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7 Best Sites Like Ancestry.com to Research Your Family History

In this article, we take a look at 7 best sites like Ancestry.com to research your family history. If you would like to skip our detailed analysis of the genealogy industry, you can directly go to 3 Best Sites Like Ancestry.com to Research Your Family History.

The Genealogy Industry 

Genealogy is the study of families, concerning the account of a person’s descent from their ancestors. Genealogists use historical records and oral interviews to trace lineages, but people can also use these sources themselves through direct-to-consumer companies such as Ancestry.com. Furthermore, genetic genealogy includes the usage of DNA testing and profiling, in addition to traditional genealogical methods, to infer family ties and history. Genealogy companies provide services such as DNA testing and manage a large number of records related to family histories, including details regarding births, deaths, marriages, immigration, and more. According to a report by Polaris Market Research, the global genealogy products and services market was worth $3.5 billion in 2022. The industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.2% from 2023 to 2032 and reach a value of $10.13 billion by the end of the forecast period.

Ancestry.com and Alternatives

Ancestry.com is one of the world’s largest genealogy companies, providing billions of historical records and millions of DNA records to people who wish to research their family history. According to Similarweb data from April 23, 2024, the site had received 42.5 million visits in the past one month, with the average pages per visit being 26.50 and the average visit being 13 minutes and 53 seconds. This is why Ancestry.com ranks number one in the ‘Hobbies and Leisure; Ancestry and Genealogy’ category on Similarweb. However, Ancestry.com is only free for 14 days and offers memberships starting at $24.99 a month. On the other hand, the market offers several other alternatives that consumers can use to research their family history, which allows them to choose from different features. This is why we have compiled this list to present the choice of 7 best sites like Ancestry.com that you can use to research your family history.

The Emotional Side Effects 

While some people enjoy genealogy as a hobby or leisure activity, studies have also shown tangible emotional benefits of this field. A 2023 study by Lunt et al., published in the Journal of Genealogy and Family History, evaluated the relationship between university students’ enrollment in a family history course and their well-being. The study found that these students showed an increase in family identification, which led to an 8% improvement in self-esteem and a 20% reduction in anxiety. The study also found that while conducting genealogical research caused these positive psychological effects, a similar impact was not created by actions such as posting family memories or expanding one’s family tree.

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Another 2023 study published in Genealogy discovered the complexity of the emotions caused by genealogical research. For this study, researcher Susan M. Moore surveyed 775 adult hobbyist family historians in Australia. The results showed that nearly two-thirds of these individuals experienced distressing emotions due to their research. People reported feeling anger, sadness, and shock when discovering ancestors involved in tragic situations, either as the victims or the perpetrators.

Of the total participants, 14.8% mentioned that they often experienced unpleasant emotions such as sorrow or anger, whereas 47.6% reported that they sometimes experienced them. 37.5% of individuals mentioned that they had rarely or never experienced such feelings. Such emotions were experienced by 49% of men and 65% of women. In comparison, 59.7% of participants reported that they had often experienced strong, pleasant emotions such as joy or pride, whereas 36.6% mentioned that they sometimes experienced these emotions, and 3.6% reported rarely or never encountering these feelings. Hence, the study demarcates that knowledge of family history can be accompanied by a range of emotions, often conflicting.

The Emergence of Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG)

Also known as investigative genetic genealogy, this field makes up one of the latest applications of genealogical services. Law enforcement can identify both victims and suspects by conducting a DNA analysis of the samples found at a crime scene. This process is usually carried out using direct-to-consumer testing companies. It is different from forensic DNA profiling because the two techniques utilize different genome regions, number of markers, technologies, and databases. The emergence of this technique has made it easier to identify leads in several criminal cases, often cold ones.

A 2022 study by Tracey Leigh Dowdeswell found that by December 31, 2020, FGG had provided an investigative lead in 439 resolved cases. This number was accumulated using publicly available information, such as press releases, publications, and court records. The researcher also estimated that there could be other instances of FGG’s success that have not made their way into public records. The report also concluded that European ancestry was present for 79% and 48% of the identified suspects and victims, respectively. Dowdeswell also found that FGG was primarily utilized in low-income counties, and the average time for the technique to clear a case was 12.1 months.

The study also noted that when FGG first started becoming popular in US criminal investigations in 2018, there were no regulations on its usage. The first interim policy outlining the requirements pertaining to FGG by law enforcement went into effect in November 2019. The policy was outlined by the Department of Justice, designed to balance crime-solving with the protection of public data. In 2021, Maryland became the first state to pass a law regarding the use of consumer genetic data by law enforcement agencies. The law enforces elements such as requiring judicial authorization to initiate the use of FGG and consent from users in the genealogical databases being utilized.

Recent Usage of FGG

On January 8, 2024, the University of New Haven reported that alumni from their Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy program (FIGG) had solved two cold cases in Orange County, California. Using techniques learned during the program, two investigators managed to identify two victims who had been known as ‘John Does’ for more than four decades. The University began this online program in 2020, and more than three hundred students have earned their certification since then. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has also reported cases in 2023, where FGG is being utilized to resolve the crime. Currently, two of the most prominent DNA records-related services law enforcement has authorized access to are GEDMatch and FamilyTreeDNA.

California Bill SB 1403

Genealogy has also made its way into the lawmaking space. On April 18, 2024, Fox News reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee in California passed Bill SB 1403. If the bill moves on to become a law, it would result in the establishment of the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency. The Agency is meant to carry out the recommendations provided by the state’s task force on reparations for descendants of enslaved Americans. The bill also authorizes the creation of a genealogy office and an office of legal affairs. The latter would make it compulsory to offer proof of someone’s descent from an enslaved person, and the former would work on providing said proof. This is a revolutionary step that could offset similar actions in other regions, especially in some of the most racially diverse states in the US.

According to the bill, the word ‘descendent’ refers to "descendants of an African American chattel enslaved person in the United States" or "descendants of a free Black person living in the United States before the end of the 19th century." Chattel slavery is defined as one person having complete ownership of another. State Senator Steven Bradford is the bill’s author, and he claims that its purpose is to recognize California’s “grave injustices” towards African Americans and to create a more “equitable future.” In a nutshell, SB 1403 is another example of how genealogy can offer a plethora of benefits beyond being a fun activity.

Top Companies in the Genealogy Space

Whether it's law enforcement agencies, government offices, or hobbyists, all of their work in genealogy has been made possible by companies providing these services. While each agency is authorized to use only particular genealogy databases, two of the biggest companies in the market right now are 23andMe Holding Co. (NASDAQ:ME) and Qiagen N.V. (NYSE:QGEN).

23andMe Holding Co. (NASDAQ:ME) mainly works on DNA analysis, providing people with information regarding ancestry composition and genetic health risks, among other things. People can also learn how their DNA influences personal traits, such as facial features and taste. For $129, people can receive a saliva kit that collects their saliva to generate these genetic insights. People can learn which region their ancestors belonged to and at what time they lived. Through the service, they can build their family trees and connect with distant relatives. They can also discover random yet interesting traits, such as whether they have higher-than-average odds of hating the sound of chewing. 23andMe Holding Co. (NASDAQ:ME) has sold more than 12 million kits so far, contributing massively to their genetic data records.

Qiagen N.V. (NYSE:QGEN) owns GEDMatch, one of the genealogy databases that law enforcement agencies are allowed to utilize for FGG investigations. GEDMatch has 1.5 million members around the globe and more than 45 DNA tools to facilitate genealogy searches. Qiagen N.V. (NYSE:QGEN) also offers several FGG products of its own. On November 30, 2023, Qiagen N.V. (NYSE:QGEN) announced that DNA Labs International, a Florida-based laboratory, had solved two cold cases using the company’s technology. The laboratory used the ForenSeq Kintelligence System, along with the GEDMatch PRO database, to identify unknown remains and a suspect. DLI’s first successful use of this technology was in 2022 when it became the first accredited laboratory to use this service.

AI in Genealogy

Artificial intelligence is another one of genealogy’s latest developments, with genealogy companies such as MyHeritage making extensive use of it in their new offerings. On December 26, 2023, MyHeritage announced the launch of the AI Record Finder, a first-of-its-kind AI chat-based search engine for historical records. Without this feature, people had to comb through several search entries to find the one they were looking for. The Record Finder is an interactive chat service that can process the detailed information people add regarding the ancestors they’re searching for. The service also guides users by asking further relevant questions to help narrow their searches.

On the same day, the company also announced the release of its AI Biographer. The Biographer can utilize MyHeritage’s historical records to automatically compile Wikipedia-like pages for people’s ancestors, complete with a picture and all historical information. This is especially useful for individuals who like to maintain elaborate family trees. The company also offers an AI photo enhancer called Reimagine. Through this app, users can colorize and enhance old photos, animate ancestors based on their pictures, and determine the date of a photograph using characteristics such as hairstyles and fashion. Thus, it enables people to visualize their ancestors in a much better way.

Considering all these new developments in genealogy, we have compiled a list of the 7 best sites like Ancestry.com to research your family history so people can explore all their options. You can also take a look at some of the most diverse countries in Asia and the most homogeneous countries in the world, any of which might appear in your genealogy search.

7 Best Sites Like Ancestry.com to Research Your Family History
7 Best Sites Like Ancestry.com to Research Your Family History

7 Best Sites Like Ancestry.com to Research Your Family History

Our Methodology 

We employed a consensus approach to come up with the 7 best sites like Ancestry.com to research your family history. We consulted more than ten rankings online to aggregate the best alternatives to Ancestry.com. We then ranked our items based on the total site visits in the past month from Similarweb. Our list of the 7 best sites like Ancestry.com to research your family history is in ascending order of the total site visits as of April 23, 2024. We have added additional information from each respective website.

7 Best Sites Like Ancestry.com to Research Your Family History

7. Archives

Total Site Visits as of April 23, 2024: 855,800

Archives has a database of 11.8 billion photos, newspapers, and records. The website also has over 650 collections of records such as census, yearbooks, and military records. Some of the newest collections on the website include the 1921 Census of Canada and the 1950 US Federal Population Census. Archives began in 2009 and was acquired by Ancestry.com in 2012. After a seven-day free trial, Archives costs $9.99 a month. Archives is one of the best sites like Ancestry.com to research your family history.

6. FamilyTreeDNA

Total Site Visits as of April 23, 2024: 1.5 million

FamilyTreeDNA came into being in 2000 and was one of the first companies to offer genetic genealogy services. For $79, people can get an in-depth look into their origins through DNA testing. Other unique packages are available for detailed research into your maternal or paternal lineage. Maternal ancestry can be accessed by genetic men and women for $159, whereas paternal ancestry can only be accessed by genetic men for $119. Ranking sixth on our list, this is one of the best sites like Ancestry.com to research your family history.

5. WikiTree

Total Site Visits as of April 23, 2024: 3.2 million

WikiTree was founded in 2008 and is one of the best sites like Ancestry.com for family history research. The site has over one million registered members and ranks fifth on our list. People can research and build their own family trees while simultaneously contributing to a single worldwide tree that connects all profiles on the website, of people living or dead. The service is entirely free to use.

4. 23andMe

Total Site Visits as of April 23, 2024: 6.2 million

23andMe is one of the top genetic genealogy companies in the industry, offering several packages. For $129, people can do basic research into their ancestry and origins using their DNA. For $229, individuals get both the ancestry service and the health package, which informs them of genetic risks. There is also a premium membership beginning at $298 and renewing at $69 per year, which offers ongoing personalized reports of your health.

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Disclaimer: None. 7 Best Sites Like Ancestry.com to Research Your Family History is originally published on Insider Monkey.