Saturday, October 10, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Top 5 or 10 Fee-based Genealogy Sites

It's Saturday night, so it must be time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver!  Tonight he's gone in a direction I don't think I've seen before.

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Ken McKinlay posted My Top 10 Fee-based Genealogy Sites this past week, so I've made it the challenge this week (thanks to Linda Stufflebean for the suggestion!).

(2) List your Top 5 or 10 top fee-based genealogy sites and a short reason for listing them.

(3) Share your list on your own blog, in a comment on this post, or on Facebook.  Please leave a link to your list wherever it is.

Ah, so this is a third-hand challenge!  Ken McKinlay wrote it, Linda Stufflebean saw and suggested it, and now Randy has posted it for the rest of us.  It's a good thing we're all friends in genealogy.

This is an interesting question for me, because I don't actually pay for many sites.  But here we go.  I'm going to stick to a Top 5, and I will point out that this list is skewed toward American research.

1.  Yup,  It has to be.  It's the 500-pound gorilla of the genealogy world.  And for fee-based sites, I believe it does have the most records of anyone.

2.  FindMyPast, I think.  I still don't like the fact that it dumped the really good search forms that it used to have and dumbed everything down for the American market, but it's a great collection of records, including many not available on other sites, such as the British parish records.  This is the one subscription site I pony up for every year (in fact, they just charged me my renewal recently).

3.  It's a tough call which should be #3, this or, but I went with for two reasons:  its strength in mid-20th-century newspapers and the fact that you get a discount if you bundle it with, which owns it.  I was known as the "newspaper queen" in the San Francisco Bay area because I taught so many classes on using newspapers for genealogy, and I still think they're goldmines for research.  For a lot of people who are still working on tracing their families back to the early 20th century, the mid-20th-century ones can be critical in bridging the gap backward from what relatives still remember.

4.  I find that NewspaperArchive has a broader collection than, but its strength is in older periods.  That won't help you so much if you haven't gotten your family lines back to the 19th century.  So I made it #4.

5., I guess?  After my top four, I really had trouble deciding what would be the next most useful site.  I decided on Fold3 because that's where Ancestry shifted a lot of its military records and where the new ones in that category have been added, plus it has a lot of city directories and some newspapers.  In addition, as with, if you subscribe to Ancestry also, you can get a discount.


  1. If you look for Civil War and Rev. War records, you can access many of the same images (not all, you need to check) with NARA Record Group Explorer. Choose the Veteran's Affairs category and then search for your person. All the Rev War files I wanted came up. Some, but not all, of the Civil War files. I think those are still being added, but they are the same image collection. All free!

    1. Thank you, Linda! And more NARA military records will become freely available, such as the War of 1812 pensions. It's good to have an alternative to a paid site, just not always possible.

  2. I didn't think about ranking my choices, but perhaps I had. As for newspaper websites, it really depends on what you need and which site has those papers. For doing client work, one needs them all. I just don't like Genealogy Bank's attitude towards the use of their images.

    1. I agree that the best newspaper site is the one that has the newspaper you need, but the multipaper sites are good starting points. I'm also not crazy about some things with GenealogyBank, such as the strong representation of current papers when the marketing only talks about historical papers and the large part of the site dedicated to public domain government documents. It always seems very misleading to me.


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