Amy Coffin at the We Tree Blog has come up with another great blog theme, 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, which presents bloggers (and others) with a weekly topic related to the abundant resources in the genealogy community including websites, applications, libraries, archives, genealogical societies and more. With so much of my family history based in England, I’ve decided to approach these 52 weeks with a British perspective.
This week’s focus is on paid online genealogy tools. In thinking about the abundance of genealogical sources available to the online researcher, I have to marvel at what I”ve been able to accomplish on the British side of my family tree from the comfort of my favorite armchair here in Northwest Pennsylvania. If I had to choose just one paid online tool, I’d have to say my subscription to FindMyPast.co.uk has been the most useful in locating UK records I couldn’t access any other way from this side of the pond.
My full subscription to FindMyPast costs just under $200 per year, and I pay half every six months, with a 10% discount if I don’t let the subscription lapse. There is also the option to purchase credits to use on specific database searches, but I’ve found an annual membership to be the most economical. Compared with Ancestry’s World membership, my other goto site, FindMyPast is about half the cost.
- Ancestry.com’s World membership is $299.40 per year, or if you’d like to do it for a month at a time, it’s $34.95.
- FindMyPast’s six month full suscription is 62.95 pounds sterling, or roughly $97 ($194 annually).
While I consider FindMyPast vital to my research, I don’t see it as a replacement for Ancestry.com. It’s more of a supplement. Two things it does have which can’t be found on Ancestry are:
- The 1911 UK census, which FindMyPast has indexed on both names and addresses.
- FindMyPast’s extensive military collections, spanning the dates 1656-1994.
I’ve had great luck using the Chelsea Pensioners database, where I finally found the answer to a longstanding brickwall that has been the stuff of legends in my Turner side of the family tree. I was able to view digitized copies of my great grandfather’s WWI service records, and have been able to view military service records for ancestors as far back as the 1840s. These two record sets alone make my FindMyPast subscription invaluable.
The most frustrating aspect of searching in FindMyPast, is the way in which results appear. Unlike Ancestry, which returns specific records, FindMyPast offers pages of records within which a specific name might appear. For example, if I’m searching for John Denchfield of Buckinghamshire, one of the results might be a range of digital images of pages from a Buckinghamshire parish register arranged alphabetically for Dea-Dex. More often than not, no John Denchfield turns up in those pages. I do wonder if I’m doing something wrong, or if there’s a way to make more efficient use of FindMyPast’s database, but in the meantime, I waste a lot of time scrolling through records which don’t contain the name I’m looking for.
Overall, I’m pleased with FindMyPast and consider it a valuable part of my British research repertoire. If you’re looking for ancestors in the United Kingdom, FindMyPast deserves a look. New collections are added frequently, and the site is well maintained.