Best Family History Research Sites and Apps

Published: October 30, 2017 - 9:00am EDT

Old documents on a desk

It can be hard to learn about the history of your family if your parents or grandparents can’t provide you with too much information. Unless one of your ancestors was diligent in keeping a record of the lives of everyone in your family, it is unlikely that you’ll have information dating back more than a couple generations.

Fortunately, there are now websites and mobile apps that allow users to research their own family history, and can provide information about their ancestors, genealogy, and some even offer DNA testing. In this article, we’ll be telling you a bit about family history research sites, and giving you our recommendations for the best ones to try out. To begin, let’s talk about what kinds of things you can find in an online family history database.

What can family history sites tell you?

Family history research websites can provide you with information about your ancestors and genealogy. After you provide a little information about yourself, the site will search its database for information linked to your family history. You can find census information, newspaper articles, military records, and more!

Now that we’ve talked about what family history research sites can tell you, let’s talk about some of our favorite ones.

1. Ancestry

Ancestry logo

Ancestry.com is one of the most well-known family history research websites. It allows users to create family trees, and fill in the areas that they have knowledge of. Ancestry then takes that information and uses it to search against its database to find related information. This way, users can discover more about their genealogical history. You can sign up for an Ancestry account for free, but most of the features of the site do require a paid subscription. Check out our Ancestry course if you’re interested in learning more.

Best Feature: Family tree building.

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2. FamilySearch

FamilySearch logo

FamilySearch.org is a not-for-profit organization providing its users with free family history information. It is the biggest online collection of family history information worldwide. Their service is completely free and they also offer 24/7 user support over the phone. You can search their database by ancestors names, events (marriages, births, deaths, etc.), by location, and more.

Best Feature: Non-profit, free service.

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3. WeRelate

WeRelate logo

WeRelate.org is a free family history search wiki allowing users to access genealogy information. A wiki is a site that allows people to add information themselves – the content of the website is provided by its users. If you have information you want to add to the site, you can do so. Maybe it will help a distant relative find out they’re related to you! On WeRelate, you can find biographies, photos, maps, family trees, and more. People can even submit family stories, making this site more personal than some other family history search sites that only provide official documents.

Best Feature: Personal touches – stories and photos.

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4. FindMyPast

FindMyPast logo

Our next family history research website is called FindMyPast.com. This website has billions of historical records, dating as far back as 850AD! You can find military records, censuses, newspaper archives, and more. FindMyPast has many documents that they claim cannot be accessed on any other site of its kind. FindMyPast requires a paid membership, but their basic membership costs as low as $2.91/month, and they offer a premium membership for $19.95/month.

Best Feature: Exclusive documents.

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5. 23AndMe

23AndMe logo

23AndMe.com is a unique ancestry search site that relies on users’ DNA to provide them with information about their lineage and DNA relatives. To use this service, you have to purchase a DNA kit, mail your sample back to them, and wait for your results. Once 23AndMe has compared your sample to their database, you’ll be sent their findings. They even offer a DNA kit to test your health. The Ancestry DNA kits cost $99, and the combined Ancestry + Health kits cost $199.

Best Feature: Unique DNA testing.

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6. MyHeritage

MyHeritage logo

MyHeritage.com is similar to Ancestry, offering both family tree building and research, but it also sells DNA test kits. MyHeritage has over 88 million users, and offers unique features like Global Name Translation (to help find matches of names in different languages) and Smart Matching (locates matching profiles in separate family trees to help users connect with each other). You can sign up for an account on MyHeritage and begin creating your first family tree for free, but additional features require a paid subscription of $6.88 - $14.65/month.

Best Feature: Smart Matching feature.

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7. World Vital Records

World Vital Records logo

Our last recommendation is WorldVitalRecords.com. This site has millions of images, newspaper pages, school yearbooks, records, and more. You can find records of billions of people that can help you find information about your ancestors. World Vital Records is constantly acquiring new material and digitized documents, so you never know what you could discover about your family next. The site offers a 7-day free trial membership, but after the free trial period the World Vital Records service requires a paid subscription.

Best Feature: Huge worldwide database of digitized documents.

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Those are all of the family history search sites we’d recommend. Have you tried any of them? What did you think of it? Do you have another genealogy database website we should know about? Leave us your comments below. If you’d like to read more about some of these sites, check out our Ancestry alternatives article.

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