Can I research my family history online?
I am often asked if family history can be researched completely online and my answer is always a big YES! There may be many reasons why someone who wishes to research their family history can’t go to various archives to look at original records; time, distance, money, family commitments are just a few. I am aware that there are some genealogy “experts” out there that say that it can’t be done and, that if it is, then an inferior family tree will be produced. RUBBISH I say that is definitely RUBBISH !! I have 40 years experience as a professional genealogical researcher, I have lectured, run workshops and taught the subject to thousands of people over the years. I started pre-internet days when the only way to undertake genealogy was by visiting archives and working through document after document, but all that changed with the invention of the internet. These days you would have to be very unfortunate indeed not to be able to find online a good proportion of the elements you need to create your family tree. Genealogy and the internet are a match made in heaven and using the internet to research your family history without leaving home is easy and very affordable.
So the answer to “Can I research my genealogy online?” is definitely a YES.
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Is it very expensive?
Like most things in life tracing your family tree on the internet can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. There are plenty of websites offering free genealogy information online and very useful they are too, but at some stage you are going to want to subscribe to either Ancestry and/or FindMyPast. Compared to lots of other hobbies/pastimes genealogy is really quite cheap. Golf, scrap-booking, gardening, holidays abroad and the gym all come with costs and some of those can be quite considerable.
Let’s have a look at the costs, because you have asked the question can you research your family tree online then I am assuming that you have a computer linked up to the internet so I will not add that as a cost. Therefore you biggest cost is going to be a subscription to one of the big genealogy websites. I hear people moaning about the cost of these subscriptions, but actually I think they are very reasonable for what you get. Of course if you subscribe then don’t use them it is a waste of money, but having researched pre-internet I can tell you that travelling to archives, accommodation and meals is a very expensive way to do your research.
Ancestry offers a number of subscription levels:- Essentials UK is £10.99 per month or £54.99 per six months, Premium UK is £13.99 per month or £69.99 per six months and Worldwide is £19.99 per month, £99.99 per six months. If you are living in the USA or other countries these costs simply convert into your currency. I really can’t recommend the Essentials subscription, you will soon grow out of the limited access you have to the databases. I suggest that you start with a six month subscription of the Premium subscription if your ancestors are probably UK based or the Worldwide 6 months subscription if you have people who wanted to see if the grass was greener overseas!
FindMyPast offers similar levels of subscriptions:- Starter UK is £8.95 per month or £72 per year, Plus UK is £12.95 per month and £120 per years and Pro is £15.95 per month and £156 per year. Like Ancestry’s Essentials level you will soon outgrow the Starter subscription. For a few extra pounds you will get so much more from the Plus subscription. The Pro subs gives you access to their worldwide records. They do offer pay as you go vouchers at £8.95 per 60 credits and £24.95 for 300 credits, but I can’t recommend these as it takes several credits to view each document and if you look at the wrong document then you have lost those credits completely.
Scottish genealogy can be more expensive as the website ScotlandsPeople is run completely as a Pay To View website. Credits cost 25 pence each, and each document you view cost a number of credits. An example is a page of census will cost 6 credits (£1.50) and a Will or Probate document will cost £2.50 each. The problem arises when the indexes which are free don’t give enough information for you to decide if this is your family or not, so you could pay out your money and then find that the document isn’t of any use.
Irish genealogy is slightly different with some census etc available online free of charge. Again both Ancestry and FindMyPast have some Irish material online. FindMyPast has quite a lot of Irish records as part of their Plus UK subscription and other records like the Easter uprising you will need to have a Pro Worldwide subscription. Ancestry has their Irish records as part of their Premium UK subscription.
So you can see that for 38 pence per day you can get access to the Ancestry Premium account and 33 pence per day you can subscribe to FindMyPast’s Plus UK. The prices are equally modest for the Worldwide subscriptions Ancestry 55 pence per day for Ancestry Worldwide and 44 pence for FindMyPast’s Pro worldwide subscription. if you decide to go for both then it is only 71 pence a day. All rather less than a cup of coffee per day !
A big plus, of course, is that both Ancestry and FindMyPast have a 14 day FREE offer whereby you can try their websites before you buy.
Both Ancestry and FindMyPast have a number of databases and digitised records that are exactly the same, but the majority of their data is different. Where your ancestors lived will be the big decider on which subscription you take out. To decide which website is the best for you I have written a sister post – Which website should I subscribe to Ancestry or Find My Past?
When you start you may need to buy a few birth, marriage and/or death certificates. Buy these direct from the General Register Office as that is the cheapest way to get them. Companies who offer to buy them on your behalf will put a large fee on top of the actual cost. A certificate will cost you £9.50 delivered by post. However don’t rush off and buy certificates until you have asked family if they have copies, you may be surprised what people hang onto when elderly relatives pass away and your great grandmothers marriage certificate might be in your aunt’s jewelry box or somewhere equally safe. Also be aware that if you subscribe to Ancestry or FindMyPast and they have digitised marriage parish registers for a parish where your ancestors married then that register after 1837 is exactly the same as one you will purchased. That can be a great saving. Also spend some time thinking if you could obtain the information you are looking for elsewhere, burial registers, wills, baptism registers or census to name a few sources.
The only other costs are a notebook, I like Moleskine Notebooks because they do last for years and you will want to refer back to your notes in the yearsto come. They are ideal items to ask Santa Claus for at Christmas ! If you haven’t come across them or wish to buy one CLICK HERE and you may also want to get a folder or two to keep any certificates you buy and printouts you make.
So the answer to “Can I research my genealogy online?” is definitely a YES. And the cost is probably not as much as you thought !