There are literally billions and billions of genealogical records now available online. From the huge databases of paid subscription sites like Ancestry and MyHeritage, to the varied collections of FamilySearch and hundreds of other free initiatives – details about our ancestors’ lives are more accessible than ever.
And every single one of the these collections is vitally important – whether the database contains one record or a billion. But have you ever wondered what the largest collections on the web are, and who offers them? Let’s have some fun and take a look.
Why is This Information Important?
In our article, This May Be the Most Important Genealogy Research Trick You Ever Learn, we discuss the importance of accessing individual databases in your research – as opposed to general searches that try and sort through numerous collections.
Using individual collections allows you to refine your searches in new ways and employ numerous search and browse tactics to maximize your efforts. By increasing your familiarity of various online collections you improve your chances of locating the information you need. See the tips and linked articles below the list for more help.
Please note that we have partnered with some of the sites on this list to provide you with information about their services and may earn a fee to support our work if you choose to subscribe after following a link on our page.
How Did We Come Up With This List?
To determine the largest record collections online we looked at the catalogs of the top four genealogy research sites – FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage and Findmypast. Each one of the databases below comes from one of these sites. Some of these collections appear as exact or nearly exact duplicates on more than one site and we have noted where that is the case. For collections that are similar, but not the same, we have listed them individually.
We are using the published numbers from the four sites listed above to base the order of this list on. Many sites carry the same databases but the number of records shown varies. In some cases this discrepancy comes simply from the calculation method used. In other cases, it may be that some records were skipped or duplicated or that some sites may have an older version of a database or may have combined the records with other collections.
Record numbers in general can be confusing and somewhat deceptive at first glance. When we hear 100 million records, what do we think? 100 million pages of data? 100 million names? In most cases, a record is an entry that contains unique information about a person. So, for instance, in the census – each line is considered a record – not each page. Findmypast and Ancestry both have information that further explains how record numbers are calculated.
We have excluded from this list member family trees, recent phone and address directories, collections containing ONLY records after the year 2000, and public record databases no matter where they are held. Although they are often the largest collections, their accuracy, detail or value to researchers is simply not on par with the other selections on this list.
We have included databases derived from family trees, such as Ancestry’s Member Photos and Scanned Documents however – since these types of records are so unique and valuable.
Is it possible that there are larger databases on other genealogy sites that do not appear here? Yes, there certainly are. We chose these four sites to base this article on because they focus on records dedicated to genealogical research (with associated search functions and tools), they separate their records by topic and clearly state the number of records in each separate collection.. This is not true for many other sites so it is nearly impossible to determine record counts.
This is especially true with newspaper sites like Newspaper.com that hold more than 380 million newspaper pages or sites that bring together many collections, but host them as one body.
The 20 Largest Genealogy Collections on the Web
Some of the databases are free and some are on paid sites but are offered at no cost (such as the 1940 census). Other databases require paid access. If you are hoping to access records on a site you do not have a subscription to you can check out this article about getting free access through your library or you can use the free trials listed below.
Here they are in order of record number…
1. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, Ancestry.com, 1,560,284,702 Records
2. International Genealogical Index (IGI), FamilySearch, 892,761,439 Records
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3. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990, Ancestry.com, 372,982,229 Records – MyHeritage also offers the U.S. Yearbooks Name Index, 1890-1979, with 289,915,139 Records
4. Public Member Photos & Scanned Documents, Ancestry.com, 234,392,728 Records
5. England & Wales, Birth Index, 1837-2005, MyHeritage, 208,384,565 Records – Findmypast and FamilySearch both offer variations of this same index with about 134 million records each. Please see information above for why the numbers may be so different.
7. United States Marriages, 17th to 20th Century, Findmypast, 190,477,078 Records
8. London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965, Ancestry.com, 179,071,664 Records
11. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Ancestry.com, 134,351,628 Records – note that this is a different collection than the Social Security Death Index shown below.
13. Mexico, Baptisms, 1560-1950, MyHeritage, 122,951,717 Records
14. Germany, Select Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898, Ancestry.com, 110,134,312 Records – MyHeritage also holds this collection, although Ancestry shows slightly more records.
16. Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980, Ancestry.com, 103,824,022 Records
17. British & Irish Roots Collection, Findmypast, 98,536,325 Records
19. Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980, Ancestry.com, 95,335,126
Tips for Searching Large Record Databases
While large databases are often extremely valuable to the genealogical community because they contain so many names, they can also be difficult to search. The vast number of entries can decrease your chance of finding a match if names, dates or locations are not as expected.
Remember to be very flexible in your search. Use variations on first and last names, expand date ranges and don’t get trapped by place names that may have changed over time or that were recorded differently in the past.
And expect errors. They happen all of the time so account for that when searching and don’t be turned off if you can’t find your ancestor with regular efforts. Browse records individually if you have to, to find the information you need.
Read these articles for more help conducting productive genealogy searches.
- Ancestry.com’s “Location Traps” Are Causing Researchers to Miss Important Records
- 13 Reasons You Can’t Find the Genealogy Information You’re Looking For
- 7 Little-Used Tricks for Finding That Missing Maiden Name
~ By Melanie Mayo, Family History Daily Editor
Image: A family whose history has been a stormy one and the father shot for refusing to collect loot. The family was living in Lille when it was sacked in October 1914. The older girl on the right was arrested for giving chocolate to French prisoners […] Library of Congress