There are several giant genealogy sites that can help you with your family history search anywhere in the world. But wide coverage sometimes means limited depth.
If you want to go really in depth anywhere in the British Isles, you can’t do better than FindMyPast.com (click here for a 14 day free trial).
The far-flung empire
Although the British Isles are themselves fairly small, the British Empire once spread to all parts of the globe, and so did her people.
Most people who live today in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other English-speaking countries can trace at least some of their roots directly back to the British Isles.
But beyond that, the British Empire once controlled or had interests in India, China, across half of Africa from Egypt to South Africa, in the Middle East, and even in Central and South America.
No matter where your ancestors came from, you may well have British ancestors lurking somewhere in your family tree.
And when it comes to digging up British ancestors, FindMyPast.com is your best place to start.
Every genealogy website has its major focus. While some try to cover the entire world, they still have far more records from certain areas than others. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, for example, both have records from around the world, but their main focus is on North America.
In much the same way, FindMyPast has a range of records, but their emphasis is on the British Isles. They have the largest, most complete collection of British genealogical records available anywhere today.
FindMyPast has the largest archive available of online British and Irish newspapers as well.
FindMyPast also has the leading online collection when it comes to genealogical records from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands.
So whether your ancestors were English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, or Scots-Irish, you simply won’t find a better source of records than FindMyPast.
What you’ll find
Here are just some of the things you can get access to on FindMyPast:
- More than two billion total records, with more added every week
- More than one billion records just from the British Isles
- Twice as many Irish records as any other website
- Records that go back more than a thousand years, as far back as AD 850
- Millions of newspaper pages, some of them going as far back as 1710, covering 21 different countries and all 50 states in the U.S., and of course with an emphasis on England, Scotland, and Wales
- U.S. military records stretching from the Revolutionary War to World War II, and U.S. Census records from 1790 to 1940
- British Army records from 1760 to 1915
- Over 40 million Parish records from across England and Wales dating back into the 1500s, including baptisms, marriages, and burials
- Passenger lists of ships leaving the UK and heading for the United States, Australia, and Canada
- Irish court records
- A growing collection of hard to find records, such as apprenticeship records, workhouse registers, and school admissions
And of course much, much more. More than a thousand records collections offered by FindMyPast are not available anywhere else.
The collections at FindMyPast are dynamic and constantly growing. They’ve added more than 30 million records just in the past year alone!
And it’s not just records on FindMyPast. You also gain access to exclusive educational guides and webinars developed by genealogy experts, and guidance to help you get past your brick walls.
Grow your family tree online
Like many genealogy sites today, FindMyPast.com provides you with the ability to build your family tree online. This feature is free, and you can still access and build your family tree, even if you do not have an active subscription.
Once you begin working on your tree, FindMyPast will automatically search through some of its collections and add hints to your tree. By following these hints, you may discover records that you never even imagined existed.
But there is a word of warning: don’t rely on every hint to be helpful. In many cases, they are based just on a name match. Be sure to examine every hint carefully and make sure it fits in with everything else you know before you accept it.
FindMyPast also lets you upload a GEDCOM file downloaded from another website or created by your genealogy software, saving you hours of re-entering the information. But again, there is a caution: FindMyPast’s hint system will not check your uploaded family tree for hints. It only searches on names that you have added or modified online.
FindMyPast offers a variety of ways to get support online.
The site has a very active Facebook community, including fun historical tidbits and announcements of new collections or free access to specific collections. You can find them on Twitter as well at @FindMyPastUS.
There is also a FindMyPast blog with a variety of posts, including highlights of collections, research tips, site tips, and more.
The site’s YouTube account has more than 100 videos available, ranging from in-depth instructional videos to lighthearted historical tidbits.
Unfortunately, the site does not have a user forum yet, making it harder to connect with or get feedback from other users. But you can access help and advice from FindMyPast experts through their website.
One of FindMyPast’s commitments to improving their site and your family history search is developing strategic partnerships with a range of organizations and experts.
Some of FindMyPast’s partners include:
- FamilySearch, allowing FindMyPast to borrow from their extensive records collections
- The British Library, including a major digitization effort to make more of the Library’s collection available and searchable online
- New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
- New England Historic Genealogical Society, including their impressive Massachusetts family history collections
- The Society of Genealogists
- The (UK) National Archives, which house more than 1,000 years of historic records
- Navy & Military Press, including extensive records from World War I and World War II
FindMyPast.com is not a free site, but that’s nothing surprising. Most of the best genealogical websites come with a price tag.
FindMyPast has several subscription options to cover whatever your needs may be. For starters, there are two different levels of subscription.
- The Essential Package gives you access to a huge chunk of the records collections, and is a cost effective starting point for any family historian
- The Ultimate Package includes many additional records collections and expert educational resources, and is perfect for dedicated genealogists who want to dig even deeper into the past
Both packages are available in a monthly subscription, or you can save big by signing up for an annual subscription.
But why pay every month if you only use the site once in a while? As a special feature not found on most sites, you have the option of buying credits. Redeem credits to access only the specific individual records that you need. This pay as you go system can save money for occasional users.
Not sure if FindMyPast is right for you? They also have a 14-day free trial so you can check out the site and see what it has to offer. You do need to provide your credit card information up front, though, so be sure to cancel your subscription before the end of the free trial if you decide not to continue.
FindMyPast.com has a lot of great things going for it, but like any site it does have some limitations.
What we like
- Largest collection of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish records available anywhere
- Millions of records not available anywhere else
- Extensive newspaper collections covering 21 countries
- Build your family tree online, or upload your existing tree
- Strategic partnerships with other genealogical giants
- Best source of records for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Pacific Islands
- Good U.S. coverage as well
What we don’t like
- Weaker U.S. collection than Ancestry and FamilySearch
- Uploaded family trees don’t benefit from FindMyPast’s hint system until you start expanding them
- Some hints can be misleading if not carefully examined
- For some records, only transcriptions are available, not scanned images
- No integration of genealogical DNA yet
- No user forums
The British Isles at their nest
Is FindMyPast.com the right website for you? That depends on what you want.
Like any genealogy website, FindMyPast does have some areas that could use improvement. The good news is, they’re constantly working to expand their collections and improve their services.
If your primary focus is on the United States, FindMyPast has a lot to offer, but there are other sites with more extensive records.
But if you are looking to do in-depth genealogical research in the British Isles, you won’t find a better or more complete site than FindMyPast.
Check out their free trial today and see what FindMyPast.com has in store for you.