FamilySearch FamilySearch
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4.5 5stars

FamilySearch Review

FamilySearch
Rating:
Bottom Line:
Large database for family records; multiple options for viewing and creating a family tree; not as user-friendly as other options

Full Review:
FamilySearch is known as Ancestry.com's biggest competitor because it also has access to billions of records and is constantly adding new ones. The site is headed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been working since 1894 to preserve family records against damage and/or loss.


Pricing

FamilySearch is completely free to use for building a family tree and searching for family-related documents, such as vital and historical records. If you wish to cancel at any time, you must call in to the help line; there is no way to deactivate or cancel online.


Getting Started

To sign up for this free service, you fill out a single page with your personal information, including your name, desired username, password, email address or phone number (only used to recover a lost username or password), contact name (publicly viewable), gender, country and birth date. On this page, you also have the option to check off if you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; if not, you are still able to create a free account. Once this page is completely filled out and submitted, you will receive an email with a link to activate your account and complete registration.


Building Your Family Tree

Your family tree begins with yourself, using the information that you entered while creating your account. From here, you can add a person, find a person by records or find a person by identification number, which is a unique combination of letters and numbers that FamilySearch will assign to each member on your family tree. When adding a new member to your family tree, you have the option to add first names, last names, gender and other life events, such as births, christenings, marriages and deaths. Other information that you can edit under an individual's details is other names, other events and other facts. Other names could be birth names, married names or nicknames, and events range from things like military service and occupation to residence and title of nobility. We found the Other Facts feature under Add a Person to be unique to FamilySearch. Here, you can add a caste name, clan name, national identification, tribe name or custom fact.


The overview of your family tree has several different options for display. You can select the traditional family tree, which stems upward in a portrait fashion, or a landscape tree, which is horizontal. You can also view your family tree as a fan chart, which features a colorful interface, and share it via email or print it. The fourth option on your family tree display is descendancy. This allows you to select one member from your family tree, and it will display how you are directly related. You can also select the number of generations this feature displays as well, ranging from one to four. All of these options host a modern, sleek design, with easy-to-use navigational tools and the option to select a light or dark gray color scheme.





In addition to these display options, you can also select what you do and do not want to see on each individual box. Clicking on the "Show" box will bring up a drop-down menu that denotes each detail with an icon and the name of the associated icon. These icons include record hints, research suggestions, data problems, portrait and marriages. If you see one of these icons on a family member's box, you can click on that icon to take you to the results page. Within each individual's box on your tree, you can also add photos, stories, documents and audio files.


Records and Other Features

When entering a family member's name to find a person, we found the results to vary with their accuracy. Some of the living ancestors yielded no search results, which is pretty normal as most genealogy services have older resources. Older ancestors would sometimes bring back extremely accurate results, with full Census records and a list of spouses and children that we hadn't even entered, and other times bring back many results that did not match our ancestor at all. When you review these results, you have the option to attach it to a specific member on your family tree, dismiss it or save it to your Source Box to view later, which can be accessed from your home page. You can also either view the full details of the record it found, which lists everything written on the document, or view an image of the original document itself. We found both to be helpful, as sometimes original documents contain illegible handwriting due to their older age.


There are several different ways to search the billions of records that FamilySearch features in its database. The options you have are Records, Genealogies, Catalog, Books and Wiki, and each search for different things. Records allows you to search by location and life event, but you must adjust your search according to what you are looking for exactly. This means that if you add a death to the life event in your search, your results will only pull up death record information. Genealogies will search other member's trees within FamilySearch and pair you with those that have names that match names in your family tree.



Catalog searches genealogical resources that are held within FamilySearch, including selected partner libraries, such as Blackfoot Idaho Family History Center. If you wish to physically review these records, it can send it to one of these family history centers it works in conjunction with. Otherwise, the digitized version is viewable online. Books will search its collection of over 150,000 different genealogy and family history publications from family history libraries around the world and the Wiki link directs you to help articles with resources on how to use these services.

If you wish to order copies of documents you find while researching, you can print them if they are digitized, order them for a small fee if they are on microfilm or microform or check out a book from a local family history center if the document is found there.


Customer Support

There are a few different resources you can use for help with this service. There are online tips and resources, the Wiki help page and in-person support at local family history library centers. You can also contact customer support via phone, email and live chat. Its phone support is available Mondays from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT, Tuesday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. MT, Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. MT. We found the wait time with all three of these options to be about average; all of the customer support representatives were friendly and knowledgeable in answering our questions.


Conclusion

This is a well-designed website with lots of features for creating and building your family tree. It isn't as user-friendly as Ancestry.com but we really liked the design and layout of FamilySearch. Searching its database isn't as easy as other genealogy services either because you must know exactly what you are looking for, but for being a free service, it is still a top option for family research and genealogy projects.

Compare to Other Genealogy Services

If you have a question or concern we haven't answered on our site, please let us know. Your question will be added to the NextAdvisor Forums so that we and other experts in our community can answer it. Due to volume, we aren't able to respond to every question, but we answer as many as we can.



Service Details

Price:Free
Features:Family tree builder; integration with other users' family trees; database search
Resources:Census records; birth, marriage & death records; military and immigration records; member trees; family history library books
Customer Support:Email, phone, live chat

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Related Forum Posts

  • Downloading my family tree
    Thanks for your inquiry! If you need assistance downloading your family tree, you can contact FamilySearch's customer support team via phone, email or[...]
  • Where did I come from?
    Hi, Don. If you have questions about records containing your family surname, you can contact Family Search's customer support team via phone, email or[...]

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