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When you decide to build your family tree and trace your heritage, you’ll likely start with the people in your immediate family. Any grandparents or older relatives you have are a great source of information. Not only can they give you the names of their parents and others who passed away, but they may remember birth dates and death or marriage dates too. All of the information that they give you can help you weed out similar names you come across during your search and create an accurate family tree that you will want to share with your kids and future generations.
Here at iReviews, we know that doing genealogy research online is hard because there are so many different options available. Many of the top sites charge a subscription fee that allows you to pay for a month up to a year of service and get unlimited access to all of their available resources. There are also free sites that provide some great data and allow you to share your tree with others. You’ll find all the top websites to use in our definitive guide to the 25 best genealogy websites that help you find the information that you need to build your family tree.
Building your family tree is easy when you use one or more of the top sites that we found..
One of the best websites for building your family tree is Ancestry.com, which has a free trial that you can use before signing up for a subscription plan. When you build a family tree, you have the chance to add all the data that you find and even include photos of some of your ancestors. The site will use the info that you add to find the same people listed on the family trees that others create. It places a leaf on the spot on your tree that you can click on to view all of the matches.
Ancestry.com is the best genealogy website for family tree building because of all the records that it allows users to view. You can search through more than 100 million family trees that others created and see more than 11 billion records. Immigration reports from passenger ships and census records from government programs are just some of the records that you might find. You can get even more from the genealogy website when you pay for a DNA test too. Depending on where you live, you might find that you get free access to Ancestry.com records too. That access is available from many libraries across the country.
Ancestry.com offers convenient access to millions of military records from both World War I and World War II.
Archives.com is another helpful resource for those who want to build their family trees. The site bills itself as an affordable way to do genealogy research. More than 11 billion records are available to members who pay the subscription fee. Not only can you search through vital records such as census reports, but you’ll find newspapers and historic photos too. All you need is the name of the person you want to search for to use the archives. You never know when you might come across a photo of your grandfather during a war effort or a distant relative before they came to the United States.
Though some claim that this is a budget version of Ancestry.com, it provides access to many of the same records. Ancestry acquired the site and now includes most of the same records through both sites, but the subscription fees that each one charges are slightly different. We recommend checking out the Newest Collections section to view the latest information added to the site. You might find death certificates or birth records from specific states in this area. Archives.com also allows you to look through the Featured Collections section, which includes local history books that might have data about your family.
FamilySearch.org is one of the top sites to find information for your family tree.
FindMyPast.com is the best genealogy website to use if you need to trace your roots and know that your family came from Great Britain. It specializes in offering information about immigrants who came from Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland. When you sign up, you receive a free 14-day trial that lets you use the entire website to work on your family tree. It also allows you to upload a family tree that you created on a different website and add details that you found offline. You can even pay extra and sign up for a DNA test to get exact details about your heritage.
Through the Getting Started section, you’ll get help on how to use FindMyPast.com and tips on using some of the available resources. This section is easy to find through the Help menu. Doing a simple search for a person’s name can bring back more than 100,000 records. We like that this site offers both traditional and nontraditional records that you usually have a hard time locating, including criminal and parish records. Once you identify your ancestors, FindMyPast.com can even give you geographical data that shows where your ancestors and their relatives lived over the years.
FindMyPast.com offers the largest collection of UK genealogy information on the web.
If you know what you want to do with a site that lets you create a family tree, consider using MyHeritage.com. Thanks to the free 14-day trial, you have the chance to see how the site works and find out if it provides more information than you would find elsewhere. Not only does it offer more than five billion records, but MyHeritage.com also has a DNA test and allows you to upload the results of another genealogy DNA test that you took. This lets you see if you have any genetic matches on the website.
One thing to keep in mind about this website is that it focuses mainly on people who live overseas. While Scandinavian and Jewish countries are well represented, it doesn’t have as many records of those living in the United States. If you want to track down distant cousins and other relatives who live in Europe and similar regions, this website can help. During the free trial period, you can import a family tree from GEDMATCH and upload your DNA results. The site will keep track of that data if you do not sign up for a full account. You can change your mind later and still have access to all of your research.
MyHeritage.com is one of the best websites to use if you have family in Europe and nearby countries.
Having an ancestry DNA test done can reveal more about your family’s history than any tree can. One of the top sites that many people use is 23andMe. You’ll sign up online and have the kit sent to your home. Once you submit a sample and send in your kit, you should get a full ancestry report in eight weeks or less. 23AndMe compares your results to the results of other people to show your genetic makeup. Not only do you see where your ancestors came from and where they lived at different points, but you’ll see a list of members who share your genetic markers.
23andMe can show you the names of relatives you know who took the test, but it can also identify members who you do not have on your family tree. You also get more than 30 trait reports that can show you if you’re more likely to have problems with spicy food or lose hair at a young age. The site offers different levels of testing that include health testing too. One test can show whether you have genetic markers that show you have an increased risk of developing certain health conditions based on your family history.
23andMe is one of the more popular DNA testing sites today, with a database of more than 10 million registered users.
The first ancestry DNA test on the market came from Ancestry.com, which is why AncestryDNA is so popular. It’s also helpful for those doing family tree research because it has a large database with more than 15 million registered users who took the test. We like that the site constantly updates its records and reports as more information becomes available. As long as you log in every few months, you’ll see some big changes to your former report. You don’t need to worry about keeping track of that data either because the site will show you all the changes that it made.
AncestryDNA offers a basic test that lets you submit a small saliva sample that you take at home. You just need to avoid eating, drinking and smoking for a minimum of 30 minutes before taking the test. The results show you more about your genetic heritage, including the percentage of your DNA that came from different regions and where your family lived and how they moved through the past generations. You’ll also see members with DNA samples that match your sample. If you sign up for a paid Ancestry.com account, the site allows you to send messages to your potential matches and post on its message boards.
With more than 15 million samples available, AncestryDNA can connect you to thousands of living relatives.
Another option for those interested in ancestry DNA testing is Family Tree DNA. This site is unique in that it now offers three different types of testing: maternal, paternal and family finder. With the paternal test, it looks at a sample for Y-DNA, which is the DNA that males pass to their children. It shows you where your male ancestors lived and trace their migration patterns. If you opt for the maternal test, you’ll trace your family through your mother’s line and her mtDNA. A good option for those who want a better look at their family history is the family finder test. It uses your DNA to find connections among other members that go back five generations.
No matter which test you choose, you’ll get tons of data from Family Tree DNA. Your results may trace your family’s surname and tell you what it started as and when your ancestors changed it. A full sequence video is available through the maternal test to show you helpful information in a simple video. All tests also include the option of contacting other users who match your DNA. You can add the info that your test reveals to a family tree on the site and import data from other websites.
Family Tree DNA lets you upload a DNA sequence that you had done through another ancestry website.
Living DNA is another ancestry website that offers DNA testing kits for shoppers today. We recommend this test for those who want to save money because it’s one of the cheapest that is currently available. You’ll find special deals and offers too such as discounts and free shipping when you buy more than one kit at a time. The main downside to this site is its small database. You won’t find as many matches as you would on other sites and may learn that the matches you do find do not want to talk with you or have contact with other users.
One reason Living DNA is popular is due to its wealth of information on Ireland and Britain. If you have family from those regions or believe that your ancestors once lived there, you’ll want to take this test. Living DNA broke down those regions into different cultural and ethnic groups to show you exactly where your ancestors lived before they moved to other countries. It’s also a good choice for those with African ancestry. Living DNA now shows African ancestry through more than 70 groups and subgroups. You can easily verify data from your family tree with the results from your DNA test.
Living DNA helps you find living and deceased relatives worthy of your family tree through a DNA test.
If you want to create a family tree and take a DNA test, consider trying MyHeritage. Though we already talked about this website in terms of how you can use it to build a family tree, you should also take a look at how the DNA test works and what it can show. This test is available for less than $100, which makes it an affordable option for those on a tight budget. More than 59 million people use the site to share their genetic information. This includes both those who took the DNA test and those who submitted their results from another DNA test.
MyHeritage has more than four billion people listed in family trees created by its members. Once you get your results, you can log in online and view your report. It shows you what percentage of the different ethnic groups you belong to and gives you an idea of how your family migrated to those areas. After you create a family tree, you can view other users and their family trees to see how you’re related. MyHeritage asks for a cheek swab to collect a sample and can process your test in six to eight weeks after receiving it.
You can view your MyHeritage DNA test and access your family tree on a computer or any similar device.
While you may have an idea of what genealogy sites to use for your research, you might still have questions about what to do with the information you find and how to learn even more, which is why we recommend using Cyndi’s List. Also known as Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet, this is one of the oldest sites around. Some compare it to the Dewey Decimal System that you would use in the library. No matter what you have questions about or what you want to find, you can use the site’s category system to find other websites that contain that information.
Cyndi’s List functions as an index with category listings that go over anything and everything relating to genealogy research. You can view all of the category listings or only those that match your search parameters. There are currently more than 200 category listings available and more than 330,000 links archived. While some of the links direct you to websites that charge a subscription fee, others offer free resources that you can use to create a family tree. You can sign up for the mailing list too to find out when Cyndi’s List adds new links to its site.
Cyndi’s List makes finding online resources for your genealogy research a breeze.
Family Tree Magazine is another website that we recommend using for genealogy research. It functions in the same way that a traditional magazine would and features helpful articles and resources. Every time that you visit the site, you’ll find new articles listed on the homepage. The homepage also features basic articles to help you get started. This site is more than just an online magazine though. You’ll also find a podcast that has different episodes dedicated to topics ranging from how to get information from online obituaries to the best family tree software. Those episodes are downloadable for listening to them on the go.
Often called one of the best family tree websites for beginners, this site includes cheat sheets for those who have no idea how to start. You’ll find out what information you can get from your family and the top sites to visit as well as where to find free data on the web. Some of the available forms can help you organize your research and create a tree that you can share on the web too. Family Tree Magazine now offers a premium membership level that includes helpful tools and classes that you can take online.
The downloadable podcasts from Family Tree Magazine include episodes that you can listen to on the bus or train.
If you think that Google is just a search engine, think again. Nearly everything you could want to find out about your family might be available through a simple search. Let’s say that you want to add your grandfather to your family tree but he died before you were born. When you search his name with a city or town where he lived, you might find a list of all the addresses where he lived and some of the living people related to him. Google can direct you to sites that contain detailed information about his life as well as copies of his obituaries.
Google includes many tools that you might find helpful too including Google Books. You might find local history books that mention some of your family or family Bibles that others uploaded to share. Google Translate is helpful for those who want to go back deeper into their family histories. You’ll often come across websites that use a foreign language. As long as you can copy and paste the information into Google Translate, you can find out what those resources say. With Google Maps, you can easily add addresses and see where your ancestors once lived and what is there today.
You can access Google on any device to do family research.
ThoughtCo is a website that can help you learn how to search. Click on the Humanities category on the homepage to start. You’ll then scroll down and click on the History & Culture tab before selecting the Genealogy button. This provides you with dozens of articles that can teach you what to do when you want to search and where to turn for help. An article called “Where to Research Polish Ancestry” goes over the immigrants who moved from Poland to other countries and what resources are available to help you search for those people. You might find helpful information on tracking Polish people who survived the concentration camps during World War II too.
It’s easy to spend a few days just reading through those articles before you use any of the site’s tips. You’ll find articles on how to trace the history of your home and find out who lived there as well as how to trace your Native American ancestry. ThoughtCo. also features fun articles that can help you get more out of your research such as how to use the data if you want to become a reenactor and how to save/preserve historical family photos for future generations.
Using ThoughtCo. helps you get tips on preserving family data for later generations.
Your DNA Guide takes the confusion out of a DNA test. While many people take these tests to learn more about where they came from and their ancestors, their results are sometimes so confusing that they only look at them once and do nothing with the information. You can choose from three packages when you sign up for an account: Classic, Premium or Custom. The Classic package is best for those who want to find out what their results mean, including any percentages or maps that they get. If you want to know how to use those results in your research, choose the Premium package. With the Custom package, you’ll work with a mentor who can guide you through the DNA process.
The basic plan includes a 30-minute online chat with an expert who can explain your results and what they mean. You also get a free evaluation of your results and an email that lists the key points you need to know. Other packages include more features such as an hour of research help and a quick DNA guide or a PDF report that details what you should do next and a list of the research steps that you can follow.
Your DNA Guide can help you understand the complexities of an ancestry DNA test.
AfriGeneas is a free resource offered by Family Tree Magazine that you can access without creating an account. Finding genealogy information on African-Americans is often difficult because those who immigrated to the United States often became slaves and could not read or write. You may find that some records disappeared during the Civil Rights era and earlier decades. This short article goes over slave records, including what they are and where you can find them. Slave schedules are also available that show you when certain ships arrived in the country. New Jersey, Washington DC and several states required manifests of slave ships during the 19th century.
Slave schedules typically list any information that was available at the time, which might include the name of the individual and his or her value. You can also lookup the names of plantation owners and see how many slaves they owned. Older articles and obituaries might show when a slave owner released his slaves and gave them their freedom. You’ll also find tips on using DNA tests to see what African countries your family came from and how long they lived in the US.
Many of the African-American records you find date back to the slavery era.
Living in one country as you try to find data about ancestors who lived in other countries is often hard. The easiest way to find out more about your Irish ancestors is at Irish Genealogy. Created by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, it is part of the Irish government and its efforts to help people trace their roots. The site is available in English and features several category listings that make it easy for you to find anything you need.
You can do a simple search with the name of an individual, but you can also do a more complex search that includes a birth or death date and a location. Through the Irish Records: What is Available? section, you can easily view all the different types of records on the site, including census, property and migration records. The site also includes tips on how you can get started and links to other sites that let you access church and civil records.
Irish Genealogy is the best place to find info on your Irish ancestors.
If you have family who belonged to the Jewish faith, you’ll want to check out JewishGen. This is the only website dedicated to Jewish people and has the largest collection of Jewish records in the world. When you do a surname search, you can search by a specific last name or let the site search by how the name sounds. This will compensate for ancestors who changed their names. It then shows you a complete list of all records that include that name and the number of records found in each database or archive.
JewishGen offers access to more than two million Holocaust records and more than three million death records as well as millions of other records from hundreds of databases. To view any of this information, you need to set up an account and make a one-time donation of $100. The site will never ask you for more money and guarantees that you’ll always have full access to its records.
Anyone with Jewish ancestry will find JewishGen helpful.
Many people who immigrated to the United States in the early days settled in New England. A good way to find genealogical information about them is through the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors. With more than one billion records available, it provides a wealth of data and more records from the early days of the nation than almost any other website. If you live in New England, you can sign up for local classes to meet with experts. Some classes and lessons are available online too.
Clicking on the Search button on the homepage brings up a list of all the available databases. You can search through a specific database or search all at the same time. There are helpful articles in the sidebar that go over how to search and what information you can find. Military records, biographies, immigration records and local histories are all available through the site, some of which date to colonial times.
Even kids will find the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors website easy to use.
At Billion Graves, you can find the genealogical information that you want and help others users with their searches too. With an account, you can download a handy app and take photos of headstones and memorial markers. Once you have a few photos that you like, the app allows you to upload them to the site with one click of a button. The site also lets volunteers transcribe photos to help other users find names and dates without looking through hundreds of pictures first.
The Billion Graves website is a good tool too because it has a search feature that lets you search by last name only or first and last names with other information, including date or location of death. You’ll then see photos taken of the person’s headstone and the location of the cemetery. It may include the name of the cemetery too. With a premium account, the site even uses GPS to show you the location in the cemetery of the stone.
At Billion Graves, you’ll find photos of headstones from cemeteries around the world.
Chronicling America gives you access to information and records held by the Library of Congress in its archives. One feature that you might use is the archive of digital newspapers that date back to 1789 and include articles written up through the 1960s. Searching for a surname or full name shows you all articles that contain that name. You also see the name of the paper and the city where it was along with the date it published the article.
Another reason to use Chronicling America is for its comprehensive newspapers index. It features a nearly complete list of every paper ever published in the United States and what happened to them. This index makes finding newspapers that shut down easy and allows you to see where you might find some of the pieces that it printed. You’ll also find helpful tips on how to use the archives and index.
Chronicling America provides access to newspapers that no longer exist.
The best place to find information on people who passed away is Find a Grave, which has the largest collection of grave data on the web. Members can sign up for free and share information about their families and relatives. Those members created more than 190 memorials to others since the website launched in the 1990s. With your free account, you can create a memorial to someone you love who passed away and even upload photos of that person to the memorial. Others can leave comments and share stories that you never heard before.
As a genealogy tool, Find a Grave is helpful because of its search feature. You enter the first and last name of the person along with a middle name if you know it. The site also lets you add a cemetery location, birth date and/or death date to help you weed out those with a similar name. The site shows you any available information, which may include the person’s dates of birth and death, location of the individual’s birth and death and any obituaries found. It also shows any photos taken of the person’s memorial marker. You’ll also find links to any deceased relatives of the individual.
Find a Grave provides virtual access to cemeteries around the world.
To gain access to military records, you usually need to fill out an official information request form and pay a fee. It can take months before you hear back and get the records that you want. Fold3 offers an easier and more convenient way to view military records from previous wars and decades. You can view records relating to several major wars, including the American Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, Vietnam War and World War II. It has a virtual Honor Wall that allows members to share and honor those who served their country too.
The Fold3 name comes from the official method of displaying the American flag, which requires folding it three times. You can register for a free account and view some records or sign up for a full account and get unlimited access. Fold3 charges a monthly or annual membership fee, which includes a seven-day free trial. This lets you view more than 500 million historical photos, save images to share off the site, upload images that you have and browse all documents. With a free search, you can see when a soldier was born, died and enlisted as well as any wars they served. Members receive more detailed records.
Fold3 provides instant access to millions of military records.
Thanks to a seven-day free trial, GenealogyBank lets you easily search through digital records to find the people and names you need without becoming a full member. The free trial requires a debit or credit card, which the site will use to charge you if you don’t cancel before the trial expires. This is the oldest newspaper archive that we found as it has records that date back to 1690. If you had family members who came here during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, you’ll want to search for their names in the archive. To search, you just need to list the individual’s first and last name and a state where they lived. You’ll then see what newspapers that name appeared in and if the individual appeared in a census record.
GenealogyBank bills itself as having the largest collection of obituaries on the web. In addition to obituaries, you’ll also see engagement and marriage announcements as well as birth records. Some of the articles come from smaller newspapers in rural communities that may have fun stories about an ancestor buying a new car or opening a new business. This site has more than 300 years of historical records from more than 10,000 newspapers across the country.
Obituaries and birth announcements are just some of the records available through GenealogyBank.
Finding copies of old newspapers is easy thanks to NewspaperArchive. This database allows you to search for more than 9.2 million names and find records that list those names in seconds. The archive includes records from 1700 up through the modern era and constantly updates itself to include more newspapers as they become available. Though you might think that you can’t learn much from newspapers, those articles can help you get a better idea of your ancestors. You’ll also get help verifying that they lived in one area or served in the armed forces too. Some articles include the names of members of certain organizations too.
Thanks to a free trial offer, you don’t need to pay to access the archives. You can sign up for a monthly plan, but the six-month and one-year plans include a trial that lasts for seven days. Each plan allows you to view clippings that others took and submitted as well as full newspaper articles. More than 100 million obituaries are available through the site too. Not only can you search by name, but you can view all the obituaries from a specific state. Obituaries can help you verify those related to your family tree and where they lived and died.
NewspaperArchive lets you search through millions of old newspapers from the comfort of your home.
Finding information about your family might be as easy as searching through the newspapers archived at Newspapers.com. No matter how old you are, the chances are good that your name appeared in at least one newspaper over the years. You might find your name listed when your high school put on a musical or your sports team did well in a competition. This website includes the largest collection of digital newspapers in the world. Owned by Ancestry.com, it features archives of more than 18,000 newspapers and shares articles and photos across more than 600 million pages. The site adds new papers and articles every month too.
When you search for a name, Newspapers.com will show you the total number of matches that it found and what states had papers that used that name. You can click on the state to view all the articles and photos that match your search. The site asks you to log in with an Ancestry.com account or your Facebook information but also allows you to create a new account with just an email address. Every article and photo shared on the site features a digital design that is easy to view and read. You can save copies on your computer too.
Newspapers.com provides access to newspapers dating back to the 17th century.