You can't get the best genealogy websites (opens in new tab) cheaper than FamilySearch as it's totally free to use. But, despite this, it still offers a really impressive set of records spanning hundreds of years, international country coverage and plenty of types including pictures.
App support and useful features like Map My Ancestors make this helpful for easy family tree building anywhere. The physical genealogy centers you can walk into and chat to a person are a unique feature too. There is a lack of DNA testing but the site is helpful in pointing you in the right direction for that. The site is easy to use, backed by an app and is feature filled. There is no DNA testing on offer but you do have physical locations to visit and get help building your family tree.
FamilySearch review: What you need to know
FamilySearch is totally free to use as it's owned and funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not that you need to be a church member to use the site. All are welcome to give it a go. Since the church believes familial links last forever it has a vested interest in genealogy and started the records in 1894. It now has near 5,000 public family history centers in 129 countries that anyone can visit and use. A physical place to go and get help with your family tree research is a very rare resource indeed.
The records are impressive, spanning over five billion documents, photos and more. Compared to Ancestry.com or MyHeritage, that's fewer, but it's still a massive amount. Anyone can add new scanned documents and photos so that number is constantly growing. The group also works with over 200 archives around the globe for an even vaster reaching array of resources.
FamilySearch review: Historical database
The database, as mentioned, numbers more than five billion records that span the globe. The 200 archives that work with FamilySearch are also worldwide meaning you can trace your family line back even beyond your country. Resources include:
- Birth, marriage and death certificates
- Census data
- Military, immigration and legal records
- Directories and guides
- Family trees
- Photos, document and maps
Records go back hundreds of years from Argentina marriages in 1722 to Arizona deaths in 1870, the records selection is huge. The records cover the US, Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, France, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Hungary, the Philippines, and many more. If you're looking for a more British focus, check out Find My Past.
FamilySearch review: Build your family tree
FamilySearch has got over one billion unique family trees built on the records meaning the chances of you finding a connection you didn't know about are strong. We rate it as one of the best family tree makers (opens in new tab) that's currently available, so it's well worth exploring this feature. To get started you simply need to open an account with basic details like name, age and email. Then you can begin building your family tree.
There is a Find function but we found this didn't work as well as some other sites with search terms needing to be exactly right for the search to work. The search section is similarly awkward meaning you'll need to be patient and put in some trawl time to find what you want.
The ability to select View Relationship is a nice feature as it lets you see how you're related to an ancestor at a tap or click. Another nice touch is the Map My Ancestors feature which allows you to see your family tree on a map of the world. Ideal if you've got a wide spanning family that comes from all over.
The messaging feature is a really nice service as it allows you to connect with other family members you perhaps didn't know you had.
Since this all works on the free smartphone app it's super easy to use anywhere and allows you to take advantage of the billions of records whenever you get the chance.
Is FamilySearch worth the cost?
This service is totally free when it comes to money. The only real cost you need to take into consideration is time. The fact that the search isn't as good as the competition, in some ways, means this might take you longer than if you were to pay. It also means you have fewer records compared to the competition but, again, this is free so it's tough to complain.
Should you use FamilySearch?
If you're new to family tree building and want to give it a go without spending any money then this is the ideal place for you to start. Records are in depth with international coverage making it perfect for anyone with family that span the planet.
If you want to make more than one family tree, perhaps for different families you're a part of, then you'll need to do so with a totally new account each time since this limits you to one per account.
For really deep records, in terms of time, FamilySearch is excellent as it goes back hundreds of years. Since this started in the US it is particularly helpful to US residents that have a long history in the states.
The only thing missing is DNA testing which many of the other genealogy sites do offer. However you are given advice on how to do this and what to do with the data. FamilySearch even gives you links to those sites to help you if you want to go down that path.