How Much Does Ancestry.com Cost?

Is Ancestry.com free?

Some parts of Ancestry.com are free, but for the most part, it is not free.  There is an option for a free trial or a guest account (see our Ancestry Free Trial tutorial for instructions on how to get either of these), but if you want access to certain records (or) after your free trial expires, you will have to pay either a monthly rate or a 6-month subscription fee.  The amount of money that you have to pay is dependent on which subscription package you select.

It's important to remember that your subscription will automatically renew itself after it expires, which means that you will be charged for it again unless you cancel it.  On the bright side, if you purchase a subscription that is longer than one month, you can receive a full refund if you cancel an initial subscription within 30 days of purchasing it (plus the free trial period, if you use it) or a renewal subscription if you cancel within 7 days (a week) of the renewal date.

See our How to Delete an Ancestry.com Account tutorial for instructions on how to cancel a paid subscription to Ancestry.

Ancestry.com Price Plans

(NOTE: all prices are in U.S. dollars.)

U.S. Discovery

MONTHLY COST: $20

6-MONTH COST: $99 ($16.50 per month)

FEATURES: All U.S. databases, including all U.S. Census records between 1790 and 1930

World Explorer

MONTHLY COST: $35

6-MONTH COST: $149 (about $25 per month)

FEATURES: All U.S. databases, and databases from countries such as Mexico, the U.K., Germany, Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and France

World Explorer Plus

MONTHLY COST: $45

6-MONTH COST: $199 (about $33 per month)

FEATURES: All U.S. and international databases, plus all newspaper records from Newspapers.com and all military records from Fold3.com

Other Ancestry.com products

Ancestry also sells:

  • D.N.A. testing kits ($99 each)

  • A desktop version of the Family Tree Maker software ($40 for either Windows or Apple)

  • Gift Subscriptions (at the same rates as in the section above)

  • Various custom family history books, posters, and calendars

That's a bit of information about the costs associated with using Ancestry.com!


Is Ancestry.com Safe And Reliable?

Since there are two questions here, we'll answer them one at a time, in the interest of thoroughness.

Is Ancestry.com safe?

Yes, Ancestry.com is very safe!  This is partially because it is a website that more-or-less requires you to pay to use it (though we will teach you some tricks for getting around that), so it's usually not worth the effort for troublemakers.  Plus, the only people you're paying are those at Ancestry and their affiliate businesses, so there is little opportunity for any users to scam you.  Though their staff may contact you from time to time, they will never ask for your account password, social security number, or any confidential billing information (at least without identifying unique information about something you've bought).  And Ancestry's computers and software are designed so that it's perfectly safe to purchase things using your credit card.

The community on Ancestry is also mostly there to use the website properly; that is, to do genealogical research, and help others with their own projects.  Still, to ensure your privacy while using the website, nobody is allowed to view living members of your family tree (even if your tree is publicly viewable), and nobody is allowed to edit your family tree or the records of anyone in it except you.  The only exception is if you choose to give people these permissions when you directly share your family tree with them.

Of course, there are options to hide your family tree so that nobody else can search for it, or see it without your permission.  You can also choose to block other members from contacting you.  However, as mentioned above, most users are just there to work on their own genealogy projects, and some might be more than happy to help you with yours, so don't be shy!

Is Ancestry.com reliable?

This is somewhat of a complicated question, but we'll try to answer it as best as we can.

As far as the actual records on Ancestry.com go, they are mostly from official government sources, so it's safe to say that they are pretty reliable.  Many of these records have been digitized (i.e. they have been copied from their physical paper or film formats into computer files) and can be displayed right on Ancestry itself, so you know that you're dealing with legitimate history.

There are, however, a couple of things to keep in mind.  The first thing is that digitization technology is fairly new, and so it takes (and has taken) a significant amount of time for the company to find the different kinds of records that it stores, digitize them if necessary, and sort them into the online databases for Ancestry.  Additionally, some records may not be legally available to the public yet, or some records may be too old to be recoverable (i.e. they have degraded over time or have otherwise been destroyed).  In short, this means that the records related to your particular family may not be on Ancestry (at least for right now,) and you might have to look elsewhere for them (such as a library, archives, museum, etc.).

The other thing to keep in mind is that most of the records on Ancestry are from the United States.  Though you can access records from other countries (including ones from the international affiliate websites of Ancestry, such as Ancestry.ca for Canada) with certain subscription packages (see our How Much Does Ancestry Cost article to find out which ones), it may be difficult to find records about ancestors that were born overseas.

Beyond that, though, how "reliable" Ancestry is depends largely on how skilled you are at genealogical research.  Some people complain that the "Hint" system on Ancestry isn't all that accurate, though that is largely the result of not inputting enough information for Ancestry to make a better guess.  The reality is that you can and often will find what you are searching for on Ancestry, if you know how to look for it.  If you need some help, visit the "Learning Center" on Ancestry to get pointers for first-time genealogists, or go to the online support forums or message boards and see if another user can answer your questions.  If worse comes to worse, you can even ask another  user to directly help you with the research in building your family tree, or even ask an expert straight from Ancestry (though this may cost extra money)!


Ancestry.com Review

Thinking of digging up your past with Ancestry.com?  Here are some commonly-mentioned advantages and shortcomings of this website.

Pros

  • Get the facts — it has a wealth of digitized historical documents that you can browse for clues as to who your ancestors really were.  Forget hearsay and rumours… the hard evidence is right there!

  • Explore your past through family trees — Using the website's interface is quick and easy, and facilitates exploration.  You can create multiple family trees, and compare them with others who use the website.

  • Opt out if you can't uncover anything — Each subscription package comes with a 14-day free trial, so if you don't find any pertinent information in that time, you can cancel your subscription with no penalty. Check out this tutorial to learn how much a subscription to Ancestry can cost.

  • Save all of your hard work — Ancestry saves your family trees, even if you only have a free account, so you can go back and explore them further later. 

Cons

  • Is your trail hot or cold? — The "Hints" that you get on Ancestry aren't always spot-on, and without a paid subscription, you often won't be able to access the historical documents necessary to determine whether someone is actually related to you or just has a similar last name.

  • Sometimes, the hard copy is the only copy — As digitization technology is relatively new, the documents you need to do a genealogy search may not be on Ancestry.com yet.  While the website may help you get started, you may have to do things the old-fashioned way and visit a local record-keeping facility, such as a library, courthouse, museum, etc.

  • You pay for what you get — The subscriptions for access to the record databases are expensive.  A six-month subscription at $13 per month only gets you access to records based in the United States.  If you want records from other countries, the price jumps to $35 a month.  Plus, some of this information can be found in other places and won't cost you as much money, if they cost you anything (see above point).

Bottom Line: 7.5/10

Ancestry.com is a great training ground to learn about genealogy and put your heritage-tracking skills to the test.  As you explore your "hints", build family trees, read historical records, and compare notes with fellow users, you'll hopefully get a better sense of what you should be looking for when it comes to piecing together your past. 

It's not the be-all and end-all of lineage research, though; the information it has only goes back so far in time, and it might not have the information you're looking for at all (at least not yet).  Try it out and see if tracking your family history is something that you like to do; if it is, you can use it as a starting point for learning how to do your own legwork.


What is Ancestry.com and How Does It Work?

How well do you know your family's history?  Have you ever asked yourself: "Who were my ancestors?" "Where were they originally from?"  "What did they do for a living?"  "When did they decide to move to where I live now, and how did they get there?"  "Was one of them perhaps someone famous, or did they have a famous descendant?"

If you've ever wondered about these types of questions, check out Ancestry.com

So, what exactly is Ancestry.com?

Ancestry.com is the largest private online genealogy database.  It allows users to create virtual family trees to trace their lineage, and get "hints" about who else could be their ancestors.  It also contains historical records that can be connected to family members and used as genealogical evidence. A paid subscription is required to access some of the features of Ancestry. Learn about the costs of Ancestry.

How Ancestry.com works: 5 tools for tracing your historical roots

1. Get a crash course on genealogical research

If you're a total newcomer to genealogy, Ancestry can help get you started.  Their "Learning Center" section is full of tips on how to map your family history, as well as how to use the website itself.  Of course, Techboomers will be here to help you, too!  If your trail goes cold, the service also has tips on how to change up your search criteria so that you might be able to make a breakthrough.  It also has guides to help you decipher certain kinds of records, especially if they're in other languages.  It's great for beginners or those seeking a refresher on how to dig through their past, and do it right.

2. Build a virtual family tree and trace your lineage

A good place to start your search for your ancestors is building the beginnings of a new family tree with what you already know.  Start with you, and then fill in as much information as you can about the immediate family that surrounds you. Your information doesn't have to be perfect; just enter as much as you know, or maybe even a few guesses.  Ancestry may be able to help you fill in the blanks later.  Our Ancestry Family Tree tutorial has more information.

3. Follow and verify "hints" of potential ancestors

Based on the information that you put into your family tree, Ancestry may give you "hints" regarding historical documents it has that may point you to other potential relatives.  Of course, the only way to know for sure whether a "hint" is for real or just a dud is by looking at the hard evidence.  Type in what you know about a relative — their name, birth date, marriage date, death date, living location, a spouse or other relative… even a guess might be of some help!  When you find something that you think might be relevant, have a look at the actual record and the information about it.  If it strikes you as useful, you can save it to look at later, or even add it right to an entry on your family tree!  Click here to see our Ancestry Search tutorial for instructions on how to search through historical records.

4. Get other Ancestry.com community members to join your project

If you're stuck, reach out to the community on Ancestry.  Someone might be able to give you a hand with using the website, doing genealogical research in general, searching for records efficiently, or deciphering any evidence you've found.  If you're looking for something a little more specific, try posting something on the message boards to get help with searching for a relative in a specific geographical area, or a record within a certain database.  You can even share and compare your family tree with other users, and see if they have any information or expertise that help you fill in the missing puzzle pieces of your lineage!

5. Take your heritage quest further

The platform even has a store in which you can buy D.N.A. test kits or family tree maker programs, or neat decorative items (such as calendars or posters) that you can use to show off what you find on Ancestry.

 

Oh, and there's one other thing that we should mention about Ancestry: it has a library program!  If you work for a library or other educational institution, you can purchase a low-cost subscription from a company called ProQuest.  "Ancestry Library Edition", as it's known, doesn't have quite as many features as the regular version, but all of your patrons can use it for free instead of buying their own individual subscriptions!  More information about its library edition can be found here.

If Ancestry.com sounds like a service that you'd like to try out, work your way through the Ancestry course on Techboomers.com. It will teach you the basics of using it to trace your family line.