Pros / It’s free!
Cons / They don’t sell DNA test kits.
Verdict / FamilySearch is a thorough resource for conducting genealogy research and doesn’t cost anything at all to use, making it our best value pick.
First, a little lesson in religion. FamilySearch is run and funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which puts an emphasis on genealogy because one of the church’s core beliefs is that familial bonds last forever. According to the website, the church started the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1894 which eventually grew to become FamilySearch, an entity which has over 5,000 public family history centers in 129 countries. The centers and website are free and open to the public, so even if you aren’t religious they’ve gathered roughly 5 billion resources you can use in your genealogy research. The group also collaborates with more than 200 archives around the globe.
The best part of FamilySearch is that it’s as comprehensive and easy to use as Ancestry.com but doesn’t cost anything. You can view scanned documents, look up details about your ancestors and build a family tree complete with photos without spending a dime. The family tree feature is intuitive aside from the fact that it’s unclear whether you’re supposed to enter a woman’s maiden name. We’ve done this a lot and we’re here to tell you: always enter her maiden name. You’ll need basic information about your close relatives like their birthdays, but in our tests, we started getting hints connecting to more distant family members almost immediately. When you click on a person who is already in their system it even gives you sourcing information about where they got the data. You can also change the view of your family tree from a traditional vertical tree to a fan chart or several other variations to make viewing the entirety of your family less confusing.
We were disappointed when we realized you can’t build a second or third family tree if you’re interested in researching several different families and building trees for them. You could theoretically create multiple free accounts to do this, but it’s a minor inconvenience. You can send messages to other FamilySearch members as well. This could be useful if you think you’ve found a long-lost section of the family tree. When looking at your ancestors you can also check out scanned copies of documents like the census, marriage certificates and birth certificates.
Like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch also has a free smart phone app. Additionally, it has a particularly interesting Map My Ancestors feature which illustrates your family’s footprint on the world. The app is generally easy to use but the “tasks” section of the app, which is similar to Ancestry’s “hints” takes a little getting used to. You can also directly “view relationship” with any ancestor so you don’t have to fumble through whether or Great Uncle Andy is actually your great, great uncle or technically just a cousin.
One final thing: FamilySearch isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a DNA test kit. If that’s more up your alley, you’ll want to check out a site like MyHeritage, or our detailed review of DNA testing websites.