Ancestry or Find My Past? A dilemma

For a while I have been pondering subscribing to one of the online family history websites. By far the most prominent are Ancestry and Find my Past. I’ve found myself doing more and more social history, which uses things such as the censuses and registers. And of course, both websites also have military records that are quite useful.

My problem is, which one to go for. Each has some records that the other does not have.

Find my Past has all of the censuses from 1841 to 1911, Merchant Navy crewlists and Seamans records, some miscellaneous occupational records, Parish Registers from 1538 to 2005, Birth Marriage and Death indexes from 1837 onwards, divorce indexes, some probates and wills, and some travel and migration records, such as East India Company records, Passenger lists and Registers of Passport applications.

It is in the military area that I am most interested. FMP has armed forces births, marriages and deaths 1796-2005; Army Roll of Honour 1939-45; British Army Service Records 1760-1915; De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1918; DCM Citations 1914-1920; Irish Great War Records; National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918; Naval Casualties 1914-1919; New Zealand WW1 Soldiers; RA Honours 1939-46; RA MM’s 1916-93; RM Medal Roll 1914-1920; RN Division 1914-19; RN Officers 1914-20; Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19; WW2 POW’s; and the Waterloo Medal Roll of 1815.

Ancestry has all of the censuses, plus some foreign; and even some electoral rolls and slave registers; the usual BMD Registers, plus Parish Registers; British wills and probate and some foreign too; an extensive range of Passenger Lists and alien entry books. In terms of the military, Ancestry has British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920; British Army Medal Index Cards 1914-1920; British Army Pension Records 1914-1920; ‘Soldiers Died’; Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls 1793-1949; Army Roll of Honour 1939-45; WW1 Silver War Badge Records; POW’s 1939-45; Navy Lists 1908 and 1914; De Ruvigny’s R of H; DCM Citations and RN Division Records.

How the hell am I, as a WW1 historian, supposed to choose between the two of them? Whichever website I subscribe to, I am missing out on something vital on the other. If I join FMP I get RN Officers 1914-1920, and the RM Medal Roll; but if I join Ancestry I get Medal Index Cards and Silver Badge Records.

I have a feeling that this dichotomy in record digitisation is caused by the National Archives policy. Lacking the resources to digitise things themselves – they tend to charge by the item, in any case – TNA outsource each particular project to the highest bidder, either FMP or Ancestry. As a result, records are scattered between the two. As a result commercial interests are seriously hampering historical research.

Has anyone else in the field had this problem?


Filed under Family History, World War One

11 responses to “Ancestry or Find My Past? A dilemma

  1. My friend and I have a subscription each and help with each others’ research, so you could come to that arrangement with someone. Depending how far you are from a library you should try out the library versions as the library ancestry is worldwide, so if you want American records is probably better- that might make FMP better value for UK records from the comfort of home. If you get some versions of genealogy software you get a free few months, which might be worth it to try one out.

  2. Pingback: Best of British Genealogy – 24th March 2012

  3. Nelson

    I subscribed to Findmypast very recently, I have known Ancestry for many years and take a month membership from time to time.

    What I found with Findmypast, they are the best for military service records of the Victorian Period but if you research WW1 veterans and medals rolls, well it’s Ancestry

    With Ancestry you can take one month membership with Findmypast it’s 6 months minimum.

    If I had to pick between the two, Ancestry would win but most of my research is for post 1900 so ……

    • James Daly

      I think Ancestry seems to have the better records, but in the past when I have used it I have found it a bit harder to use than FMP. I think I might have to go with Ancestry, and use FMP in the local History Centre whenever I need to.

  4. Carole KB

    I was debating this year which to go with but just renewed my full subs ($A300)to ancestry yet again as find-my-past has not had the records I need despite the adverts covering what I am looking for. I think best to stick with pay as you go with FMP. But July 2013, I’ll have to go with short subs for both sites as full coverage (which is what I have) will cost $A450!

    • Paul H Ball

      I have for years used FMP very happily but recently purchased the Ancestry linked Family Tree Maker 2012 which is great for all the links one has to other Family Trees with cross matched families. Do I subscribe to Ancestry once my 3 months FREE TRIAL finishes, or do I continue my subs to FMP.??? I am in a dilemma. Any suggestions

  5. Sandra

    Happy Christmas 2012 to everyone, hope you’ve all made the right decision whether to choose Ancestry or FMP. After five years I have exhausted Ancestry and their high percentage of transcription errors. I am finding more accurate Parish Records/Bishop’s Transcripts in Family

  6. Carol

    I have a subscription to findmypast and ancestry. I found findmypast, does not have may records for Wiltshire or the Isle of Wight. I was very disappointed with findmypast. If you can only choose one, go with ancestry.

  7. I have used both Ancestry and FMP, and have no hesitation in saying that Ancestry came out tops. FMP was a great disappointment. Lots of initials instead of Christian names; also, a dearth of records. I put a name into the 1911 census returns, and turned up only 5 results throughout England and Wales.
    In addition, when I went to sign in, I was told that my email address was not in their records; this, despite the fact that I had been emailed by them a few days previously.
    The only place that I would use this site is my local library, which, sadly, does not subscribe to Ancestry.
    My verdict: Save your money.

  8. Evelyn

    Much appreciate this article and as another FWW researcher agree. Note that there is now a further complication, that UK local papers are coming on line in the British Newspaper archive by Brightsolid who own FMP. But the FMP newspaper archive does not include Irish titles, so there is yet another subscription choice to be made. And Scotland is a law unto itself.

  9. ashley

    Recent changes to Findmypast searching has made it very difficult to use and find information which is a shame as it was imo THE best for UK records. I am no longer recommending it anymore for serious research. Their new designers have destroyed it. RIP

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