Saturday, May 8, 2010

Subscription Services Report Card

With my subscription to a genealogical website coming up for renewal at the end of this month, I thought I'd take a look at all the subscription services I use and hand out some grades!  These are my opinions alone and may very well be different from yours.

GenealogyBank: A-
I debated over springing for GenealogyBank for a long time (two years actually).  I watched it pretty closely over that time and was impressed with how frequently newspapers and other databases were added.  What's more, the newspapers run the gamut from small town papers to major metropolitan publications and usually cover a long stretch of time.  I caved signed up in March and haven't regretted it yet.  Just today I got an e-mail announcing more publications that have just been added and a quick glance through the list revealed at least a half dozen papers which I'm excited to investigate.  My only qualm is the fact that it (at least for me) takes FOREVER to load pages.  I don't know if it is them or my browser but I do know that I don't have the slow load problem on any other website.

Footnote: C
I got a deal through my NEHGS membership which got me a Footnote subscription for $50 off back in January.  As it is now, I'm very glad I didn't pay full price for my subscription.  The only thing I've found of use are the military related records.  Everything else I can either find elsewhere or is of no genealogical interest to me.  I'm not planning on renewing unless I can get another $30 or less price on my subscription.

WorldVitalRecords: C +
Full disclosure: I don't pay for a subscription, it is a perk of membership in one of the genealogical societies I belong to.  That said, I'm still writing a review based on my personal observations and experiences with the site (with the exclusion of subscription pricing related opinions).  When it comes to their original content, I think it is a fine resource, though their catalog is smaller than the likes of FamilySearch and Ancestry.  My main qualm is the fact that they piggy-back off of GoogleBooks and FindAGrave (which are both FREE resources).  If I want to look for my ancestors on those sites, I do.  I do not, however, want their entries on these sites coming up as "results" when I'm trying to use WorldVitalRecords (a pay subscription service).  I could also go without the e-mail a day I seem to get from them.  I get that times are tough and financially, most people and businesses are hurting, but the constant "deals" and ads they send me are a major turn-off and a big reason why I'm not giving them a higher mark.

NewspaperArchive: B -
Full disclosure: this is also a perk of membership to one of the genealogical societies I belong to so the same rules as WorldVitalRecords applies here as well.  I think they have good content and a pretty nice selection of newspapers.  I also prefer their image viewer to Footnote's.  My problems are in the search engine which is less than accurate and the fact that I seem to be able to find a lot of their content elsewhere (meaning, I find few databases which are exclusive to them).

Ancestry: B
Its the behemoth of the online genealogy world and there have been so many discussions on it already that I really don't have much to add.  I hate the new search and avoid it like the plague, it is also annoying that their online trees always seem to be down for maintenance or "technical issues."  But their content is pretty well unmatched both in the size of their catalog and the overall quality of their catalog.  They're kind of the Wal-Mart of the genealogy world, you hate their monopoly and size but can't live without them.  Full disclosure: I don't pay for my membership, it my annual Christmas or birthday present from my parents.

I was in no way compensated for this post or influenced by any outside entity beyond my personal opinions.  These are my views and my views alone based on my genealogical interests and personal research.  Just because I gave a site a low mark, doesn't mean that it can't be a perfectly marvelous resource for you.  Your opinion on any and all of these sites could (and probably are) very different from mine and that's fine, it's what makes us human!

Notice I didn't review my genealogical society memberships.  I'm in the school of thought that says they need all the support and positive press they can get and, unless you have a serious grievance with one, negative opinions and experiences should be kept between you and your society alone.  Just my two cents!


  1. Good review and overall, I tend to agree with your assessments; esp. agree with your Footnote comments. I do not plan to renew.

  2. Excellent post, and just what I needed to see right now. I have not yet subscribed to one of the newspaper services, but based on what I have seen (and your recommendation), I will give Genealogy Bank a try. I have used all the others (World Vital Records for only a few days) and agree absolutely. I was actually shocked at how much of WVR's content is duplicated in various free online resources, and there wasn't much in what I did find during the three-day trial period. I have been taking advantage of the $40 deals for Footnote, and Ancestry - well, gotta have it, though Family Search is really outstripping it in a few areas.

  3. Thanks for the information! I don't pay for any subscriptions but have been trying to decide if I were to pay for one which would be the best value for the money.

  4. Great post. I agree with much of what you've said. There seems to be a pattern of services showcasing a lot of free databases to inflate the value of the subscription. WVR does that in a big way.

  5. Thanks for posting your reviews.

    I have never subscribed to any of the services. In my opinion if you are going to subscribe to a service depends on whether you have a lot of time to spend on genealogy. If you work on it full time then having as many resources available as you can afford is warranted.

    Also, don't forget to check your public library. Some subscribe. I've never gotten around to trying this out because I always seem to have other genealogy projects to work on. I think in some cases you can access the service from home and in some cases you have to go to the library. Maybe I'll make finding out a 2010 project.

  6. Great review and agree with your comments and observations.


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