With the advancement of technology and the wide sharing of information instantly has created a wide expanse of resources for family history work. I will share the top 4 places to start your family history and the benefits of each one. Each one of these sites have positive and negative aspects to them. They all are unique in their own way and I want to focus on the unique parts of each one.
My Heritage – $82.56/Year (Basic Plan includes a family tree size of up to 2,500 people, 1,000 MB of storage, enhanced Smart Matching, Timeline feature and priority customer support. )
My Heritage can be described by me as the social media network of family history for your family. There are so many different features that help connect you with your living relatives and also your ancestors. On this site you can invite others to help collaborate and input to a single family tree. Also, you can add the birthdays of living relatives and also add events that you can invite others to and coordinate with.
One amazing feature with My Heritage is the Family Stats portion. As you fill in your family tree and add your ancestors you can go to the family stats section where you will be greeted with a wide variety of information. This includes male to female ratio, locations of ancestors, race information and many more. Here is an example of what my currents stats look like.
Find My Past – $114.48/Year (Only Records for US and Canada)
Find My Past has a few defining features and traits that you can’t elsewhere. In Find My Past you have access to a huge database of newspapers and records you can’t find elsewhere. With this site you can find that obituary or front page news story of your ancestors.
Through this site was a major factor in finding information on my Dad’s Dad’s side. We did not know a lot about my grandfather W.H. Kennedy, but through this site we were able to open up a whole new path where we started to unravel information about him and his parents. From there we were able to use this site and others to journey down the path and made it a couple more generations down. This would not have been possible with Find My Past.
Ancestry – $149-199 (For World Explorer Plan or World Explorer Plan Plus)
According to Tim Sullivan, who is the President and CEO of Ancestry,
There is a natural and universal desire to know who we are and where we come from. Ancestry gives people the tools to discover more about themselves by uncovering unique family stories and documents, by connecting with relatives (known and unknown), by building out their family tree, and through our AncestryDNA test. Family history has traditionally been an interest that only true enthusiasts/hobbyists could pursue, but we’ve worked hard over the years to make the site easier and more accessible for more people. There is a huge emotional payoff when you start making discoveries and understanding the stories of your ancestors. There is also a powerful network effect happening at Ancestry, as more and more people use us a platform for discovering and preserving their family history.
Like he said, this site is very easy to use and includes some unique features. One major one that Ancestry has is AncestryDNA. This is a test you take by swabbing your mouth and sending it to Ancestry. Then Ancestry tests it and sends you back results with your ancestry on it. This comes back as percentages of where you came from. Many are surprised with their results and others know their ancestry enough to not be to startled.
Another unique feature is the Life Story aspect of each individual person you put in. This Life Story includes a paragraph or so commentary on this persons lives and then shows a time line of important dates in this persons life. Also, it gives distinct points of history that was happening in the areas your ancestor was in during that time.
Family Search – FREE
Family Search is a free service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is probably my favorite site to use. This is a public website that allows anyone to contribute to a family tree. You are able to “tap” into others trees and connect to common ancestors that way. You may be thinking, but if everyone can connect and add to this tree won’t there be a lot of mistakes and potential duplicate people.
Yes there is, but there are many features that help to combat this and actually benefit this. You start with your own person and then fill out as far as you can go. Once you reach your first deceased ancestor is where the connections begin. You first want to search to see if anyone else has added this person already. If they have and you are positive that it is the same person than you can add them to your tree and then you will be tapped into someone else’s tree.
At this point you will probably notice that there is probably a lot more people added to your tree then you have added yourself. This is because you are now connected to work that someone else has already done. If you find a duplicate or accidently create one there is a feature where you can merge the duplicates together. Always make sure that no one has already put your ancestors in before adding a deceased ancestors. This is basically just one big family tree for the human race. It is fun to see how far back your ancestors go and see if you can make it back to Adam.
One final feature I love from Family Search is the Indexing section. Family Search and the LDS church need volunteers for indexing to make more records available online. If you don’t know what index is then click here to learn more. The basic premise is you download a program and then log in to it with your family search account. From this program you can download “batches” which are basically documents that you convert to digital form by typing what you see on the document (names, dates, places, relatives, ect) which then once checked for accuracy are put online for anyone to publish. This helps everyone find their family names and relatives.
Here is a quick introduction to Indexing
I hope this helped you all to understand each different website and the differences between them. Family History is a journey and the right website will help you walk this journey.