FamilySearch.org is one of the largest and most trusted websites for genealogical research for several reasons. As many may already know, this site is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This site is completely free for all to use, whether they are members of the LDS Church or not.
With over 100 years of experience collecting and preserving records, the LDS Church created a website to digitize their vast collection, which grows daily due to worldwide digitization projects (indexing) manned by an international army of volunteer indexers working from home.
This site sets itself apart from the rest not only by its pricing, but the sheer volume of records one can access as well as the degree of assistance which is available in a variety of forms – anywhere from online self-instruction videos or step-by-step tutorials, to online chat (24/7) or honest to goodness live help at one of the 4,600 Family History Centers operated and manned by volunteers. In an industry where the customer service of other companies is concerned primarily with billing of technical support, having assistance from another genealogist is priceless.
The site is robust and filled with helpful hints and tips on the WIKI pages with topics for new genealogists and those whom are more seasoned.
Ancestry.com boasts the biggest name recognitions in the family history field. This company, with headquarters in Utah and offices worldwide, has been the leader in delivering cutting-edge products to its subscribers since 1983. The early days of Ancestry were spent as a publishing company specializing in publishing family histories and magazines. In 1996, the digitization and online publishing of records began and Ancestry.com became a leader in digital records available for genealogical purposes.
Begun in 2005 in Bnei Atarot, Israel, MyHeritage.com is a unique offering to the genealogy research website landscapes. In addition to the international headquarters in Israel, offices are located in Utah and California.
MyHeritage.com has a robust community of users and offers state-of-the art search options, advanced matching, DNA tests, and three subscription plans with prices that meet every budget (ranging from free-$120/annually). Subscription levels are tiered and features are enhanced with upgrades. MyHeritage.com offers a discount for first year subscribers as well as for those who subscribe for multiple years at one time.
The website is intuitive and features a powerful search engine with results loading quickly. Of the records available to research, MyHeritage.com boasts billions of records from which to gather information about your ancestors.
MyHeritage.com offers free family tree software to download as well as a free mobile app to work on your family history wherever the urge strikes. The mobile app is easy to use and our review team did not have problems with crashing or freezing during use.
While not exclusively for genealogy, the National Archives is a treasure trove of information which is used by genealogists nationwide. One can find many documents online, order microfiche or receive the records electronically via a PDF document. Some of the information is considered archival, meaning that it belongs in the public domain, while other information is classified (for national security) or can only be accessed by either the person named in the document or by next of kin.
Receiving information from the National Archives can be as simple as ordering online and paying for the copy fees or visiting one of their Federal Archive Centers. Researching onsite is free and the public is welcome to visit in normal business hours.
Not only can one access documents, it may be possible to order military medals and awards earned by one’s ancestor. (Different branches of the service vary on the cost or eligibility of reordering medals or awards.)
If there is one example by which one can judge the power of an individual – it might very well be Cyndislist.com. Created in 1996 by Cyndi Howell as a collection of resources for fellow genealogists in the Tacoma-Pierce Genealogical Society, within the first year, the site grew to having over 10,000 links. (At the time of this writing, August, 2014, there are over 330,000 links indexed on Cyndislist.com.)
This site is different than the others which we’ve reviewed in that it is a one-woman project – a collection of genealogical reference links categorized and linked on several pages. Each link is researched before finding a spot on Cyndislist.com and visitors to the site can recommend sites to be added.
According to Cyndi's statements on her site, she envisions it as a starting point for genealogical research, a link library, and an online card catalog of sorts for genealogy. (Kids, ask your parents about card catalogs.)
In 1996, a small group of individuals decided to combine their efforts to coordinate the largest all-volunteer genealogy project to date online. This endeavor was given the name of The USGenWeb Project. Currently one of the largest sites to gather free genealogical information online, The USGenWeb Project has grown and become a trusted starting place for many family historians.
Currently, there are estimated to be over 1,000,000 volunteers working on The USGenWebProject. The site is divided into different projects (interment records, county vital records, passenger lists, etc.) and visitors can access records or volunteer to work on gathering and transcribing hard copies of records as well.
Findmypast.com was created in 2001 but the history of the company that created Findmypast.com goes back to 1965. Decades of work and research are what users have access to on Findmypast.com. The end result of everything that has been done to form Findmypast.com is over 2 billion records that can be used to help you as you create or do more research about your family tree.