Best UK Family History Websites

The Internet has revolutionised the way people discover their family history, thanks to the availability of commercial family history websites that have digitised millions of historic records from around the world. With so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to decide which is the best family history website for you. In this article, we will compare four of the biggest English and Welsh family history websites – Ancestry, Findmypast, MyHeritage, and TheGenealogist – to help you make an informed decision.


Ancestry is the market leader and has been around the longest. It offers a wide range of records, including census records, birth, marriage, and death indexes, electoral registers, military records, and passenger lists. Ancestry also has a vast collection of overseas records that you can link to your ancestors with an international subscription. It has an excellent family tree builder that connects you with other researchers and offers hints for relevant records on the site.

– Excellent family tree builder with connections to other researchers
– Exclusive relationships with specific archives and local authorities in areas like London, Lancashire, and Surrey
– Wide range of records, including overseas records

– Additional charges for overseas records and some military records
– Can be overwhelming for beginners
– Higher price compared to other websites


Findmypast is marketed as the best family history website for British research. It offers similar records to Ancestry, including census records, birth, marriage, and death records, and First World War records. One of its biggest advantages is its relationship with the British Newspaper Archive, which provides access to millions of pages of newspapers. Findmypast also has exclusive relationships with several archives, making it the go-to site for places like Surrey, East and North Yorkshire, and Staffordshire.

– Partnership with the British Newspaper Archive for access to newspapers
– Exclusive relationships with specific archives in certain areas
– Exclusive coverage of the 1921 census for England and Wales

– Family tree builder is not as popular as Ancestry’s
– Limited number of subscribers who keep their tree on the site
– Pricing can be more expensive compared to other websites


TheGenealogist is an independently owned British company that offers census records, GRO indexes, parish registers, and nonconformist registers. It has some exclusive datasets, including tithe maps and the 1910 Lloyd George Domesday Survey. One of its standout features is the map search (Map Explorer), which adds pins on historic OS maps to show records. TheGenealogist is a good option for those researching their house history or street and has some exclusive military records and a collection of First World War newspapers.

– Excellent search facility with good flexibility
– Exclusive collections like tithe maps and Lloyd George Domesday Survey
– Map search feature for house and street research

– Holds fewer records compared to other websites
– Some collections do not include images of the original records


MyHeritage is an Israeli-owned family history website that has recently expanded its UK records collection. It offers the 1939 Register and Scottish census records up to 1901. MyHeritage has a unique Smart Matches technology that compares your tree to others and allows you to benefit from the research of others. It also offers an ‘Instant Discoveries’ feature that adds branches to your tree at the click of a button. However, MyHeritage has a confusing pricing structure, and its UK material is limited compared to other websites.

– Smart Matches technology for connecting with other researchers
– Good international record collection, including old newspapers and immigration records
– ‘Instant Discoveries’ feature for quick tree building

– Confusing pricing structure
– Limited UK material compared to other websites
– No notable exclusive UK collections

How to Choose the Best Family History Website for You

Choosing the best family history website for you depends on several factors. Here are some tips to help you decide:

  1. Don’t rush: Start with free genealogy websites and visit your local library or archives that offer free access to Ancestry or Findmypast.
  2. Go further afield: Visit national archives and libraries that allow free access to family history websites on-site.
  3. Take advantage of ‘try before you buy’: All four major websites offer 14-day free trial memberships, so you can test them out before committing.
  4. See whether it covers your region: Check which website covers the areas you’re interested in, as each website has agreements with different archives.
  5. Check the collections: Look for unique collections that may be of interest to you, such as tithe maps, old newspapers, or military records.
  6. Give it a test drive: Test the search mechanism and tree-building capability to see which website suits you best.
  7. Don’t limit yourself: Consider trying different websites for a year to get access to different records and collections.
  8. Does it offer a family tree builder? Consider the features, accessibility, and privacy options of the family tree builder.
  9. Keep your options open: You can export your tree and use multiple websites if needed.
  10. Looking for Scottish ancestors? Consider using ScotlandsPeople, the pay-as-you-go Scottish government family history website, in addition to other websites.

Remember to take your time, explore different websites, and choose the one that best suits your research needs.

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