Paying for family history


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Paying for family history

A great-grandmother and her great-granddaughter share precious moments looking at family photos

What's coming up?

In this activity, you will learn about what some paid family history services can offer, and how to get the best value for your money from them.

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Consider the costs

Family history tools offer a wide range of paid search services.

Lower cost search services usually provide automated checks of public databases, while higher cost services are more like private detective agencies, with staff investigating records on your behalf.

As you would expect, the more detailed the search, the more it will cost.

An illustration showing research can cost money if you don't want to do it yourself
An icon of a padlock

eSafety tip: don't be pressured

Commercial family history tools will constantly prompt you to sign-up to a paid search service.

Before making a decision, understand the costs and that you will be signing a contract. So, check the terms and conditions! These will usually be at the bottom of the website, in a link called Terms of Use, or similar. If it isn't there, don't use that service.

Free trials

Subscription-style services quite often offer a 14-day free trial. Using this is only a good idea if you're seriously considering signing up. Remember, you will need to do some work yourself, entering whatever information you have.

If you cancel, then you should be able to export your work for use with other tools. Make sure the service can export your data in the popular GEDCOM format.

An illustration of a typical 14 day free trial website
An illustration of the option to cancel a service on a website

Cancel that free trial

If you sign-up for a free trial to a paid service and decide not to continue with the service, remember to cancel your subscription before the end of the trial. If you don't, you might end up having to pay for the first month or even the first 12 months!

We recommend putting a diary note in to remind yourself a few days ahead of the end of the free period, so you can cancel in good time if you choose to.

Weigh up benefits and costs

If you are already a family history expert, a paid search service is probably not worth the money you will spend.

Paid services are probably most useful for people starting out, because they can save lots of time in research and provide a good start for a family history.

An illustration depicting the need to weigh up the benefits of spending your own time or paying someone else to do your research for you
An illustration of someone's heritage discovered after taking a DNA test

What's DNA got to do with it?

Many family history tools offer a DNA testing service, which can tell you about where your ancestors may have come from.

That can be fascinating information, but may not necessarily be very useful for developing your family tree.

An icon of a padlock

eSafety Tip

When using family history tools and services, protect your budget and your personal information by remembering to:

  • Read the Terms and Conditions to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Cancel your trial of an online service at least two days before the trial period expires.
  • Be aware that your personal information and DNA results may be used or shared by the company providing the service.


This is the end of the Paying for family history activity. You've learned about paying for family history services, including some of the costs involved.

Next up, you'll start building your family history in the activity, Getting started with family history.

An historical wedding photo, typical of the late 19th Century