FindMyPast.co.uk – A Review
FindMyPast.co.uk is it good value? What do they offer? Are there plenty of records to construct a family tree? Should you subscribe? All good and valid questions to ask before committing your genealogy pounds or dollars to a subscription.
I thought it might be useful if I started a series of reviews for the major websites that are used by genealogists. Especially when you are beginning your family history journey it can be confusing as to which one will suit you best. None of them are cheap, but I always think that if you use them regularly, take time to learn the depth of the material on offer and store your genealogy on them then they represent good value for money. Compared to say a subscription to a golf club and kitting yourself out with clubs, trolley, shoes and all the other golfing paraphernalia genealogy is quite affordable!
Find My Past started life as a company called Title Research in 1965 and it was this company that decided in 2001 that they would computerise the General Registrar Office (GRO) indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths. This project was called 1837online and became the online name of the website. The venture was successful and showed that it was a viable business to place online genealogical data. Various census were digitised and indexed and added to the website, 1837online became FindMyPast and more records were added over a number of years. And the rest, as they say, is history. FindMyPast is one of the two major purveyors of family history data digitised, indexed and placed online.
Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this post.
So what does FindMyPast offer? For a start if you are considering taking out a subscription I would suggest that you sign up for a 14 day free trial, chose a time when you know you are going to have plenty of time to explore all the various aspects of the website. Be aware that you will be asked for your credit card details and once the 14 days is up your card will be charged with a one month or a 12 month subscription. I would suggest if you aren’t going to continue using the site that you email cancelling a couple of days prior to the fourteen days. You can also use the site on a Pay as You Go basis, but this can end up being rather expensive and it pays to really read the terms and conditions as you are paying for every document you look at whether it has what you were looking for or not.
Records On Offer
Find My Past have the following records :-
GRO Indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths.
This is just the indexes, to obtain further information you will have to purchase certificates, which cost £9.50 if you buy them online from the GRO which is the cheapest way to get them. There are other websites such as FreeBMD that offer these indexes at no charge.
English, Scottish and Welsh census.
FindMyPast has these from the start in 1841 to the most recent available census 1911. They also have a few earlier census for places where these have survived such as Marylebone, London 1821 & 1831, Corfe Castle 1790 and Dartford, Kent 1801. It is very rare for pre 1841 census to survive.
This is a very important set of records for tracing more recent ancestors. Collected so that the government could issue ration books and direct individuals into the services or work. Those who are entered into the register and whose date of birth is less than 100 years ago are blacked out because of privacy. However if a death has been confirmed then the name is revealed. You can contact FindMyPast and send them evidence of death and if it satisfies the criteria laid down by The National Archives the information will be released. When the register was notified that a woman had married then her marriage name was added and also there may be a note to say if an individual was in the ARP or similar service. It was very much a working document for quite some years after war ended.
Parish registers for a variety of counties. This collection is being added to continuously, be aware that some of the records which come under this heading have been sourced from Family History Societies and are transcripts. Transcripts are open to mistakes and misinterpretation so should always be checked with the original. However a large percentage of the collection is of digitised images of the original registers and then indexed which allows you to search by name or to browse year by year. Once a likely indexed entry is found you can view the original and confirm – or not – if this is your ancestor. There is a lot of be gained by browsing through a register page by page as you can often pick up other family information which wouldn’t come to your attention if you simply go by the indexing. Being able to browse easily is a bonus worth having.
Travel & Migration Records.
This collection includes shipping lists, passport applications, naturalisation papers and records of those who were sent to the colonies as punishment. Basically if the documents referenced moving from one country to another you will find it under this heading. This is an area of genealogy that sometimes researchers ignore, but it is well worth looking at.
These records covering the army, navy and air force from the Boer War to WW2 (although much of the material from WW2 is still under the care of the military and not easily available for public inspection). You will find medal rolls and honours lists plus some data regarding earlier conflicts such as the Battle of Waterloo, this data won’t be as extensive as WW1, but is still worth searching. Remember that WW1 army records covering all ranks suffered from incendiary bomb damage during WW2, but a large proportion did survive and these records including pension records are a marvelous source of family information.
FindMyPast has the contract from the British Library to digitise and index their newspaper collection. This is a huge undertaking, but a worth while project from a genealogists point of view. Often a newspaper article of say a coroners court or a wedding will be the only source of certain information. This is data not to be ignored. New titles and additions to existing papers are being added to on a weekly basis.
Not a 100% coverage apart from the years 2002 – 2014, I suspect more will be added as they become available. In earlier electoral rolls there wasn’t an option to not have your name and address publicly recorded so these rolls are almost an adult mini census. Do make yourself familiar on when women got the vote and when the various categories of men were given the vote. as you will need this information to inform your research.
A variety of records giving details of what the prisoner was accused of, the verdict and sentence. The records include returns for England and Wales, Newgate Prison Calendar, Criminal Lunatic Asylum Records, Judges Reports, Habitual Criminal Register and a number of other records. Transcripts of court cases held at the Old Bailey are available online so using the records in FindMyPast may lead you onto other websites.
School & University Records.
Seven million records of the National School Admission Books are available for the period 1870 – 1914, Army School records and University records are also available plus a smattering of records regarding education.
Wills and Probate.
A good run of Probate Indexes that is added to regularly, mainly from the British Record Society. Also Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations, Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Administrations, Prerogative Court of Canterbury probate indexes, and Wills in the York Registry. Bank of England Wills, British India office Wills and various county wills and probate collections. Lots to look at here. Remember that just because your ancestor wasn’t wealthy doesn’t mean they didn’t leave a will. Also the wills of widows and spinsters can be a real treasure trove as they often mention distant relations and can help link up families.
There is also a mixture of other records such as directories, Guild & Trade, Colonial Service etc. These collection aren’t country wide, but can be invaluable if you are lucky enough for your ancestor to appear in them.
It should be noted that new records are added every week so this list is by no means complete.
FindMyPast offers the opportunity to enter online your family history. You are in charge of entering the data and FindMyPast will offer helpful (or not so helpful!) hints of possible matches. You can place your tree online without buying a subscription. If you have compiled a tree online elsewhere on the internet or on a computer if you can save it as a GEDCOM file then you can upload it and carry on adding new material. This is a great way to make contact with other undertaking the same research.
FindMyPast runs a blog which is worth following to keep up with the new rekeases of records (of course you could just check in with MadAboutGenealogy as I publish a weekly round up of new releases from all sources – a great time saver!)
Educational Videos and Guides
A selection of videos are available for watching online they range from background history to educational lessons. New content is added regularly. There are also a number of guides regarding the various records.
Free To View Records
Did you know that some records on FindMyPast are free to view even if you don’t have a subscription ? The 1881 census for England and Wales, Irish Catholic Registers, Oxfordshire & Devon Wills Index, USA 1900 census and de Ruvigny’s Roll of Hounor 1914 – 1918 are all free to view. If you would like to access these free records simply CLICK HERE NOW
Searching the records is easy – simply type in a name and if you wish a place and click search. The more difficult bit is when you have to trawl through all the entries returned to find out which, if any, is your ancestor. To make things clearer you can use filters to focus on a certain set of records – for example census- and then using the Edit Search facility you can narrow down the search. Once you have done this a few times it becomes almost second nature and searching becomes less overwhelming. A word of advice, don’t narrow the search down too much as you might miss out on some records.
A general search will trawl through all the various datasets so you don’t have to go through them one by one. However if you just want to focus on say military records this is easy enough to do using the filters.
Something that I find quite a few researchers seem to be unaware of is that if you click on the Search button at the top a drop down box appears, you can then click on a record collection or on the 1939 Register. However what seems to miss peoples eye is that at the end of the list is A – Z of Record Sets. You can narrow your search by country and then further by county if you wish, but I do strongly suggest that you take the time to work you way through the listings for the United Kingdom and become familiar with the 39 pages of listing. There are approximately 20 record collection per page making 780 record collections full of names, places and other details. All those people have to belong on someones family tree and I suspect lots of them would find their way onto yours! The record collections vary from very large data-sets such as the census to smaller ones such as Withington Workhouse Cemetery registers.
FindMyPast has improved hugely from what it was a few years ago, then their search facility was clumsy and difficult to use – or at least I thought it was. If you had a subscription say 5 years ago and let it lapse I would suggest you treat yourself to another look using the 14 day free access offer.
Use your free access to have a really good look around the site especially the A – Z Record sets as mentioned above. I have a subscription to FindMyPast and have done for a number of years, even when I found the search facility frustrating there was enough there to keep me paying and using it. As I have said before compared to many other hobbies genealogy is quite affordable, I use my subscriptions almost daily so I feel I get my monies worth.
FindMyPast gets a thumbs up from MadAboutGenealogy and whilst I freely admit that I am an affiliate (this means I get a small payment if anyone clicks through from one of the links on my website) I am not paid to write this review by FindMyPast, they have never tried to tell me what to say about their website and I wouldn’t comply with such demands!
If you want to take advantage of the 14 DAY FREE OFFER CLICK HERE NOW I feel sure there will be enough to hold your attention for that time period and more. I can recommend FindMyPast to all my readers as I am sure they will have many hours of happy ancestor hunting using it !
Do keep an eye on MadAboutGenealogy as FindMyPast allows me to offer discounts at times through out the year. If you have subscribed to my mailing list I will shoot out an email as soon as I am told of a discount offer coming up. However if you don’t want to wait, just click on this link and start your 14 day free trial.
Attribution – WW1 images By User:Hohum – Trenches on the Western FrontGerman Albatros D.III biplane fighters of Jasta 11 at Douai, FranceVickers machine gun crew with gas masksBritish Mark V tanksBritish battleship HMS Irresistible, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30191802. Old Bailey By Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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