com. Started in 1996, the site was one of the first genealogy companies in the world and offers billions of historical records dating back hundreds of years.
Ancestry.com is easy to use, hugely in depth with billions of records and is backed by DNA testing too. You get everything you could need to build a family tree, find a distant relative or trace your ethnicity worldwide. Pricing isn't cheap but you really do get what you pay for and this is where the more you spend means the more you can find out. A serious ancestry site for anyone that wants the best chance at building the most accurate family tree for as far back as possible.
Ancestry.com review: What you need to know
The number of Ancestry.com records, at time of publishing, is in excess of 20 billion. That breaks down into over 700 million names in family trees and 200 million scanned documents, photographs and stories.
While you can start a family tree on Ancestry.com for free (we actually think the site provides one of the best family tree makers on its site) you'll need to be a paying member if you want to get full access to the worldwide records. This also gets you access to documents about recommended relatives you may want to look into to further build your family tree.
There is also an option to use DNA for even more depth to your results. AncestryDNA.com uses a saliva sample to access your DNA which holds many of the secrets of your past and just how your family tree looks.
While there are lots of companies out there doing these DNA tests now, Ancestry.com is one of the best when it comes to actually using that data to show real world results. This is thanks to its myriad records.
Ancestry.com review: Historical database
Whether you opt for the DNA approach, or not, you'll be given access to lots of historical data that can help you trace and build up your family tree. The records go all the way back as far as the thirteenth century. Database information available to you will include:
- Census and voter lists
- Birth, marriage and death certificates
- Immigration and emigration travel records
- Military records
- Court, land, wills and financial records
- Newspapers and periodicals
On top of that is all the public member information which can often include photos and stories which might relate to you and yours. This all makes it easy to start that family tree for free, when it comes to local records but you'll likely find it goes outside the US after a few generations and then you need to get paid access to keep tracing heritage.
Ancestry.com review: Build your family tree
To build your family tree on Ancestry.com all you need to do is sign up, for free, to get started. More options are unlocked for paid members. Begin by entering names of close family members and stipulating if they're living or have died. A little green leaf icon will appear on anyone that Anestry.com has a potential link for - these are called hints and are free to a certain extent but are what paid members get more access to since they link to documents only they have access to.
You are also able to search family trees that are already in the Ancestry.com database to see if these might link into your own. You can then look at a free record, say a registry of marriage. But to save that, or to view more, you'll have to be a paying member.
If you go for the extra DNA testing option, a kit is sent out, you add saliva and send it back. Results should reach you in six to eight weeks. These can be used with the app to see your family history based on your genealogy. The site claims to be able to estimate where you come from based on DNA with 350 ethnic regions sectioned out in the world. This, Ancestry says, is five times more accurate than other sites offer via DNA. With over 10 million people already taking part there is a huge amount of data to use.
Is Ancestry.com worth the cost?
There are several pricing options for Ancestry.com which vary based on how you pay, monthly or annually. The three tiers are US Discovery with access to all US records on Ancestry, World Explorer with US and international records, or All Access for the above plus Newspaper.com (142 million pages) and Fold3.com (537 million military records) information. If you find Ancestry.com a bit expensive, check out FamilySearch, which is a completely free service. Alternatively, Archives has a neat free trial.
- US Discovery is $24.99 per month
- World Explorer is $39.99 per month
- All Access is $49.99 per month
Should you use Ancestry.com?
If you want to take your family tree building seriously and get access to the widest array of information and recorded history out there, then Ancestry.com is the place to go. It's more expensive than the competition but that's because there is a lot more information for you to access.
The addition of a DNA testing kit means you can find even more in-depth results based on more than historical record trawling. This can potentially help you find relatives you didn't even know you had.
The website and app are excellent with ease of use at the forefront. The addition of hints to automatically connect the dots for you make the process even easier. The tiered pricing should leave something for everyone.