Software

Ancestry

You’ve probably seen the ads for Ancestry where users share their stories of discovering long-lost relatives and learning more about their family’s past. While you may not find out that you’re descended from royalty or distantly related to a famous historical figure, Ancestry is a great resource for building a family tree and filling out missing information, such as birthplaces and marriage records of long-lost relatives. This Editors’ Choice-winning genealogy software also lets you collaborate with other family members to build family trees. Best of all, its intuitive interface makes it easy for you to learn all of its features and construct your family history in no time.

Pricing, Plans, and Setup

Ancestry offers a few plans to choose from: The basic U.S. Discovery plan I signed up for is $19.99 per month or $99 for every six months. The World Explorer plan, which includes U.S. and international records, costs $34.99 per month or $149 for six months; and the All Access plan ($44.99 per month or $199 per half year) includes access to all records on Ancestry, Newspapers.com, and Fold3.com (a military records site).

You can dip your toe into the water with a 14-day free trial, though I initially had trouble finding that offer on the company’s website. You will have to supply a credit card number for the free trial, though, so be sure keep on top of that; your account will automatically renew to the paid plan if you do nothing after that period. Helpfully, your trial’s expiration date is displayed on your home screen. You can cancel the trial online or by calling customer service.

Signing up is easy. Once you choose your plan and provide your contact and payment information, you can start building either from scratch or by uploading any of several genealogy file types, such as GEDCOM (a common family tree file used by many services), Personal Ancestral File, Family Tree Maker, or Legacy. As for compatibility, all you need is a web browser, which means you can access the service on tablets and smartphones too. Free Android and iOS apps are also available. Ancestry’s web-based interface is much more attractive than other services I’ve tested, including Ancestry’s own Family Tree Maker 2014

full review of AncestryDNA.

Another premium feature is the option to hire an expert to help with your genealogy research. You can get a free quote; prices start at $1,900 for 20 to 25 hours of research on one ancestor. Both of these features are unique to Ancestry in the realm of genealogy software.

Getting Help

If you need help along the way, Ancestry offers a lot of guidance online in its community and documentation. You can also call support, which is available seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET. I did have to call Ancestry for help, but oddly enough, it was when I ran into an issue downloading Family Tree Maker and was referred from their support line.

I called in the middle of the day and was told there was a “high volume of calls,” which, come to think of it, is the message I get just about every time I call customer service. I didn’t get a time estimate, but I was subjected to the usual trying hold music, interrupted by loud ads for other Ancestry services. After about 30 minutes, my call was finally picked up by an agent, who was very helpful and resolved my issue in about five minutes. Any other issues I ran into were easily solved by using the online resources.

A Fun and Easy Way to Trace Your Roots

Ancestry provides a great way to dive into tracing your family tree, and a paid account gives you access to thousands of searchable records that can be easily added to the members of your tree for a more complete picture. Better yet, you can export all of your data to save and share it even if you no longer have an active account. I definitely recommend Ancestry for fledgling genealogists, but the costs can add up if you’re not careful. That said, because of its attractive and dead-simple interface and generous resources, Ancestry is our clear Editors’ Choice for genealogy software.

Once you’ve gone as far in your research as far as written records can take you, you should also consider genetic testing services, which can add all sorts of details, from living relatives to the details of your deep ancestral past—even the amount of Neanderthal DNA you carry. For more, check out our roundup of the best DNA testing kits.


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