Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ancestry and Findmypast compared

Over the last week or so I have undertaken the major task of putting on all the county records for England and Wales held by Ancestry and Findmypast.  

Both sites have the facility to search at a county level by searching for the county name in the title of the dataset which is remarkably helpful.  This allows all researchers to quickly assess the county holdings from the two main sites. This does make for a 'like for like' comparison, but of course does miss out the major national datasets, such as the censuses, which do not have a county name in the title.  My searches therefore only picked up a relatively small sample of each site's total records.

Unfortunately The Genealogist does not have the same search facility, so whilst having some excellent datasets I will have to go through in slow time looking at each dataset in turn.

The results from Berkshire are in the Berkshire section at


The results were interesting.  This is the comparative list for Berkshire - one of the smaller collections on both sites.

The first is that of Findmypast

  • Berkshire, Baptisms
  • Berkshire, Marriages
  • Berkshire, Burial Index

The second is that for Ancestry

  • Berkshire, England, Extracted Parish Records
  • East Hendred : a Berkshire parish historically treated : a suggestion for a complete parochial survey of the kingdom
  • Reading, Berkshire, England: St. Lawrence Municipal Church History
  • Bucklebury : a Berkshire parish, the home of Bolingbroke 1701-1715
  • Highways and Byways in Berkshire

This is a fairly typical, though small, comparison.  I alternate in my attitude to the less directly relevant datasets - such as the Highways and Byways in Berkshire (a title which is replicated across many other counties).  To my mind this could be very interesting for local knowledge and flavour, but would have few names as records.

Similarly the extremely local records of East Hendred and Bucklebury are unlikely to yield much unless you are extremely lucky.

Whilst Berkshire has surprisingly few datasets, some areas have huge amounts of data - notably London. For London Findmypast has 11 datasets and Ancestry has a massive 64 datasets. As with Berkshire above, some of the datasets are often not directly relevant, such as

  • Lyson's. The Environs of London being a Historical Account of the Towns, Villages and Hamlets
  • Mediaeval Towns of London (1909)

So, while it is undoubtedly the case the Ancestry have more separate datasets than Findmypast, the datasets may have limited number of names, but be interesting background.

One problem with counting the number of datasets is that a single dataset can mask the actual numbers of records within it. One of the differences between Findmypast and Ancestry is that Ancestry gives the number of records within each dataset - something that Findmypast does not often do.  This can make direct comparison between the sites difficult.

Within the Findmypast datasets the numbers for Berkshire, which are located in a sub-section, are

Berkshire, Baptisms - 144,030 baptisms from 43 parishes, dated 1538-1928
Berkshire, Marriages - over 210,000 records from 89 parishes dated 1538-1927
Berkshire, Burial Index over 750,500 records from 175 parishes, dated 1536-1962

From these three datasets there are approximately 1,000,000 records.

For Ancestry the Berkshire, England, Extracted Parish Records' dataset only has over 18,000 records - all the rest are under 700 records.  

This of course is not always the case and some Ancestry datasets are huge and - excluding the big national datasets (BMD and censuses etc) - the largest county dataset on either site is the massive West Yorkshire Electoral Registers dataset with over 22,000,000 records.

Therefore at a county level it is 'swings and roundabouts' depending on the dataset and background detail required. Based purely on the number of datasets, at a county level, all is not as it initially seems.

To check for the links for your county researches, go to



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