Trace your family history online – 13 sites and apps for researching your family tree

Tracing your family tree has never been easier thanks to the census results, parish records and other resources online. Here are the best websites and apps to get you started.

Plotting your family tree can help you connect with your past and find out how you and your loved ones ended up where you are today.

One researcher, Joanna Kaplanis at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has even created the world's biggest family tree which contains 13 million people. She found the data using crowd-sourcing website You can see the paper here

[Read more: 7 fascinating classified documents available online]

If you're planning on make a family tree (albeit on a smaller scale), it can be tricky to know where to start. But we're here to help. We’ve rounded up the best websites and apps so you can start researching your family history right away.

Find my past

Find my past

With over four billion records to search, this should be the first port of call for anyone serious about tracing their family history. Sources include local newspapers, parish records, passenger lists of ships leaving the UK, military records, school admissions, workhouse registers and more.

Who do you think you are?

Who Do You Think You Are magazine is a great place to start. This free app hooks you up to the forum, where you can ask advice, trade information, and generally start finding your feet.

Download WDYTYA Forum for iOS

Genes Reunited

Again, this site contains a wealth of information like parish records, census results, birth, and marriage and death certificates, all ready for you to search. It’s free to use, then you pay for each record you view. Or you can subscribe and look at as many as you like.

Ancestry website


This site has been helping people put together their family trees for over a decade. Its database includes more than one billion searchable records including birth, marriage and death certificates, passenger lists, phone books, military and parish records and censuses. It’s huge internationally too, and features more than four billion profiles from over 100 countries.

Family Search

If you’re on a budget, this free service will be invaluable. The non-profit organisation offers a host of services, including helping you find the right image, converting your family records to digital files, and indexing them online.

Find a grave

Taking photos of gravestones and sharing them online might sound a bit morbid, but it provides a wealth of information if you’re researching your family tree. This app gives you a database of over 100 million graves in half a million cemeteries.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

A site dedicated to the 1.7 million men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the two world wars. You can search by name or find a nearby cemetery. An invaluable tool for anyone looking for a war hero.

Reunion 12

At £79.95, this software isn’t cheap. But it does everything you could need if you want to start a family tree. You can document and store information like names, dates, pictures, sounds and video. A companion app lets you edit it on your iPhone, too.


This is a map that includes thousands of images and stories ‘pinned’ to it. You can upload your own in the correct location, and see those uploaded by museums and archives. The photos are overlaid on Google Street View, so it’s great for ‘then and now’ comparisons.

Billion Graves website


This iOS app includes another huge database of graves to search.

Download Billion Graves Camera

General Registry Office

The General Registry Office holds birth, death, adoption, marriage, civil partnership and death certificates. Which makes it an invaluable tool for researching your family tree.

[Read more: Best apps for Android]

Obituary Daily Times

A searchable database of obituaries that’s updated with around 2,500 new entries every day. You won’t be able to read the actual obituary, only the subject and the paper it was published in, so you’ll have to track the article down yourself. Still, it's a great starting point.

MobileFamilyTree 7

This iPhone and iPad app integrates FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogy archive, to help you research your family tree. Unlike some apps, you don’t need a computer to build your family tree either, as this it’s a complete program that works from your phone. You can even take photos of your relatives within the app, ready to upload them to your family tree. At £17.99, the app isn’t cheap though.

Download MobileFamilyTree 8


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