Which Genealogy Website Should I Use?

Genealogy sites provide the tools and resources you need to research your family history online. Which genealogy website (and subscription) you choose will determine the records that are available to you, so it’s important to do your research before signing up, especially if you’ll be paying for a subscription.

How Much Does It Cost?

It is possible to research your family tree for free using sites like FamilySearch and FreeUKGenealogy, but if you want to see pictures of the original documents you will usually need to use a paid site such as Ancestry or FindMyPastAffiliate. Once your free trial runs out, you will need to pay to continue viewing their collections.

The prices are fairly similar for different genealogy websites (see Table), but it’s important to check what you are getting when you subscribe:

  • Ancestry, FindMyPast, and The Genealogist all offer three different subscription levels. The cheaper subscriptions won’t include everything on the sites and will usually be limited to records from one or a few countries. The Ancestry Worldwide, FindMyPast Pro, and The Genealogist Diamond subscriptions provide access to the complete international collections. The main exception is for the 1921 Census records on FindMyPast, which are only available on a pay per view basis – they cost £2.50 for every transcription and £3.50 for each image that you look at.
  • Genes Reunited has two subscription types. The Standard plan allows you to access public family trees and communicate with other users, but does not provide access to any records. The Platinum subscription includes census records, Birth, Marriage, and Death registrations, and death records from both World Wars. Platinum subscribers can add on additional record sets: Travel & Overseas, Military, Parish Records, and the British Newspaper Archives (BNA). Each additional set costs £11.95 with a one month Platinum subscription. If you have a 12 month Platinum subscription then you can pay £14.95 a year for each additional record set, except the BNA, which costs £39.95 for the year.
  • MyHeritage has four subscription levels. Premium and PremiumPlus subscriptions give access to various family tree features, but do not include any records. The Data subscription gives access to MyHeritage records, while the Complete subscriptions covers both family tree tools and records. Records aren’t restricted by country, so you can access international records with the Data or Complete subscriptions.
  • Ancestry subscriptions last for one or six months while FindMyPast and Genes Reunited both offer one or 12 month subscriptions. The monthly cost will be lower for longer subscriptions, so they can be a better choice if you know you will be using the site for a long time.
  • MyHeritage only has one year subscriptions. The subscription will be cheaper for the first year.
  • The Genealogist has six month and 12 month subscriptions, but there is also a quarterly option for the Starter subscription level.
  • You will usually need to pay for the whole term up front. FindMyPast subscriptions tend to be cheaper per month, but if the term is longer (12 months rather than 6 for Ancestry) you will need to pay more to start your subscription.
  • Subscriptions will autorenew at the end of the term unless you change the account settings.
SiteSubscription LevelPrice per MonthLength (months)Total
Genes ReunitedPlatinum£19.951£19.95
MyHeritageData (1st year)£6.5812£79
Complete (1st year)£11.5812£139
The GenealogistStarter£4.983£14.95
Costs of Genealogy Website Subscriptions (October 2021)

Genealogy websites often lower their prices around Christmas/New Year or offer discounts around other events such as Mother’s Day, so it can be worth waiting for a special offer before you subscribe.

Another option is to Pay As You Go, buying credits that you use to see individual records – this is currently the only way to view the 1921 Census on FindMyPast. Credits can be cheaper than a subscription if you only want to see a few records, but they will end up being more expensive if you view many records. The credits will expire after a certain period and you will lose them if they’re not used by this date. The Standard subscription on Genes Reunited does include 50 Pay Per View credits to access their records.

If you use the TTGs Affiliate link to buy a 12 month Gold or Diamond subscription to The Genealogist then you will get a 10% discount.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


Which Countries Are Covered?

Genealogy sites generally focus on specific parts of the world, so it’s important to choose one that covers the areas where your ancestors lived. The FreeUKGenealogy and Genes Reunited sites only cover the UK. FamilySearch provides worldwide coverage, although there are more records from the UK, USA, and other English-speaking countries. Ancestry and FindMyPast also have a bias towards English-speaking regions and your access to international records will depend on which subscription level you choose.

Ancestry and FindMyPast both have sites based in different countries. A subscription taken out from one of these sites will cover the local records and may include some other regions.

Genes Reunited is focused on UK records, but it does have regional sites if you are researching your British genealogy from other locations:

MyHeritage doesn’t limit access to international records based on where you subscribe from, but they do have regional sites tailored to different locations and languages.

The Genealogist has a single site focused on the UK, but Diamond subscriptions do include international records from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and India. Some small collections from other countries are available, but these tend to be specialised. For example, you can see a list of English speaking students at the University of Leyden in the Netherlands or read a historical account of Lisbon College in Portugal.

Ancestry has more regional sites, so it can be the best choice if you’re looking for records from a country that doesn’t have its own FindMyPast site. However, FindMyPast may be a better option if you have UK ancestry as these records are included in all their regional subscriptions. If you’re researching multiple countries then a MyHeritage Data subscription can be the most affordable option. The Genealogist has some useful features for local history, including old maps, address based searches, and an image archive.

An Ancestry Worldwide, FindMyPast Pro, or MyHeritage subscription will include records from other regions that don’t have their own sites, but these collections are more limited. If you’re researching your family history in a country that doesn’t have a dedicated site, then it’s especially important to check which records will be available before you subscribe.

What Records Are Available?

Each genealogy website has gathered together its own collection of historical documents. The documents that are available will depend on which records the site has had access to and what transcriptions or images they have produced.


The FreeUKGenealogy family includes three sites with transcriptions of records from the UK. FreeCen has census records, FreeBMD has birth, marriage and death civil registrations, and FreeReg has parish registers. The transcriptions were made by volunteers, so their coverage of different areas of the UK varies. Since these sites only hold one type of record, they can be a quick and simple way to get the information you need, as long as the area you’re interested in is covered.


FamilySearch has transcriptions of many different records, including the UK census, BMD records, and many parish registers. Many of the records are part of the International Genealogical Index (IGI), a collection of approximately 890 million names transcribed from historical sources or submitted by volunteers. Some images of historical documents are available on FamilySearch for free, but it doesn’t provide pictures of the UK census or many other documents that are available elsewhere.

Ancestry and FindMyPast

The main genealogy sites have a lot of the same records. Ancestry and FindMyPast both provide transcriptions and images of the UK census and Birth, Marriage, and Death registrations. However, each site also has its own additional collections, which might include records or images that aren’t available on any other websites. For example, FindMyPast has exclusive rights over the 1921 Census. You can check what records are available on each site using the Card Catalogue on Ancestry or the list of All Record Sets on FindMyPastAffiliate.

Genes Reunited

Genes Reunited has a simpler range of records for British genealogy, which can make it easier to use for beginners. Subscribers can access the UK census, Birth, Marriage, and Death registrations, and records of deaths in WW1 and WW2. Additional records are available, but there will be extra costs to access them. You can check the Record Sets on Genes ReunitedAffiliate to find out what is available.


MyHeritage has a large, international collection of records that is available to all Data or Complete subscribers from anywhere in the world. For example, you can access census records from the USA, Sweden, Australia, and Chile as well as the UK. The Card Catalog on MyHeritage lists the records that are available.

The Genealogist

The Genealogist focuses on records from the UK but there are some international collections. It has both the UK and US censuses as well as registers of overseas births, marriages, and deaths of some British nationals (such as military families). The Genealogist also provides access to Tithe Records, which provide insight into land ownership in England in the 19th century. You can view the current range of databases available at The Genealogist – UK census, BMDs and more onlineAffiliate.


Which Genealogy Website Has the Collections You Need?

Since many of the UK collections are listed at the county level, you should search for the county or counties you think your ancestors used to live in. You can also try searching for towns or other locations, but they are less likely to be mentioned in the collection titles or descriptions. You should check that the results are for the location you’re interested in, rather than somewhere else with the same name.

For example, if you search for record collections for Shropshire:

Shropshire, England, Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1538-1812
Shropshire, England, Selected Church of England Parish Registers, 1559-1837
Memorials of Old Shropshire
Historical Records of the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment 1755-1889
Herefordshire and Shropshire Directories, 1917
Shropshire Baptisms
Shropshire Burials
Shropshire Marriages
Shropshire Quarter Sessions Rolls Index, 1831-1920
Shropshire, Parish Registers Browse, 1538-1900
Shropshire Banns
Shropshire Registers & Records
Shropshire, Non-Conformist Membership Lists 1819-1906
Shropshire, Kinnerley & West Felton Bishop’s Transcripts, Burials 1630-1692
Shropshire, St Julian’s Parish, 1831 Census
Shropshire, Kinnerley & West Felton Bishop’s Transcripts, Baptisms 1630-1685
Shropshire, Kinnerley & West Felton Bishop’s Transcripts, Marriages 1630-1692
Shropshire Parish Registers 1913
Parish Registers of Oswestry in Shropshire, 1558-1812
Parish Registers of Ludlow in Shropshire, 1912-1915
Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Parish Registers of Wem, Shropshire
Shropshire County Records, 1696-1800
Shropshire Parish Registers, St. Asaph Diocese
Parish Registers of Whittington in Shropshire
Shropshire Parish Registers, Hereford Diocese
Shropshire Nonconformist and Roman Catholic Registers
Parish Registers of Diddlebury and Munslow in Shropshire
Shropshire: Its Early History and Antiquities
Shropshire Parish Registers, Diocese of Lichfield
Parish Registers of Pontesbury in Shropshire
Shropshire record sets available at Ancestry, FindMyPast, and My Heritage (October 2021). Genes Reunited did not have any Shropshire record sets.

FindMyPast and MyHeritage have more Shropshire-based collections, so they could be the better choices in this case. Although some of the information in the Shropshire baptisms, burials, and marriages will also be available in other collections on Ancestry (the parish registers for the whole of England), some can only be seen on FindMyPast (such as the 1831 census for St Julian’s in Shrewsbury) or MyHeritage (the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society). The best choice between FindMyPast and MyHeritage would depend on what information you need.

Although looking for local records can often be useful, there may be other collections that are important for your research. You may want to compare what military, police, educational, or other records are available, depending on what you already know about your ancestors.

Ancestry and FindMyPast both have associations with other sites that will show up in their search results. Some of the military records listed on Ancestry are provided through an external website, Fold3. You will need to take out a separate Fold3 membership in order to see these documents. FindMyPast provides access to the British Newspaper Archive (BNA), but these results are only viewable if you have a Pro subscription or a separate BNA membership. It is possible to take out Fold3 or BNA memberships separately, without subscribing to Ancestry or FindMyPast. Genes Reunited belongs to FindMyPast, so it is also able to offer access to the BNA.

The best genealogy website will depend on which areas and types of documents you will be researching. You should check what material is available and which subscription levels have access to it.

Family Tree Builders

FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast, Genes Reunited, MyHeritage, and The Genealogist all have family tree builders where you can create profiles for your family members. When you find a record that mentions someone in your tree, you can attach it to their profile. You can use these tree builders for free as long as you register for an account, but you will need to pay for a subscription in order to see any records you’ve attached to your Ancestry, FindMyPast, Genes Reunited, MyHeritage, or The Genealogist tree.

All of these sites will suggest matches for individuals in your tree from their record collections or to other family trees posted by different people. Matches play a particularly important role on Genes Reunited and MyHeritage, where the focus is more on connecting with other users.

The basic functions of the tree builders are similar across all these sites, but there are differences in the layouts and how you interact with them. Ancestry and FamilySearch provide more options for viewing the tree, while FindMyPast provides larger previews of individual profiles from the family tree. MyHeritage has some good options for printing your tree and The Genealogist makes it easy to add your own research notes to the tree. You might want to test each site out to see which one feels right for you.


Which Genealogy Website Feels Right for You?

As well as trying out the family tree builders, it’s worth taking some time to explore each site and see which one feels right for you. Try running a few searches and moving around the site. You’ll notice a few differences, such as FamilySearch allowing you to choose any date range for your searches and FindMyPast marking which records you’ve already viewed. Although the tools and resources are very similar, you may find that the layout or structure of one site appeals more to you.

Moving Between Genealogy Sites

Choosing the right genealogy site can make a big difference if the records you need are only available from one website. However, many of the most useful records for genealogy are available through all the main sites and the tools they provide for searching and building your family tree are quite similar. You will also be able to switch between sites. You can export your family tree from one site as a GEDCOM file and then upload it to another, so you won’t need to build the tree all over again. The exception is FamilySearch, which allows you to upload GEDCOM files, but doesn’t have an option to export your tree, so you might want to build your tree elsewhere first.

Once you have uploaded your tree to a new website, you can take out a subscription (or use a free trial) to access the records you couldn’t see on the first website. If you prefer to keep all your family tree research together on one site, you can add notes to your tree to record anything you find elsewhere.