The Best Ancestry Sites to Understand Your Family History

older man

Are you curious to discover the roots of your ancestry? Wondering if you are distantly related to a king or a president? Using the best ancestry sites lets you hone in on your ancestors and gives you the best opportunity to find out all about your roots.

Who knows, if you're German maybe you're related to Charlemagne, Nietzsche, or Beethoven. The best ancestry sites can give you a glimpse into the past and a whole lot more.

Ancestry Sites: What Do They Do?

Are you looking for people that you can genetically call family? Are you interested in exploring your ancestors' roots dating back hundreds of years? If this sounds like you, then ancestry sites are perfect for your search.

These sites help you find these people through multiple means. Some send you a DNA kit to use. Others are full of medical, court, and historical documents from all around the world.

Together, these sites are a resource that bring multiple types of information into one place, so the search for your ancestors is just a few clicks away.

What Can You Expect from Ancestry Sites?

Typically, the best ancestry sites focus on finding your ancestors through different means. Most of them have more than one way to help you discover your heritage.

You can also expect a membership fee of some kind. Not all ancestry sites charge for their services, but keep in mind that some do.

Be sure to check out the website and its fine print. Often, the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of the site should give you most, if not all, of the answers you have.

Also, different DNA tests give you a variety of ancestry and ethnicity information. Some even match you to living relatives. Know which one you're taking and what results you'll get.

It's important to be patient for your results. Entering the information, searching through hundreds of records and documents, and even doing things like submitting DNA takes some time.

Don't expect the results you want the day you start looking for your ancestors. While it is a long journey, it's one definitely worth taking.

The Best Ancestry Sites

Below are eight of the best ancestry sites available online today. They all share the common goal of helping you reclaim your past.

However, they go about this in different ways. Some of them utilize DNA, while others specialize in things like GPS searches for graves or the use of vital historical documents.

Either way, each one offers something unique. And, when you put enough effort into it, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results you get.

1. FamilySearch.com

When combing through the best ancestry sites, one of the top things you need to decide is exactly what you are looking for. Indeed, some of these sites will search for general terms. While that may be good for some people, many others want a more in-depth experience.

For instance, you may know the year and place your great-grandparents were born, but that's all the information you have. On particular sites, this may not be enough information. Luckily, FamilySearch is not one of these sites.

Many search options present themselves to you when you log onto the site. Besides the typical birth and death records, you can search through things like marriages and even residency records.

Another exceptional tool it allows you to use is the family tree. Utilizing this enables you to add ancestors to a tree that slowly fills up as you find more and more ancestors. It's a great visual representation of all the information you're finding throughout your time on the site.

The best ancestry sites also have a large pool to search through. FamilySearch allows you to comb through a database of up to 2,000, so you know you have plenty to access if you choose to use the site.

With easy-to-use tools and a simple interface, FamilySearch is one of the best ancestry sites to use when you want to fill in your family tree.

2. Ancestry.com

Ancestry has been earned its stellar reputation as one of the best ancestry sites around. Offering an expansive collection of varying records, the site prides itself on giving you one of the best experiences when learning about your family and heritage.

The best ancestry sites make it easy to use the tools that they offer. Looking for ancestors hundreds of years back in time can be complicated. Creating tools that visually guide the user in the right direction is necessary if the site is to be successful.

Ancestry has a smart system in place when filling out your family tree. Every time you fill in an ancestor, the site scans its database to find any other connections. If it finds a connection, a small green leaf icon appears next to the name.

It's an excellent way to help the user fill out the family tree quickly if the information is readily available.

The site also has records that date back to the 13th century. That's a long time to keep family records, but Ancestry found a way to archive these and make them available to use.

There's also a way to look up scanned copies of historical documents as well. It lets you get closer to your ancestors in a variety of ways.

Overall, Ancestry is an excellent pick when looking for the best ancestry sites.

3. Footnote.com

Looking into historical documents is one of the best ways to find out all the ancestry information you're looking for. While other sites use these types of documents as an extra feature, Footnote dedicates its entire website to the use of military documentation as a means to search.

This website, also known as Fold3, is a division of Ancestry.com. Here you can search through military records by war and see the include the stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served in the military.

Tracing your heritage and family members using this international database opens up a resource that is often overlooked.

Though not every ancestor has served in the military, it still serves as a rich resource to tap into. It may even be the best place to start if you know precise details about your ancestor's military service.

Not only does using this method narrow down your family members, but you may also find family members that you didn't know served in the military.

These records can offer a lot for family trees. Unlike other sites, you're not guaranteed to find results. But, it's still worth your time to try.

4. The USGenWeb Project

Beginning in 1996, this project has grown exponentially since its inception.

When it first launched, not many people knew about it. That's mainly because it was created only for tracing family members in the state of Kentucky. However, it has grown over the years, and now you can use it to search in all 50 states.

The best ancestry sites offer a wide range of search services, and The USGenWeb Project delivers on this front. You can thumb through everything from newspapers to obituaries, maps, and military records.

Having all of these different types of resources really lets you get a large grasp of just how widespread your family could be. Newspapers may even lead you to find stories about your ancestors that you may never have found otherwise.

The site provides handy tips on how to use the site to maximum efficiency as well as how to conduct ancestry searches on your own. And all of this information is available to you at no cost.

The only downside is that there's no way to actually build a family tree on the site. You'll have to focus on doing this yourself. Although you may not be able to use the site to create one of these trees, having access to a free genealogy is a valuable tool.

The best ancestry sites supply you with a ton of information, and The USGenWeb Project does just that.

5. JewishGen

For those people who are looking for information about specific heritages, the search for their families and ancestors may be difficult.

However, there are sites out there that focus on one specific heritage over another. As the name implies, JewishGen focuses its attention on the Jewish community.

The first thing that jumps out about this site is that it's free to use. Some sites, like Ancestry, charge a fee to use their website to its fullest extent. It may be a deterrent for some people, as you don't want to get excited about your discoveries only to find that you've hit a paywall.

Operating with no payment required, JewishGen taps into one of history's most horrendous events. The Holocaust was an atrocity, and JewishGen understands the importance of it. They provide you with a Holocaust database that contains more than 2.75 million names.

Not only that, but it also gives you access to a burial registry that houses more than three million names.

With the addition of consensus and business records, it's hard to get any better than JewishGen. The best ancestry sites provide you with many options when it comes to searching for your long lost ancestors. JewishGen delivers just that.

6. National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives and Records Administration is helpful as a resource guide. It fills you in on the information that you wouldn't usually get from other sites.

If you're looking for websites about certain ethnicities or countries, this website will guide you to them. The best part about this? These guides link you to these websites directly.

Additionally, you have the opportunity to search the National Archives catalog. These archives are documents that are deemed necessary by the American government.

Whether the documents pertain to events like the Revolutionary War or the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, you can find them in the National Archives. Within these documents, you may even find clues and hints to your ancestors.

It's a wonderful resource that sheds light on some of history's most meaningful events.

7. BillionGraves.com

Although the name may be a bit distressing, you can rest assured that this website is an excellent resource if you're looking for information about your ancestors.

Simply put, BillionGraves is one of the most abundant resources when it comes to cemetery data. Through the use of GPS coordinates, you can find the burial site of nearly any ancestor by simply searching their name in the database.

But, that's not where the differences end when compared to other ancestry sites.

Typically, the best ancestry sites give you many different resources with which you can use to find information on your family members. While BillionGraves may not offer that versatility, it makes up for it in the form of community involvement.

Yes, you can become a part of growing the reach of this website.

First, you can send in pictures of things like gravestones. It gets uploaded into the database and soon becomes available for all to see.

After you take the photo, you enter the information on the stone into the database as well.

If that's not enough for you, you might enjoy the fact that BillionGraves partners with other websites like FamilySearch and MyHeritage. You can use some of their resources while on BillionGraves.

8. 23andMe.com

Some ancestry sites don't just stop with information you enter through a keyboard. Sure, you can find out a lot through this technique. However, some sites take an extra step and ask you to give them a sample of your DNA.

While some may feel uncomfortable with this prospect, others revel in the fact that they have a chance to trace their DNA to their ancestors and get an accurate reading of their bloodline.

23andMe allows you to submit DNA for a full analysis.

There are a few things you need to understand about the site that may affect your choice to use it, though. For instance, the database only sits at around one million members. While that may sound like a lot, it's not when compared to other ancestry sites.

Also, people tend to use the site to screen for genetic health reasons rather than tracing their ancestors' roots. It's still possible to do this, but keep in mind you may have better luck on another website.

But, it does excel at genetic health screenings. These screenings mean you can trace back and see which members of your family had specific diseases. In the present day, it could help you with your own health needs.

An excellent choice for health reasons, 23andMe gives you a great experience.

Choose the Site That's Best for You

You now have the knowledge to choose an ancestry site. Depending on what you're looking for and how deep you want to go should factor into your decision as to which one you pick.

If you are researching your German heritage, these sites will be able to help you.

Remember that, one day, you'll be an ancestor to someone from the future. And maybe they'll be using the same type of service to find out more about you.

Have you used an ancestry site? If not, which one sounds the most appealing to you? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured Image Provided by Unsplash