Archives.com Review

Executive summary

Archives.com was developed to provide affordable access to a growing collection of family history records, and the tools to make the information useful.

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Archives.com Highlights

  • Affordable platform
  • Great for beginners
  • Clean, simple interface

Pros

  • More than 4 billion records
  • U.S. and European focus
  • More than 300 data collections
  • Backed by Ancestry.com

Cons

  • Credit card required for free trial
  • Experienced genealogists can outgrow it
  • Limited immigration records

Resources/Database Quality and Quantity

Any worry that a lower-cost genealogy web site will be short on quality information is quickly dispelled when viewing the impressive list of collections at Archives.com. Archives has 322 collections with more than 4.3 billion searchable records. The site is largely U.S. focused, but it has a respectable amount of European records. U.S. genealogists, especially those of European lineage, will find this collection provides a great start for a family history quest. Archives has the basics you should expect in a paid site: U.S. Census from 1790 to 1940, World War I draft cards, obituaries, World War II U.S. Army enlistments, state censuses, vital records and more. Access to the 1940 U.S. Census is free. It offers more than 225 million historic news pages from sister site Newspapers.com. Another 1 million news pages come from the National Digital Newspaper Program. Great hints can be drawn from more than 2 million public member family trees at Ancestry.com.

Archives has more than 20,000 family and local history books, some of which are exclusive to the site. Military records include casualty records for the Vietnam War, Korean War and Operation Iraqi Freedom; World War II prisoner of war rolls and nearly 13 million WWI draft cards. European collections include the England and Wales Birth Index, England and Wales Death Index, Scotland Census, Wales Census, Isle of Man Census, Germans to America passenger data, England Census, Griffiths Valuation (Ireland), Irish to America passenger data, and more.

Search Results

We used former U.S. President Harry S. Truman as a test search. The system returned 169 possible U.S. Census matches. The first three results were the accurate records for the 1940, 1930 and 1900 censuses. The search found no results for 1910 and 1920, even when given the hint of Truman’s home state of Missouri. The system returned more than 1.6 million potential news clippings, and the accurate Social Security Death Index (SSDI) listing for the 33rd president. We also ran test searches on a number of personal relatives and found some pleasant surprises, including news clippings from the 1950s that had never been unearthed before. Like any online research tool, it requires some experimentation to cover all the bases. The Archives search provided very good returns, both in terms of accuracy and volume.

Interface & Navigation (Ease of Use)

The site is very approachable, with a clean graphic interface, simple search boxes and easy navigation. The home page features a large, simple search dialog box that allows users to get started with just a surname. The search page likewise has a simple dialog box to query for birth, death, marriage, divorce and other records. If you want to browse, all 322 data collections are listed on the collections page. It would be very difficult to get lost on this site.

Features and Extras

Archives.com has an elegant, easy-to-use family tree builder. You can start by entering what you know, or import a standardized GEDCOM file from another web site or genealogy software program. It is simple to add records from search results to the family tree. The system provides an easy intermediate step to review information before importing it. You can overwrite what’s in your tree or append information as alternate data. Adding photos to individuals is as simple as dragging them onto the tree from your computer. The site offers “hints” by showing a small red tree icon near a person’s name in the family tree. You can expand your tree by searching the Archives collections, or by connecting your account with Facebook.

The Archives site allows you to search and order vital records such as birth and death certificates. The cost varies, but expect to pay around $50 for a vital record; more for a certified copy. One of the most interesting features on the site is the surname history tool, which shows the concentration of a family name across the United States. It gives the meaning of the family name, and shows a coat of arms if one is on record. It even provides an average lifespan for family members and compares it to the national average. The site has a free genealogy section, with a wealth of information on historical events such as World War II and the sinking of the Titanic; plus how-to articles on a variety of family history topics. The “presidential candidates” section, however, was woefully out of date, making reference to the “upcoming” 2012 election. Archives’ Twitter feed also hasn’t been updated since 2014.

Pricing

Annual subscription - $79.95 USD

Cost and Subscription Options

The cost options at Archives are as simple as its site design. The price is $79.95 USD per year (plus tax), payable up front. There is a two-week free trial, but users must register and provide a credit card in order to get the free trial. Cancel at least two days before the 14 days expire and you will not be charged for membership. The cost is attractive, especially for those just starting or on a fixed income. There is no option to split the cost into monthly or other payments, however. All accounts are set to auto renew after one year but this feature can be disabled.

Conclusion

Archives.com is a great place to start a family history adventure. Its clean interface, low cost, and ample data set should give most beginners enough to keep them busy. New genealogists will eventually want more and can graduate to a more advanced platform by simply exporting their tree and moving to Ancestry or another genealogy site.

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