what is genealogy

Top 5 Genealogy Websites

There are several genealogy websites that users with an interest in their heritage can take utilize. Each of these resources has different features that provide family historians with distinct benefits for their research. Some are cost-effective, some offer comprehensive DNA testing, and some have extensive historical records. The choice of which to use entirely depends on what information you want to gather. Here are some of the top websites available for genealogy research.

Best overall

ancestry review

Ancestry.com is the largest commercial genealogy company in the world. As a result, they have the biggest platform and the largest collection of resources. This includes an extensive array of historical records and a vast number of members with which users be matched via their DNA. For those interested in traditional genealogy research, connecting with DNA matches, finding out about their ancestral roots, and building a family tree, Ancestry.com is unrivaled.

Ancestry.com gives users access to 20 billion historical records and 100 million family trees generated by their users. Last year, they surpassed 15 million AncestryDNA users according to World Clock, giving them a rich resource of information from which to create their ethnicity reports. Their large size also means users have the best chance of finding a living DNA match on the database. Ancestry.com also has a robust online genealogy community with which users can exchange resources. Recently, Ancestry.com expanded into the health market with AncestryHealth, so customers can also opt to uncover how their DNA might affect their wellness.  

The services offered by Ancestry.com and AncestryDNA are a little more costly than some of the competition such as MyHeritage. However, their extensive customer base and historical resources make them the best overall option for both traditional and genetic genealogy. 

Best value for money

my heritage

MyHeritage provides a service highly similar to the one offered by Ancestry.com and is a relatively new player in the genealogy market. They combine traditional genealogy with direct-to-consumer DNA testing to paint a picture of your ancestry. MyHeritage has more of a European consumer base and is therefore particularly relevant to those of European descent. 

MyHeritage is a cost-effective option for genealogy research, and also offer a few subscription options to tailor your experience. They even provide a free basic service if you want to try the service out or use minimal features of the website. MyHeritage also possesses an extensive resource of historical data, providing its consumers with access to over 11 billion records. This is just over half of the number of records offered by Ancestry.com. MyHeritage also has a smaller (although growing) database of DNA samples than Ancestry.com; their DNA database is approximately a tenth of the size of AncestryDNA’s. However, individuals looking for a more cost-efficient genealogy service could get the resources they need from MyHeritage. An additional benefit of MyHeritage is that they provide a swift turnaround for their DNA analysis, quicker than their competitors.

Best free site
Family Search

family search review

Beginner genealogy enthusiasts might want to delve into their new hobby using a free resource. The best free website available is Family Search. This is a huge source of historical records from around the world. Entirely funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, users are only required to make a free account to access the records. Family Search provides access to documents from across the world, but their sources are primarily from North American and Europe.

Even for an experienced historian (who might have paid memberships on other websites), this free tool can provide valuable supplementary information to aid genealogy research. Family Search also benefits from a diverse online community and educational tools that can help you on your journey. 

However, Family Search does not offer any DNA testing services. If genetic genealogy is an integral part of the research process for you, you may which to use alternative or additional resources.

Best for African ancestry
African Ancestry

african ancestry

Without abundant and diverse DNA samples that are representative of different ethnic groups, it is impossible to determine what variants are associated with different ancestral origins. DNA analysis is particularly crucial for determining the ancestral roots of people with African ancestry. This is because of the devastating impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade; many individuals do not know from which African country or ethnic group their ancestors originate. 

Unfortunately, DNA from people of African descent is vastly underrepresented in DNA databases, which tend to be very Eurocentric. African Ancestry is a company specializing in providing detailed information about the heritage of people with roots in Africa. They have the largest DNA database of indigenous Africans of any company on the market. This gives them the power to inform people of their ancestral ethnic group rather than a broad region in Africa, like many of their competitors do. Therefore, if you want to know more detailed information about your African heritage, this test could be highly valuable.

African Ancestry is involved in genetic genealogy, and do not provide any documents or records for traditional genealogy. If delving into historical records is your main aim, you will need to consult an alternative source.

Best for additional health features

23andme review

23andme is another one of the leading players in the direct-to-consumer DNA testing market. They offer both health and ancestry testing and are one of the best companies to explore if you want to obtain both heritage and health/wellness information from your DNA test. 

23andme tests autosomal, paternal- and maternal- inherited DNA. This means they can build up a comprehensive analysis of someone’s likely geographical and ethnic origins. They also study a variety of disease risks and health variants. 

However, they are also not a genealogical resource, and can only be used to obtain genetic information. Therefore, while 23andme’s ancestry tests are highly detailed and provide valuable data, they may not be the first option for a keen historian. However, if your interest in genetics extends beyond genealogy, 23andme should be one of your first choices.