Chris Armstrong | Jun 9, 2017

Getting to Know the Big 4: Findmypast

This is the third of a four-part series analyzing the strengths and limitations of FamilySearch, Ancestry, Findmypast, and MyHeritage to help you use them more effectively.

Much of the content in this article comes from Sunny Morton’s 2017 RootsTech presentation. Morton is a professional genealogist, contributing editor at and author of “Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites.”

In last week’s article, we examined the strengths and limitations of Ancestry and discussed how to effectively use this tool in family history research. In this article, we’ll look at Findmypast, another giant in the genealogical industry’s big 4.

About Findmypast

Findmypast features 850 million US records, more than 2 billion records globally (some of which date back to the 1200s), and 18 million subscribers worldwide. Findmypast is widely known for its extensive collection of English, Scottish, and Irish records and offers one of the most budget-friendly subscriptions for interested family historians.

Vast Collections from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland

If you’re tracing your family heritage through the United Kingdom, Findmypast is one of the best places to start. Within Findmypast’s collections you’ll find:

  • All surviving available national census records for England and Wales, 1841–1911.
  • Scottish census records, 1841–1901.
  • Irish census records, 1821–1851, and 1901–1911.
  • Exclusive 1939 Register for England and Wales (the closest thing to a census between 1921–1951).
  • More than 800 million indexed records with 150 million record images for baptisms, marriages, and deaths up to 1837.
  • England/Wales electoral registers with over 200 million names.

Strongest Digitized British, Irish, and U.S. Newspaper Collection

One of the things that sets Findmypast apart from the other big 4 is its massive collection of digitized newspaper stories.

“If you’re looking for newspaper stories about ancestors of British heritage, Irish, or in the U.S., they’ve got exclusive millions of pages from the British archives with lots of great information on British and Irish newspapers,” said Sunny Morton in her 2017 RootsTech presentation.

Large Collection of Irish Records Online

“For Irish research before the famine, [Findmypast’s records] go really deep,” said Morton. “Because there was a lot of record loss, and it's really hard to do Irish research sometimes, they've worked really hard to source unique and interesting records that will tell you at least something. I've seen dog licenses on this site.”

PERSI (Periodical Source Index)

PERSI is the largest subject index to genealogy and local history periodical articles in the world, and it is hosted by Findmypast.

“[PERSI] is a fantastic resource when you’re looking deeper and wider and trying to find more about [your ancestors] that may have already been published somewhere,” explained Sunny Morton at Rootstech 2017.

“You can go into PERSI and search the subject index for … say, church records from that little tiny town. … It’s not going to have every person’s name who was indexed in that little journal article, but it will index it by the name of the church, by the locale, by maybe the name of the parish priest, or any other identifying names that will help you … know that it’s your ancestors.”

Learn more about PERSI and how to use it in your research here.

Catholic Heritage Archive

Through a collaboration with the Vatican, Findmypast has undertaken a groundbreaking effort to digitize 100 million Catholic parish records, including baptism, marriage, and burial records. Currently, records dating from 1757 are available for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and records for New York and Boston are forthcoming. In addition, archdiocese records from 1657 are available for Birmingham and Westminster, England, and Ireland.

Option to Subscribe or Pay As You Go

Findmypast always shows whether a record exists, but a subscription or purchased credit is required to view records other than those that are offered free.

Example of fees: $9.95/month for U.S./Canada access; and $19.95/month for Premier U.S./Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand. Pay-as-you-go credits are sold in various increments. For instance, 300 credits for $37.95. It costs between 5 and 60 credits to view a document; once you view it, you have unlimited views. Credits expire after 90 days.

“This is the only website that offers pay-as-you-go access,” said Morton. “You can actually purchase credits very inexpensively. So if you go into the site and you only want to see one or two records, you can purchase, inexpensively, those credits, and then go view those records. Then you have permanent access to those records.”

Limitations of Findmypast

  • Similar to FamilySearch, DNA testing isn’t available through Findmypast. However, they offer discounts for DNA tests available through Family Tree DNA.
  • There is no companion desktop software or mobile app.
  • Findmypast’s automated record hinting is the youngest and most limited.
  • Although you can build your own tree, there are no publicly searchable trees or member communication capability.
  • There are fewer search features available than other resources.
  • There is a geographical focus on the United Kingdom and the former British Empire.

How do you use Findmypast? Tweet us @RootsTechConf to share your experience. Join us next week for part three of this series which will explore the strengths and limitations of MyHeritage.

Chris Armstrong

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