Ancestry vs. MyHeritage - Which Genealogy Giant Reigns Supreme?

Joe Hanneman

The world of online genealogy is kind of like a classic sports matchup, where Ancestry.com is the title-holder, with more than 20 years of experience and countless innovations under its belt. MyHeritage.com is the challenger. Not a newbie to the world of genealogy research, MyHeritage is making a serious challenge for market leadership.

So who reigns supreme? Let’s take a look.

Substance

Genealogy is all about information. Whatever research platform has the most information in its collections is the one with the edge. This is where Ancestry has its strength: more than 17 billion searchable records spread across nearly 33,000 collections. Add in records from sister brands Fold3, Find-A-Grave, and Newspapers.com and the picture brightens. More than 10 petabytes of stored data. That’s more than three times the size of the digital collections in the U.S. Library of Congress. The Ancestry data store is very strong on North America, but is also formidable in Europe and other global regions. MyHeritage offers more than 6 billion searchable records with a strong global presence. Potential family tree matches come from MyHeritage’s huge collection of 83 million registered users. Both platforms have serious credentials when it comes to data, but Ancestry still holds a healthy lead in information mining. Advantage: Ancestry.com

Style

Having a massive digital library is a great start, but what about the user interface? Is the web site well-organized and easy to navigate? Is the graphic design clean? MyHeritage has an elegant simplicity to its site design. It is easy to import or start a family tree. Searches are easy to conduct and integrate into the family tree. The site’s look and feel is a reminder of how the Macintosh computer platform earned tens of millions of diehard fans over the decades. Ancestry has undergone a number of redesigns over the years and now sports a clean, although slightly more busy, interface. Ancestry has its animated leaf to indicate where records hints have been found. MyHeritage has adopted a similar approach to flagging potential matches. Both have robust image viewers for examining records and photographs, although we found Ancestry’s to have the occasional glitch. When it comes to the style of look and usability, MyHeritage has the edge.

Features

It can be hard to keep up with the innovations, product features and new services offered by our two top competitors. Whether it’s an affordable DNA test kit or a free family tree poster design, the list of features grows weekly. Both MyHeritage and Ancestry have free mobile apps for accessing, searching, and editing using a smart phone or tablet. MyHeritage offers a free download of its desktop Family Tree Builder software for Mac and Windows, while Ancestry just offloaded its Family Tree Maker software to Mackiev Co. Both sites offer ways to order beautiful printed posters or family history books. Both have DNA offers. Both have active and informational blogs. Ancestry has a growing video library as part of its Ancestry Academy. Ancestry is rolling out its AncestryHealth feature that allows users to document medical histories and health trends. The battle over features is neck and neck, but the nod goes to Ancestry.

Search Results

Both platforms have powerful search engines, with basic and advanced modes. Both allow setting wide or restrictive search parameters. And both have proactive search systems that look for potential records matches even when the user is not online. In the end, the value of the search results depends in large part on what the user is seeking, in what part of the world, and in what time period. In our own searches we found Ancestry to have a slight edge just by the size of its databases. But this one is close, so we call it a draw on search results.

Pricing and Subscriptions

Ancestry offers a range of subscription options, including U.S. Discovery ($189 USD annual), World Explorer ($299 annual) and All Access ($389 annual). Users can choose a higher rate by selecting a monthly or semi-annual payment option. MyHeritage does not offer the flexibility of monthly payments, but its prices are lower overall, from Premium ($110 USD annual) to Premium Plus ($175 annual) and Complete ($251 annual). Those who register through MyHeritage’s sister site, WorldVitalRecords.com, can get access to both MyHeritage and WVR for one year for just under $90. Flexibility is important, so offering monthly, semi-annual and annual packages gives Ancestry the edge on subscriptions.

Conclusion

Ancestry continues to be the global market leader in online genealogy. Its digital collections are huge and diverse. It is making big investments in new products and service innovations. MyHeritage is a very impressive challenger, with a large records trove, international flavor and great site design. Consumers are the winners from the competition between these two giants. In the heavyweight bout between the best web-based genealogy platforms, Ancestry reigns. But keep a close eye on MyHeritage.com.

About Joe Hanneman

Joe has worked in the fields of journalism, communications, and marketing for more than 30 years. In 2015, he set up the Treasured Lives blog, focusing on historical investigative journalism, genealogy industry information, and features on historic advertisements and news articles.

 

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