Which is the Best Ancestry Membership for You?

Years ago we had family knowledge, libraries and record repositories to help us perform our family tree research. It was a lot of hard leg work but still rewarding. Today we have sites like Ancestry which have built up epic databases of records.

A family history hobby has never been completely free even before pay sites like Ancestry came along. It costs money to travel to places in search of records. There may have also been fees to view the records and often fees to get copies.

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If you love genealogy and family history research, then you must know Ancestry. They are the best way to discover the rich stories of your family!

With over 30 billion (seriously!) records in their database, you can research your family and discover amazing details you may never have known about your ancestors.

With a 14-day free trial, it's very easy to get started and discover your past!

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Paying to research our family history is definitely not new so it is certainly worth considering an Ancestry membership. The question is though which one is best for your personal needs? In this post we will help you choose the best for you.

In Which Countries Can You Get an Ancestry Subscription?

As of June 2022 there are currently 9 different international Ancestry websites. These each offer their own version of a basic membership which is specific to their geographical region. The nine countries included are as follows:

  • United States
  • France
  • Mexico
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Sweden

There are also over 30 countries in which you can purchase the AncestryDNA tests. These allow you to receive an ethnicity estimate based on the company's extensive database.

The Three Tier Memberships

Basic Membership

There are currently three different Ancestry membership levels each with their own specific benefits. The first and least expensive level is a region specific one based on which of the nine websites you sign up with.

If you live in France and sign up to that country's website the basic membership will cover all of the records in the company's database from that region. This is the case with all of the other countries as well.

If you are expecting to trace your family back for multiple generations in your specific country then the basic and least expensive option is likely the best for you. I know for example that my family is very British so in theory the UK basic subscription should be the one I have.

However, I live in the United States these days and have an American spouse whose family tree I also research. Therefore I need a higher membership level in order to be able to work on both trees.

World Explorer

The next tier membership up from the basic is called World Explorer. It is more expensive and it not only gives you access to your local country records but also to all of Ancestry's global archives as well. If for example you have grandparents born in a different country than the one you currently reside you may need this membership.

In researching my spouse's family I have found she has ancestors from the UK, Switzerland and Germany so obviously if I hope to learn more about them I have to at least have the World Explorer membership level.

All Access

You would think that World Explorer which gives you access to all of the global records that Ancestry has access to would be the top tier. This is not the case though because the company also owns two separate genealogical resource sites that are not part of the main company's available records.

The two external sites are Newspapers.com and Fold3 and although you can find records listed on Ancestry that lead to these sites you can only hope to view these records if you have an all access membership.

Quite obviously Newpapers.com includes articles from around the world that may pertain to some of your ancestors. The website Fold3 is focused more on military records and can also be hugely helpful in your research if you have ancestors who served in the armed forces.

It should be noted regarding this tier however that although you get full access to Fold3 as part of the subscription you only get basic access to Newspapers.com. In order to get full access to Newspapers.com you will likely have to pay a separate subscription on the site itself beyond your Ancestry membership.

You do get to see some of the newspaper articles with your Ancestry All Access but some do require that additional membership. So if for example you are not interested in the military records but feel the newspapers may be beneficial you could skip All Access and get a separate Newspapers.com account instead.

Some Countries Vary Membership Levels

There are some variations to the membership tiers based on the country you are in. Australia for example has a basic tier that covers Key Australian & UK Records. Their next highest tier is All Australia, NZ, UK & Ireland Records.

The final and highest tier available in Australia is essentially the World Explorer meaning that it’s everything on Ancestry. There is no All Access option with Newspapers.com and Fold3 availability. There may be slight variations in the options for your specific region

Is Basic the Best Option for you?

When choosing the right membership for your needs it is best to have a decent idea of where geographically you will need to research. If to the best of your knowledge your family has been in the same region for generations then, if one is available, a basic package that covers your region may be the best bet.

As I mentioned were I still living in the UK my personal ancestry membership would be basic as I would only need UK based records. But since I research my American spouse's tree and I work with clients around the world, it therefore pays to have access to the full database of Ancestry's global records.

I will mention at this point that some of these global records can be found for free on other sites such as familysearch.org. That of course is a topic for a different post at a different time.

Is World Explorer Best for You?

You may already know you have ancestors from Italy, France, Poland or a whole host of other countries. If you know this then your current geographical location may not be able to give you much if any information on these ancestors.

The ability to search Ancestry's global database has allowed me to find baptismal and marriage records for some of my spouse's German ancestors. So if you are from a family who came to your current country from elsewhere a World Explorer membership or equivalent may be the best choice.

Always be mindful regarding the availability of records from the country of your ancestors origins. A World Explorer membership will not be of use unless the database has records from the region you are hoping to research.

Is All Access Best for You?

All Access obviously is the best in terms of what you get due to the addition of basic Newspapers.com and full Fold3 access. To determine if you need this level you first need to decide if military records and newspaper articles will be beneficial to you.

Military records can potentially hold important information and clues that can help your research. Also obituaries and marriage and birth announcements can be found at Newspapers,com. They can both be great resources but they are not vital in terms of records.

This is more a personal choice, if you want to have access to these resources as well and you need World Explorer then All Access is an obvious choice.

If you do not much care about finding military records or your understanding is that your ancestor likely would not appear in any then perhaps it is not worth the extra. This is especially the case as you can get a full Newspapers.com membership separately if you so choose.

Saving Money Tips

When you are first starting out there is usually a free trial available which is often two weeks free access. To me it was like a drug. I tried it out for two weeks and got hooked. So always start with a free trial, this way you can gauge if there are records that are pertinent to your ancestors and if you even like the site.

The best way to minimize your initial outgoings on Ancestry membership is to opt first for the basic membership. If your most recent family generations are from your current region, start out with the basic subscription.

This should give you everything you need to firstly determine if you like the site and secondly if it is helping you with your research. If you start to reach a point where you need some more global records to trace your family further you can always increase your subscription later.

Another great way to keep costs a little lower is to choose one of the longer subscription options. Ancestry generally offers deals for semi-annual or annual subscriptions which work out cheaper than paying monthly.

As an example as of June 2022 a monthly All Access membership in the United States is $44.99 a month. Over the year this comes to $599.88. A 12 month membership paid in advance however is $398 saving you $201.88 or the equivalent of four months membership fee.

If you can extend to paying yearly then you essentially get a 12 month membership for the price of 8. This obviously only works out if you are committed to your research and will likely make good use of the subscription. If you are less committed, paying monthly allows you to stop and start as needed.

Another great tip is to look out for seasonal discounts. Ancestry will often drop prices at certain times of the year including:

  • Mother's Day
  • Father's Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • St Patrick's Day


There are three main membership levels and each has their own advantages. It really is up to you and your family history needs to decide which works best. It is key to start small and determine how much access you actually need to make progress.

Only step up to the higher levels if you feel it will likely help you find out more information. Otherwise keep your costs down and look out for those seasonal deals.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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