Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Comments on the Top 100 Genealogy Websites of 2016

For the past five years the GenealogyInTime Magazine has published a detailed analysis of the ranking of the top 100 most popular genealogy websites, as measured by online activity, from around the world. After reading through this year's offerings, I have a number of observations.

Before I begin, I need to say something about the methodology of compiling such a list. There are large online websites, such as, that measure and rank the world's websites according to the number of visitors. There is some controversy as to the accuracy of such systems, but for the purpose of showing general rankings and trends, they work just fine. It should be noted however, that the rank of any one program changes from day-to-day and even minute-to-minute.

As an introduction to my comments, I might also say that I was not at all surprised by any of the conclusions or comments made for 2016. The observations made in the article are extremely consistent with my own observations and they also agree with many of the comments I have made about trends in the genealogical community over the past year, even if my own observations have been largely ignored. Oh, it might help if you read the article so you know what I am talking about. I do not intend to reproduce the entire eight page article. So here I go with my comments.

The four largest genealogy oriented companies now completely dominate the genealogical community.

In a dramatic consolidation of their positions in the rankings, all but one of the top ten positions are now held by one of the four large online database companies or their owned subsidiaries:,, and The only exception is the French company, There are some interesting implications of this definite trend including its impact on the future of standalone desktop genealogy programs. All five of these companies maintain massive online family tree programs. I see a definite move away from programs that are locked into a single user, single computer or device mode.

The article makes the following observation:
The website continues to dominate genealogy. It is a juggernaut. In fact, more than one out of every seven visitors to all genealogy websites combined goes to It also gets more than three times the traffic of the second most popular genealogy website Find A Grave (which it also owns). Perhaps this is not surprising considering how prominently Ancestry advertises on television in all their major core markets. is making a decisive move into DNA and Health and apparently away from augmenting its record holdings.

I made this observation in a comment to a recent post and it passed apparently without notice or interest. Here is the observation made by the GenealogyInTime Magazine article:
One interesting thing to note (as we reported in Genealogy News) is that has not been adding many unique new genealogy record sets this year (one exception: Irish parish records). This trend has been going on since the summer of 2015. Ancestry is adding records, but most of the new additions have come from FamilySearch or have been scrapped from free online resources. And yet traffic continues to grow to their website. We suspect part of the website's recent growth is due to their recently expanded push into DNA testing.
We haven't heard much lately about's Health website, but it is still out there designated as a "Beta" test. It is also apparent from's latest financial disclosures that its DNA testing operation is become one its most profitable ventures.

The free websites, and, are in an interesting match up as the second and third most popular programs.

It has been said that it is hard to compete with free, but in the case of genealogy programs, "free" is just one of many considerations. Obviously, the "free" genealogy programs do not have the draw of the commercial ones. What is interesting in the Top 100 list is that with its vast record collections and other resources is battling it out with, a program focused on one type of genealogical information. I attribute this to's inability to adequately advertise its core value and its extensive features. Some of the most valuable parts of the website, such as the Research Wiki and its vast collection of digital books, go almost unmentioned in its promotional materials and therefore unknown to the general genealogical community. What is even more surprising is that so few of the members of its sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are at all knowledgeable about the program. I am not surprised the owned is so popular, but I am surprised that is less popular.

The free search engine program, shoots up in popularity.

A few years ago, was climbing in popularity and looked like it might become a real contender to expand the Big Four into a Big Five largest genealogy companies in the world. But then, predictably, it was bought out by and became another subsidiary subscription service. Now, is moving rapidly up in popularity and may be a contender if it is not purchased by one of the big four. is consolidating its position as a world class program in fourth position. moved from fifth to fourth position over the past year by replacing I think this demonstrates that is now matched with as one of the two largest commercial online family tree websites. It should also be pointed out that there are nine other country-based websites in the Top 100 and that its subsidiary program, is also in the Top 10.

Genealogy blogs are definitely on the decline.

I have been pointing out for some time that personal, non-commercial genealogy blogs are in a definite decline. I attribute this to a decided move to and by those working at a personal level. The article noted that "we don't see too many blogs these days on the list." This year, there are only three and of those, one is dedicated to DNA. Another comment made by the article about blogs adds to my own observations, "To call them blogs is actually an understatement as many of these websites are so much more."

Blogs are websites, but the observation is that blogs such as mine that are almost exclusively individually written and supported are no longer so popular. With only one or two exceptions, the blogs mentioned in the article are, in fact, commercially oriented. I am not implying that being commercially oriented is bad, but I am noting that the personal, family-oriented blog is not as popular as it once was.

Well, I could go on making observations and probably will in the future, but that is enough for now.


  1. I read your blogs, learn from them, and count on them to stay informed. Thank you, James, for faithfully offering such great content!