Top five genealogy websites for beginners. Discover which is the best genealogy site for the UK


04 June 2024
Check out our top five genealogy websites and get started discovering your ancestors. Plus we have advice on which is the best genealogy site for the UK for your research

Whilst the variety of family history websites out there is a real bonus for anyone tracing their family tree, the number of options can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re new to the subject. So, where to start?​

Our pick of five top websites for beginners will give you a flavour of what’s available on the web and hopefully point you in the right direction for taking your research further.

What's the best genealogy site for the UK?

The ‘big four’ family history subscription websites - Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage and The Genealogist - offer access to billions of records (with pay as you go options). There is also FamilySearch - which also provides access to billions of records, and is free to use.

  • The records these genealogy sites provide include the basics  - those must-search family history records, such as birth, marriage and death records, and census record, through to more specialised data including occupational records, emigration records and parish registers.
  • Each of these four subscriptions sites offers a free of charge trial period. To use FamilySearch you simply need to register.
  • Check with your local library as sometimes Ancestry and Findmypast may be used for free at libraries and record offices.
  • Each of these sites is strong on different types of records, so take advantage of the trial period to decide is best for you, before signing up to a subscription.
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Top tips for finding the genealogy site that's best for you

The best genealogy site is the one that has the records you need. So spend a little time reflecting on what is it that you wish to find out. 

Then explore the record collections available on each of these websites before you subscribe.

These links below will help you keep track of the newest record arrivals on the major family history websites. Be sure to bookmark the links for visiting time and again. Information about which new records are available on a genealogy website is really valuable for helping you decide which website to subscribe to.

For Ancestry use the Card Catalogue (Choose ‘Search’ from the menu and scroll down to ‘Card Catalog’)

For FamilySearch – browse all collections. You need to log in (it’s free to create an account). From the menu choose: Search > Records > Find a collection > Browse all collections. (Select ‘Last updated’ to order the collections) 

For Findmypast – visit the What’s New? blog posts. You can use Search All Records Sets to see what Findmypast have (but you can’t sort it the date on which records have been added to the website)

For MyHeritage use the Collection Catalog (Choose Research > Collection Catalog. Then sort by ‘Last updated’)

For TheGenealogist – explore their chronological News blog. Plus use TheGenealogist’s Master Search to search across all TheGenealogist collections

Plus: Find ancestors for free

Yes it can sound too good to be true, but it is true! There are many excellent places to look for clues about your ancestors free online. Of these five phenomenal genealogy sites mentioned above, FamilySearch is free to use. It includes searchable indexes to billions of records from around the world. FamilySearch is a truly international website. 

To search for free birth, marriage and death indexes, use FreeBMD. New records being added by volunteers on an ongoing basis. The project covers records for England and Wales, and has the sister sites FreeCen (census data) and Free Reg (parish registers).

Learn about family history free

Explore the free research guides on The National Archives website. Investigate the A to Z listing which provides guides on all sorts of topics, from abbeys to World War 2. Plus don't miss the number '1' category at the start of the A to Z listing. Within category '1' you will find guides for researching particular eras, eg research in the 1800s, research in the 1700s etc.

Discover which archives are held where in the UK, with the National Archives Discovery which offers a gateway to 1,000 years of documents held in 2,500 archives around the UK. There are descriptions of more than 32 million records; nine million of which can be accessed online.

Categories include wills & probate, military, immigration & emigration, census, health and court records. You can search by archive name, keyword or category.

(Image copyright Michael Maggs)