FindMyPast.com Review

Executive summary

FindMyPast is an excellent resource for genealogy focused on the UK and Ireland; with very respectable resources for U.S. and Australia/New Zealand genealogy.

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FindMyPast.com Highlights

  • More than 8 billion global records
  • 1,000 exclusive record collections
  • Product/service discounts for annual members

Pros

  • Free family tree builder
  • Billions of records
  • Proactive matching
  • Excellent UK & Ireland resources

Cons

  • No German/Eastern European records
  • Full size of collection is unclear
  • Confusing pay-per-use credits

Resources/Database Quality and Quantity

It is not surprising that FindMyPast has such a strong collection of genealogy data for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The site was founded in Scotland and later purchased by British publisher D.C. Thomson & Co. Its collection includes more than 1 billion documents from the UK, including the 1939 Census. FindMyPast is a global platform, but what makes it stand out in the market is the depth of its UK holdings. This includes Irish vital records dating to the 13th century; English, Welsh, and Scottish records dating to 1200; the Griffiths Valuation of Irish land records; and millions of UK newspaper pages.

Discovering just how many records FindMyPast holds, however, can be tricky. It uses wildly divergent figures in various places on its web sites: 1.8 billion records, more than 2 billion, 4 billion, 8 billion. It's unclear what accounts for the varying figures. Even at the lower figures, the collection is one of the largest on the market. It appears 8 billion is the most current statistic, but the website could be clearer. Its North America collection includes the U.S. Census from 1790 to 1940, military records from the Revolutionary War to World War II, many U.S. state censuses, and the holdings of the popular Mocavo genealogy site, which FindMyPast acquired in 2014. It also offers a respectable collection of records from Australia and New Zealand. FindMyPast says some 1,000 of its collections are exclusive to the site. It has a nice blog with regular feature articles, how-tos and general news on family history.

Search Results

There was much discussion in the genealogy world when FindMyPast redesigned its web site and search interface in 2014. As a result, you can choose either the new search page or the old one. The advanced search page allows users to search globally, or by narrowing the focus to its regional collections. Search parameters includes names, dates, locations, keywords, categories and even record sets. A quick link on the search page takes you to an alphabetical listing of all the FindMyPast record sets.

To test the site’s search, we used Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States. We narrowed the parameters to just the U.S. and Canada, and received 173 potential matches. The first page of results included correct U.S. Census listings for 1900, 1920, 1930 and 1940. There were also a number of correct matches for travel/immigration and directories. Not the kind of depth found on other U.S.-focused web sites, but a respectable showing. We ran a U.S. search using a personal relative and found accurate U.S. Census matches for 1900, 1920 and 1940. We also tested the search using former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and received 5,506 potential record matches. The search engine performed quite respectably, but of course it can only draw out what is in the data collections.

Interface & Navigation (Ease of Use)

The site is well organized, although the graphic interface in some respects isn’t as attractive as the previous version from 2014. The search dialog is clean and easy to understand. The free family tree builder worked quite well. We imported a GEDCOM (Genealogical Data Communication) file, which the site processed very quickly. Within minutes, the family tree was generating record hints. The tree offers different viewing options. The individual profile view is clean, attractive and well organized. The FindMyPast blog has a rather clunky design, but it is well populated with feature articles and how-to guides. Overall, the FindMyPast web sites are easy to navigate. We found it easy to search, retrieve, and integrate data matches into family trees. The graphic design has somewhat the look of a work in progress, but this is a minor issue when balanced against the data available.

Features and Extras

One of the best features of FindMyPast is the ability to create and maintain family trees at no cost. This is a good way to try out the FindMyPast platform. The system delivers records hints, and search results include enough preview information to judge whether the site is worth upgrading to a paid account. The “review and merge” function is very well done, making it easy to only import the data you want from a record match. The site’s “FindMyPast Fridays” feature adds thousands of documents to the library each week. There is a decent collection of videos (on the site and at YouTube) with how-to instructions on searching and other site functions. Users who are on annual subscriptions are eligible for FindMyPast First, a premium program offering discounts on DNA testing, photo analysis, family tree charts, a Lifebook autobiography package, and a number of genealogy magazines.

Pricing

1 month subscription – $9.95 USD, $19.95

Annual subscription - $114.50, $239.50

Cost and Subscription Options

FindMyPast has annual and monthly subscription rates, but it added a pay-per-use system that allows users to purchase credits for individual documents. FindMyPast offers numerous credit packages for sale, but you can’t tell up front just what each document will cost. The site tells you that documents typically cost 5 to 60 credits each. Based on that estimate, it’s possible you could pay $10.95 USD for just one document. This system might appeal to someone who just needs a specific document, but it’s hard to see its usefulness beyond that. Access to the U.S. and Canada collection costs $9.95 USD per month, or $114.50 for 12 months. The world subscription costs $19.95 USD per month, or $239.50 for 12 months. The annual price is slightly more expensive than the monthly. The annual package includes the 1939 UK census, but the monthly does not. Users can take advantage of a two-week free trial. The pricing system is flexible, but a bit confusing.

Conclusion

If you have an interest in researching genealogy in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland, FindMyPast is a great resource. Its more recent collections, including North America, Australia and New Zealand, make it more attractive, but likely not enough to make it a primary tool for U.S. genealogy research.

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