101 Best Websites for 2012: Best Big Genealogy Websites

By David A. Fryxell Premium

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The 1940 US census is only one recent addition to this subscription site ($155.40 per year for a US Discovery membership, $299.40 per year for a World Explorer membership), which truly has something for everyone. Also new are the indexed 1911 UK census, more US vital records, additional church records and more occupation-related records. You can host your family tree for free here, too, and use the free iPad, iPhone and new Android apps to view it and research on the go. has also essentially absorbed the venerable, free Roots­Web site, home to World­Connect pedigree files, volunteer-transcribed records, mailing lists, message boards and getting-started tips. $

This booming subscription site numbering more than 2 billion records is poised to become part of the family, if federal regulators approve the acquisition announced in April. Both companies’ CEOs say will remain a distinct site and continue to be a key partner in the volunteer effort to index the 1940 US census.
Besides the rest of the US census images (a collection still in the works), resources include US vital records, newspapers and obituaries, and UK census and vital-records images. You can also build your family tree here, and it’s integrated with Facebook. All this for a bargain rate of $39.95 a year.


Completely overhauled and expanded, this early innovator in online genealogy is once again at the front of the pack. A wealth of digitized records, family history books, new ways to search the Family History Library catalog, a Research Wiki and improved records searching make this free site—and its more than 2.5 billion records—your first stop in almost any genealogy undertaking.


Fold3 $

The site formerly known as now focuses on military records, which include Revolutionary War papers and pension applications, and Civil War service records (especially from the Confederacy). But its more than 90 million records, all searchable with images, also include newspapers, city directories, naturalizations, the 1860 and 1930 US censuses, and more. An all-access annual subscription costs $79.95.

GenealogyBank $

Although this subscription site ($69.95 a year if paid annually) also offers historical books and documents, the main attraction is its ever-growing historical newspaper collection, which added 22 million articles in March alone. You can search the database of more than 5,850 newspapers—totaling over 600 million articles— by names and keyword all at once, by place or by individual titles.

HeritageQuest Online 

Individuals can’t subscribe to this institutional site, so you’ll need to convince your local library. Try telling them it offers images of US censuses through 1930, 28,000 family and local histories, the Periodical Source Index to 2.3 million genealogy articles, Revolutionary War pension and bounty applications, Freedmen’s Bank records and the US Serial Set.


Library of Congress

Wonder about your tax dollars at work? Search this online catalog of pretty much every book there is, along with the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (you may have heard it called “nuk-muk”). Or picture the past with the American Memory digital collection of maps, photos, documents, audio and video on topics from landscape architecture to war. Then check out the Chronicling America newspaper collection <>, which has grown to more than 4.8 million digitized pages, plus a directory of historical US newspapers and archives where you can find copies today.

National Archives and Records Administration

Not everything at the “nation’s attic” has been outsourced to, Fold3 and other sites. Under Research our Records, you can use the new Online Public Access system to search both the Access to Archival Databases collection of more than 85 million historic electronic records—among them more than 9 million WWII enlistment files—and the Archival Research Catalog index to 6.3 million records (with 153,000 digital copies).

World Vital Records $

Redesigned after its purchase last year by MyHeritage, this site has become easier to navigate and search. In addition to its 290 million birth, marriage and death records, you’ll find nearly 300 million military records, images of all US censuses (1860 and 1930 are indexed), 116 million names from UK censuses and vital records, 70 million school yearbook entries, old newspapers, 30 million tombstone photos and more. You also can search the millions of family trees on—all for $90 per year.
From the September 2012 Family Tree Magazine