Wednesday, October 7, 2020

My Top 10 Fee-Based Genealogy Sites

We all have genealogy sites that are our go-to places when doing any of our research. It has been a long time since I've listed mine so I figured I'd take a stab at it today. There will be two separate posts. The first, that of my top ten fee-based sites, and the second, to be published later, will be the list of my top free genealogy sites that I use often.

As with any top ten list there will be disagreements as to the order or why a site is included or missing. These are my top ten sites that I turn to regularly in my research. Your favourite site might not have made the cut due to various factors such as it was number 11 (or 12 or 13...) or I haven't had a subscription to it in the past year. A two sites that I make use of periodically that didn't make the top ten cut for me are Fold31 and MyHeritage3.Yes, they are useful but not vitally so over this past year.

Counting down from number ten...

10. The New York Times TimesMachine

In my research of a branch of my extended family that originally settled in New York City in the late 1800s the ability to read the death notices and even a few marriage announcements has answered a quite of few questions when trying to locate the next generation. As long as I've had the death date from a death index or registration more often than not I've been able to find a notice in The New York Times fairly quickly.

9. American Ancestors by New England Historic Genealogical Society

I don't have a current subscription but when they have had their free access periods their databases have shed light on a number of my early European settlers in the United States. Even their free databases have been useful to point me to documents I need to find and read at a later time.

8. Genealogy Quebec2

If you have ancestors that resided in Quebec then this site needs to be in your genealogy toolkit. They are constantly adding new images from various parishes in Quebec that you probably won't find any where else. They are also the home of the Drouin Collection Records. Yes, the Drouin Collection is available on other sites but Genealogy Quebec I consider the master source and all others will be behind the times when it comes to new additions. The site also has The LAFRANCE collection with early Quebec parish records starting from 1621. There is also a large obituary collection and a notarized documents collection. If that's not enough they have a collection of marriage and deaths records recorded in Quebec between 1926 and 1997 collected by the provincial health services.

7. The National Archives at Kew, England

The National Archives (TNA) in England (not to be confused with the other national archives around the world) has both free and fee based access to records. With the restrictions in place due to COVID-19 The National Archives has opened up their digital record downloads for free when normally some of these records could only be retrieved for free at their site or by paying a nominal fee. That is why they are in this list and not in my top ten free list. That said, this site is an important one for my British Isles and early Canadian research. Why Canadian? Prior to Confederation, many of the records headed back to England for government use and storage and thus ended in TNA. If you have come across WO or AO record mentions in your Loyalist research, those are collections originally held by The National Archives. Some of those collections are also held by Library and Archives Canada but it is always good to check the TNA site too.

6. General Register Office of England and Wales

We are all probably familiar with the various England and Wales birth, marriage, and death (BMD) indexes available on many genealogy sites. However, in order to make sure you have the right person you really need to order the certificate and, for England and Wales, this is the place to do it. It isn't inexpensive, £11 for a BMD certificate sent by post, but they do offer £7 for a PDF of a birth (1837-1919) or death certificate (1837-1957) sent by e-mail. One new feature is when you search the birth index on the GRO site the mother's maiden surname is now provided in the results. This can save you money or even provide a clue that helps you in your research without paying a penny.

5. GenealogyBank

This newspaper site is invaluable if you have branches of your tree that lived in the United States of America. This site has digitized newspapers that can't be found on other sites. In addition to digitized newspapers, some going back to the early 1700s, the site has a searchable copy of the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), an obituary collection from modern newspapers, some digitized books, and census records. All searchable by name, keywords, date ranges, and location (where applicable).

4. Newspapers.com1 Publisher Extra subscription

Edging out GenealogyBank for newspaper collections is with the additional Publisher Extra add-on. Much like GenealogyBank, the primary focus is on US newspapers but with the addition of the Publisher Extra add-on one has access to a number of Canadian newspapers too. The Canadian newspapers are heavy on the western side of Canada especially British Columbia but any indexed and searchable Canadian newspaper collection is a good thing in my books. also has newspapers from Australia, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Panama, Scotland, and Wales in their collection. 

3. ScotlandsPeople

If you have any Scottish roots this is the one site you need to visit to locate the images of birth, marriage, and death statutory (civil) registrations, census returns, and parish registers that can't be found elsewhere online from home. Many sites will have the indexes of those records but not the images. Unlike many other fee-based genealogy sites that are subscription based ScotlandsPeople is credit based. For £7.50 you get a 30 credit voucher. The price for viewing and downloading, if you so chose to do so, is 6 credits for statutory BMD registrations, census returns, and church registers. Other records can be had for between 2 credits and 40 credits, depending on the collection.

2. Findmypast

Findmypast continues to be one of my primary research sites especially for the UK branches of my family. It isn't just because of their wonderful census, parish collections, immigration, and military collections that covers the British Isles and select parts of the world but also for their newspaper collections. With Findmypast I have access to English, Irish, and US newspapers from various other sites. There are also a number of Canadian newspapers buried in their collection.

1. Ancestry1

There is probably no surprise that Ancestry is at the top of my list of fee-based genealogy sites. Combined with their record collections and DNA testing they have been my go-to site for many years. My primary cousin-bait tree is hosted on that site and I make use of the good...and not so good...user created trees to provide me with clues as to where to possibly look next for records in my research when I hit a stumbling block.


These are my top ten fee-based sites and they probably differ from yours. I'd be interested in hearing from you as to your favourites (and why) that I didn't include.

Stay tuned in the coming week or so for a list of my favourite free genealogy sites.

Full disclosure

1. As a member of the Ancestry Canada Advisory Board this year I have been provided a free subscription to Ancestry, with Publisher Extra, and Fold3. However, prior to this year I either held my own subscriptions or made use of those sites via other venues such as at my local Family History Center or a genealogy conference.

2. I was provided with a one year subscription to Genealogy Quebec last year. The subscription has since lapsed but my to-do list for that site is growing for the day when I can access those records at my local library.

3. In July this year I won a subscription to MyHeritage when I attended a Facebook presentation hosted by MyHeritage. I had a subscription in previous years but had let it lapse.

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