Family Tree Research

Getting started

Researching your family tree can be a tricky business, but some of the premium sites dedicated to this task, do a great job of getting you started. To help you get going we have tested out 4 of the market leaders and ranked them against each other to show their strengths and weaknesses. Since we are based in the UK we have tested each site using it’s UK version but all of these sites have a US equivalent and some have versions dedicated to other regions like Australia and Ireland.

The sites that we have reviewed so far are :-

Reviews

Ancestry
Usability - Score 4/5
Ancestry.com is a very user friendly site which flows nicely. The tree itself is very clear and easy to navigate around.Its obvious when hints are being provided by the site, these are indicated by a shaking leaf icon hovering above the family members name on your family tree. The site holds step by step, easy to follow user guides, however, these are not really needed because the site guides you through well.
Clarity of hints provided by the site - Score 4/5
Ancestry.com provide lots of really useful hints which are very specific and are very often linked to the family member. This saves you time doing the trawling through records. Ancestry also prompts you on a family members relatives eg. when you add someone, it will prompt you on who their father, mother, siblings are. The hints are smart, efficient and intelligent which gets your tree growing quickly.
Record availability - Score 5/5
Ancestry.com have got one of the biggest online communities so you are more likely to be able to search other users trees and share their information. This information is included in your hints, provided other users have given their consent. Ancestry appear to have more records than comparable sites, not only the basics: birth, marriages and deaths, but also census and military documents etc.
Tariff options / Cost - Score 5/5
Ancestry.com offer a free trial for 2 weeks with access to all records. If after the trial you want to register, they allow a monthly payment plan on a rolling monthly contract - so if you wanted to cancel you can without charge. Basic cost is £119.99 per year.
Newsletter / emails / online community - Score 4/5
“Updated” is the name of the monthly Ancestry.com newsletter - Sent out on email on the first Friday of every month. Regular emails are also sent when new hints have been added to your tree. Ancestry.com also send out lots of reminder emails with useful hints and tips and updates.

Overall score - 4.5/5

My Heritage
Usability - Score 3/5
The tree and its layout could be better. Adding family members to the tree is easy enough, and navigation has recently been improved making it easier to navigate between individuals.
Clarity of hints provided by the site - Score 4/5
MyHeritage has a system called Instant Discoveries which aims to match new users with family members even as they complete the sign up process, this can be a great for getting you started! Their Smart Matches system offers intelligent links to help you connect with other relevent MyHeritage users (80 Million+). Once you have added a person to the tree, it gives you the option to research that family member and takes you to a long list of possible connections.
Record availability - Score 4/5
MyHeritage claim to have over 6.2 Billion records. They seem strongest on US based records, but have recently added a large number of records from Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
Tariff options / Cost - Score 4/5
The tool in which you build your family tree on is free of charge. Access to any birth, marriage, death documents etc are charged for. MyHeritage.com charges you for the full year subscription at a cost of £75.00, a very competitive price, still it's a shame that no monthly option is available.
Newsletter / emails / online community - Score 4/5
Message boards are available for online communities to chat and share knowledge and ask questions etc. Their blog and Twitter accounts are updated regularly with interesting stories and genealogy tips.

Overall score 4/5

Updated: 13th November 2015

Usability - Score 5/5
Very user friendly and clear looking site. When you click on the hints it lays them out very clearly so its obvious which ones you want to reject and which ones to explore further. The tree is very clearly laid out on the web page and easy to navigate around. Hints available appear as a number icon next to the family member, which indicates how many hints are available. Excellent step-by-step prompts on the site when you click on hints for example and attaching accurate hints to the family member is straightforward.
Clarity of hints provided by the site - Score 4/5
Findmypast.co.uk provide lots of really useful hints which are very specific and are very often linked to the family member. This saves you time doing the trawling through records. The hints are smart, efficient and intelligent which gets your tree growing quickly.
Record availability - Score 4/5
A comprehensive catalogue of births, deaths, marriages and other records available. Births, deaths and marriage records appear automatically when adding a family member. Then there is an ‘Explore our records’ search feature available for other records such as census and military records. There is no information on how to share information with other users. Each Family member has a description of their surname when you click into their profile - provided by surnameDB!
Tariff options / Cost - Score 4/5
14 day free worldwide trial where you have availability to all records. If you want to register its £12.95 for 1 month or £129.50 per year, which can be broken down to £10.79 per month. Findmypast.co.uk also offer a pay as you go option.
Newsletter / emails / online community - Score 4/5
Good example of a newsletter with lots of articles which is published monthly. Also previous editions are saved on the site. Mails are sent out when new hints are available. No sign of any online community boards.

Overall score 4/5

Current promotional offers:-
Usability - Score 2/5
The tree itself is not easy to navigate round and its not always clear how to move onto the next generation to keep the tree growing. The tree remains on a separate link when you're searching through records, which is good as you don't have to keep finding it again. Record matches are shown by a purple star next to the family members name. No obvious user guides available.
Clarity of hints provided by the site - Score 3/5
Record matches are shown by a purple star next to the family members name. Hints are not very intelligent, leaving you to look through numerous unassociated records.
Record availability - Score 3/5
In order to share information with other members you have to email them and ask for the information, rather than this automatically being available. A reasonable amount of historical documents appear to be available.
Tariff options / Cost - Score 2/5
Genesreunited.co.uk off a few tariff options. They send round various promotions for trials, so for 1 months platinum subscription it was only £1. Basic subscription starts at £4.95 per month and allows a certain number of credits. Standard and platinum tariffs are available.
Newsletter / emails / online community - Score 3/5
Genesreunited.co.uk send lots of reminder emails with useful hints and tips and updates. Community boards on the site are available. No newsletter sent round, a blog is used to add articles monthly.

Overall score 3/5

Current promotional offers:-
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