Monday, August 20, 2012

The Best Paid Sites?

Question from Trudy:
Love your newsletter! How do the different genealogy sites compare (free or pay subscription)? Ancestry, World Vital Records, Archive, fold3, Family Search etc. I just read that Ancestry purchased Archive. They are keeping it a separate entity. Does Archive have different information available through their subscription vs. an Ancestry subscription?

Every one of the paid sites have some overlap and some unique records. The trick is finding out what specific records are the most important to you. For example, I love GenealogyBank and I have had a subscription for several years. It has served me very well. However, there is one paper they don’t have that I needed desperately. I had to break down and get a subscription to NewspaperArchives just because of this ONE newspaper! My family has been in the Lamar County/Forrest County area of Mississippi since 1798. The Hattiesburg American is crucial to my research and it has only been available on microfilm in Mississippi which isn’t much of an option for someone living in Georgia. Now that NewspaperArchives has it I had to get the subscription and it has been well worth the price to me.

I have a subscription to because they are the site with the most records. There is overlap with what World Vital Records has but World Vital Records has some international records that Ancestry doesn’t have. For me personally that isn’t a problem. There is a FREE webinar from Legacy Family Tree that you might want to watch. Exploring and by Their Founder, Paul Allen.’s card catalog is available to non subscribers so you can always look and see what they have available. is a bargain at $39.95/year but I am not sure just how many unique records they have. They do offer a 7 day free trial which is nice. I have never tried them out myself. Fold3 is a unique website because their main focus is military records. They DO have things that no other website has. If you want compiled service records and pension files this website can be a bargain. Ordering these documents from the state archives (or worse, the National Archives) can be expensive. They do NOT have every military record there is so you will still have to find some things at the state or nationals archives level.

You mentioned FamilySearch. This is one of the absolute best resources available and it is FREE! The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City has hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world indexing microfilm and those images are being put online on an almost daily basis. The FHL is the largest repository of genealogical holdings in the world. In addition, they have so many more things to offer including beginner, intermediate and advanced genealogical courses, genealogical wikis, videos, and message boards. They also have NewFamilySearch (nFS) which is not available to the general public yet. Only members of the LDS church and selected non LDS beta testers have access. It is a giant, interconnected family tree that anyone can contribute to. I am a beta tester for this project and it will be valuable. It does have its pros and cons through. The cons are the same as those of the family trees posted on or any website that accepts GEDCOMs. Garbage in, garbage out. You have to thoroughly evaluate the information you are looking at. nFS does have some advantages though. You can post comments and there are discussion areas for each person. There is a place to post sources but right now it is inconvenient to do so until they make it where you can upload your sources at the same time as your information. It is ONE interconnected family tree which is easier to navigate than thousands of individual trees. You can combine duplicate entries. You can separate records that are not duplicates. nFS does have a lot of potential.

There are other free sites that are great too! Most of the individual state archives have been putting either searchable indexes or actual images online. There are even individual county courthouses that are starting to put indexes and images online to include marriage records and deeds. Always check these two things since they are updated frequently. There are also state library sites that have online images. There are several website that have gazillions of books online that are no longer under copyright. These sites are a goldmine for old genealogy books and even periodicals. Two of the biggest are Google Books and Internet Archives. The Library of Congress has image collections as well. One of the most used is their Chronicling America collection of newspapers.

The amount of genealogical resources available on the internet is exploding exponentially and many of the things coming available are free. If you did an internet search for something a year ago it would be a good idea to check again.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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