October 2nd, 2009

Review of The 6 Top Paid Subscription Online Genealogy Websites

Once upon a time, a curious genealogy researcher wanted to learn all she could about her family and ancestry. She packed a light lunch, plenty of water and headed off. She made the long trek to the county court house where records of marriages and births, deaths, adoptions and everything else she could possibly think of were kept. She spoke nicely and politely to the county court clerk who led her through a maze of doors and rooms filled with stacks and stacks of leather-bound record books.

With a pen, some paper, a camera and tape recorder, she began to search through the books to find any information she could about her mother, father, grandparents and great grandparents.
She spent many a summer day, in that records repository, searching and reading, recording and searching some more until her lungs filled with dust and she just had to stop. She stepped out of the gloomy darkness of the repository into the searing heat, her eyes blinking against the bright sun…..

Things have come a long way in a short time. Now our curious genealogy researcher can access many of those same records online from the comfort of her home.

Last week, I wrote a post about my favorite free genealogy websites that have records and I mentioned that I would write about my favorite paid subscriptions sites.

As promised, here is my top choices for subscription or paid genealogy sites. All of these are membership-based sites that allow you to access their databases after you sign up and pay a fee. The fees range in price and some have shorter sign up options. There is also a huge range in the amount of data you can access.

In the end, you’ll have to decide which ones fit into your budget and which ones you think will give you the best options. I’ve written full reviews of all of these so look for them in the coming weeks in the reviews section of ObituariesHelp.org.

My top paid genealogy websites. These are the ones where I think you get the most for your money:

1. One Great Family

This is my favorite website for keeping track of family records. It’s the most advanced, but easiest to use online genealogy tool out there. The data is cross-referenced so if you enter in as many people as you can into your family tree. You could wake up one morning with hundreds more names added to it! It’s amazing.

It connects you to branches of your family tree you may not know exist. And because it’s so popular, chances of finding someone else with your ancestry is very good. You can also find out if you’re related to someone famous.

The difference is that One Great Family doesn’t store your information, it searches other family trees with similarities so eventually, you’ll be able to see how your family is connected to every other family in the world. Very exciting.

There is a 7-day free trial, and you give them your credit card that they charge after the 7 days. An annual membership is only $5.00 USD a month right now, down from $6.67 USD/month. You can upload your existing GEDCOM files or enter in names and dates you know. The more you enter the easier it is for the system to match you with other family members.
Give it a try, if you’ve tried family tree software and other family tree websites out there, you’ll know what I mean when I say this is the most advanced, yet easiest to use online genealogy tool out there.

Read a full Review of One Great Family

2. Ancestry.com

With the biggest name in online genealogy, a membership to Ancestry.com allows you to access to over 27,000 record collections with billions of names. Transcribed or scanned records can be viewed online. The data comes from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Sweden. They have a free monthly newsletter that describes new collections, and news in the world of genealogy research.

A yearly membership is about $13.00 USD – $25.00 USD a month, depending on the records you need to search. But for people who make it a point of searching once a week for records that you can print out and review later, it is really worth it.

You can try it out for 14 days for free, but you have to give them your credit card. It will be charged after the 14 days. If you wish to cancel, you have to call an 800 number that only works in the US. So if you are outside the US, you may incur long distance charges to cancel your membership.

Read a full Review of Ancestry.com

3. World Vital Records

World Vital Records is the second big name in the online genealogy world whose collections compare to Ancestry.com but their prices are way cheaper and they have way more Canadian and World records. They’ve consolidated the data from 42 different membership services into one big database. So you get a lot for your money.

Plus they have a 30-day money back guarantee so you can actually use the full service for 30 days before deciding if you want continue or not.
World Vital Records allows you to search their records by the usual, birth and death, census, court, directories, military records and so on, but you can also search by place or by recently added databases, so you’ll only get recent search results.

They also have a free weekly newsletter that I highly recommend you sign up for. Their newsletter is full of great search tips, articles, tutorials to help you learn more about online genealogy, and more.

Read a full Review of World Vital Records

4. The Origins Network

Search your Irish, British, or Scottish ancestry back to the 1400’s and then get copies of birth, death, marriage and other records. Scottish records are free to access. They’ll let you do a free search of the Irish and British records, but you’ll have to join before you can view the transcribed or scanned documents.

The bonus is that you can by a three-day membership for about $13.00 USD so you can do a lot of searching and printing in those 72 hours and take your time reviewing it all. Then you can decide to buy a monthly (about $18.00 USD) or annual (about $78.00 USD) membership.

If you have British or Irish Ancestry, this membership is definitely worth it.

Read a full Review of The Origins Network

5. Newspaper Archive

Newspaper Archive is one of those subscription sites that puts your family history into perspective and gives you those stories that make your ancestors come alive.

It has over 250 years work of newspapers, scanned, indexed and searchable online. If you want to find news stories, announcements, classifieds or anything that your family might have done, you can read it in the scanned newspaper.

Doing a simple search for a name can come up with stories about your family you would never have known. I found out my grandfather helped to rebuild a home that was destroyed by a tornado. His picture was in the paper with the family whose home was destroyed, standing in front of the house they rebuilt.

Those kinds of finds may not have exact or accurate records, but they make your ancestors lives real and you find out what kind of people they were. Even if you don’t see your ancestor’s names, you will find out what was happening in their community at the time of their lives, which helps to put perspective on what life was like back then.

An annual membership is about $10.00 USD a month and gets you access to newspapers from the mid 1700’s to the present.

Read a full Review of Newspaper Archive

6. Footnote

This is an excellent website that has scanned original historical documents and an online community willing to share their knowledge and research. There are several collections at footnote that you won’t find anywhere else, including the American Wars, US Presidents and naturalization documents. Everything is scanned and viewable online. Some are even free to browse so you can see the quality of images and the range of information you’ll be able to find.

The best part is the members. The members share their images, stories, personal accounts, and family histories to make history more than just facts and events. But don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of facts and events for you to search through, in addition to the connection of people who make this a really great website.

Membership is about $7.00 USD a month and allows you to keep a personal database of images and data that you can make notes on, you can create your own web pages, have a gallery of your favorite images and share images with family and friends.

There is also a free membership that lets you search, create a gallery of free images. The free membership is pretty good too, but of course, to take full advantage of unlimited access to all 60 million images, you’ll want to get the paid membership.

Read a full Review of Footnote.com

So now many of those records you find in dusty old repositories are available online and more and more records are becoming available every day. I’m not saying you won’t ever have to spend a day in the dark storage of some repository in some remote place, but before you start packing, try these sites out first. You may be pleasantly surprised by all the gems of information available online.

Comment below to let me know what your thoughts are about my choices and what exciting nuggets of news you’ve found out about your ancestors!