Which Ancestry Subscription Is Best For You? (2021)

Are you looking at Ancestry subscriptions and wondering which is best for you? This article guides you through the options with a strategy for getting value for your money.

I’ve had Worldwide membership since 2017 and I sometimes upgrade to higher access. But you may only need the cheaper level.

Read on to learn how to pick the right subscription for your family research.

Basic Versus Worldwide Subscriptions

Ancestry has three levels of membership at different subscription prices. Membership is tied to the regional site that you sign up with.

If you’re American, you may be surprised to hear that Ancestry.com isn’t their only website. There are also Ancestry sites for Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and many other countries.

I’ll break down the first and second tiers of subscriptions for the main Ancestry websites below. Then I’ll look at the highest subscription level in the next section.

American customers (Ancestry.com)

The basic subscription on Ancestry.com (U.S. Discovery) gives you their U.S. genealogy collections. But you don’t get access to U.K. or other interntional records.

Were all your grandparents born in England? You will probably want to take the worldwide membership (World Explorer) which gives you access to all Ancestry’s genealogy archives.

MembershipWhat’s IncludedNewspapers.com BasicFold3
U.S. DiscoveryU.S. recordsNoNo
World ExplorerAll genealogy recordsNoNo
All AccessAll genealogy recordsYesYes

Canadian customers (Ancestry.ca)

The basic subscription on Ancestry.ca gives access to their Canadian genealogy collections.

The next level has what Ancestry calls “key” worldwide records. These include civil birth, marriage, and death records from the international collections.

However, this second level doesn’t include some very useful collections such as passenger lists and church records.

Passenger lists can have vital family information for immigrant ancestors. If you have Irish ancestors, you may not want to miss out on the church baptismal records.

MembershipWhat’s IncludedNewspapers.com BasicFold3
U.S. DiscoveryU.S. recordsNoNo
World ExplorerAll genealogy recordsNoNo
All AccessAll genealogy recordsYesYes

UK and Irish customers (Ancestry.co.uk)

The basic subscription on Ancestry.co.uk gives access to record collections that cover the United Kingdom, Ireland, and some U.K. overseas territories.

I’m Irish, and many of the prior generations in my family tree emigrated to the United States. Because of this, I’ve used the Worldwide subscription since 2017.

MembershipWhat’s IncludedNewspapers.com BasicFold3
UK & IrelandUK & Ireland recordsNoNo
WorldwideAll genealogy recordsNoNo
All AccessAll genealogy recordsYesYes

Australian customers (Ancestry.com.au)

The Australian membership levels have a slightly different pattern. They have an intermediate level between local and worldwide.

The basic membership covers both Australian records and UK birth, marriage, and death records. But Ancestry has far more in their UK archives than just birth, marriages, and death certificates.

The next level up gives access to all their genealogy records across the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand.

But what if you want American collections too? Then you need to take the top subscription level – which is the Worldwide subscription at other sites.

MembershipWhat’s IncludedNewspapers.com BasicFold3
UK HeritageAU and UK BMDNoNo
UK Heritage+AU, UK, NZ, IE recordsNoNo
WorldwideAll genealogy recordsNoNo

Ancestry’s Highest Subscription Level – Fold3 And Newspapers

What could be higher than access to all the records in the Ancestry archives?

Well, Ancestry owns two separate websites with different document archives. One is an archive of military documents, and the other is a newspaper archive.

Fold3

The highest subscription level gives you full access to Fold3, the military archive. This separate archive has predominantly U.S.-based records.

However, there are some international military documents on the site as well.

Ancestry’s newspaper problem

It’s important to understand that the highest “All Access” level only gives you limited access to the newspaper archive, Newspapers.com.

This can be very frustrating for people who cough up for the extra “All Access” level and find that many newspaper obituaries are behind a further paywall. It may be more cost-effective to take two separate subscriptions.

I break down all the options in a separate article on getting good value from both Ancestry and Newspapers.com.

Will The Worldwide Subscription Be Worth It For You?

If all your ancestors going back to the 18th century were born in the United States, then you probably don’t need a Worldwide subscription. The U.S. Discovery level will keep you busy for years.

If you’re in the United Kingdom and your heritage is as English as King Alfred, then the UK basic subscription may be enough. Although you may also want to track branches who emigrated to the New World.

Best strategy to check for good value

A good strategy is to start with the basic level for six months.

Once you’ve researched your ancestral lines within your country, then you can take out a month of the Worldwide subscription.

This will let you explore Ancestry’s international archives to check that they have significant coverage for your ancestral areas.

What Happens If You Cancel Your Ancestry Subscription?

If you cancel your Ancestry subscription, you will still retain membership at the free level.

You can continue to work on your family tree, which is part of the free tier. It doesn’t disappear!

However, you will no longer be able to view the records that you added using your subscription. The images are behind the paywall.

The records will remain attached to your tree. This means that if you take a break and start a new subscription, all the records will be available.

If you need further info, check out our article on what you can do with a free Ancestry guest account.

Tips For Getting Discounts On Ancestry Subscriptions

Ancestry reduces its subscription prices at fairly regular times during the year. Typically, there are discounts in the run-up to these events:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Mothers Day
  • Fathers Day
  • Christmas
  • St Patrick’s Day

If you want to hold out for a discount, it’s worth signing up for free Ancestry membership and choosing to receive marketing emails. You should get notification of an upcoming sale price.

Sneaky Ways To Get Discounts

By default, Ancestry auto-renews your membership at full price. So, even if you signed up during a sale, you’ll end up paying the full membership price at renewal.

However, there are some sneaky ways to get the discounts if you’re prepared to do a bit of work. Here are some tips I’ve collected from other Ancestry users.

Tip #1: cancel and wait

Watch out for your renewal date, and cancel your subscription before it auto-renews.

And then you wait for Ancestry to send you an email offering a discounted price!

Some long-term Ancestry users report that they cancel every six months, and get an email with a discount before thirty days go by.

Tip #2: call if you see a sales offer

If you already have a membership, the Ancestry website won’t offer you the sales price even if a sale is being publicized.

However, if you’re in the last month of your subscription, a phone call may get you the renewal at the discounted price.

This seems to work best for American users.

Tip #3: look for offers at genealogy conferences

Ancestry sponsors many genealogy conferences across different countries.

They may not be the main sponsor at an event you attend, but watch out for the Ancestry booth. They often hand out discount vouchers.

They may also sign you up with a discount while you grab other goodies from their representatives.

The AARP Discount (USA)

AARP is a U.S. non-profit organization for people of 50+ years of age. AARP membership costs about $12 per year.

If you already have membership, you should check out the AARP discount for Ancestry subscriptions. It should come in at about 30% off the full price.

But watch out for your Ancestry renewal price. The AARP discount doesn’t roll over when your Ancestry membership renews, so you would pay full price at this point.

Can You Gift Yourself Ancestry Membership?

Ancestry lets you buy a six or twelve-month gift subscription at a lower cost than the usual membership prices.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could treat yourself to a gift subscription?

If you already have an Ancestry subscription, then the website won’t allow you to gift yourself a new one.

But some people have found ways to get around this restriction. I’m not suggesting that you do so. I’ll simply phrase this section as “things that I’ve heard other people have done.”

I’ve heard one woman say that she uses her boyfriend’s Ancestry account to send herself a gift subscription each year.

I hope that her boyfriend is fully informed of this arrangement! And that it’s more than just an Ancestry membership that’s keeping them together.

Look, you don’t have to have a willing partner for this endeavor. If you have two credit cards and a couple of email accounts, you can easily get yourself a gift subscription.

Just remember that you usually have to activate the gift within three months.

Do Spouses Or Households Need Two Subscriptions?

I’m sure that Ancestry.com would prefer that a single household buys multiple subscriptions.

But you don’t really need more than one membership. One Ancestry account can create as many trees as necessary. So, both spouses can have separate trees with one membership.

When An Ancestry Subscription Is Not Worth It

An Ancestry subscription won’t be worth the cost for everyone.

I’ve laid out some reasons here that may encourage you to avoid an Ancestry subscription. But remember, you can always take out a free trial.

Ancestry may not have records for your ancestors’ country of origin

If you’re interested in building your family tree, then you may find value in their massive genealogy archives – as long as your ancestors are from countries with genealogical records.

For example, my paternal ancestors are from a country whose civil authorities only started recording birth events within the last few decades. It’s not Ancestry’s fault that they are useless for that side of my heritage!

However, there are other countries where Ancestry’s competitors may have better archives. MyHeritage is reputed to have bigger collections for some European countries.

My advice is that you take out a free trial to check what’s available in the Ancestry collections.

You may only be interested in Ancestry’s ethnicity estimates

Some customers purchase an Ancestry DNA kit solely to get their estimates of ethnicity.

They may have no other interest in genealogy. An Ancestry subscription won’t be worth it in that case.

You may only be interested in learning about unknown parents

Other customers purchase an Ancestry DNA kit to learn the identity of their biological parents.

Some may be lucky enough to find close DNA relatives in Ancestry’s database who give them all the information they want. If they don’t feel the need to build a family tree, then an Ancestry subscription won’t be worth it.

If you’re in this position, you should understand that you are statistically more likely to see second or third cousins than very close family.

If these relatives are not prepared to communicate, then the best way to research biological roots is to research their family trees. After all, one set of their ancestors will be your direct ancestors as well.

This is where an Ancestry subscription can be the way to unlock your family background.

Taking Out A Free Ancestry Trial

I do recommend that you take advantage of the free Ancestry trial to check that you’ll find good records for your heritage.

However, you will need to provide payment details to get the free trial. People worry that they won’t be able to cancel without getting charged.

If you have similar worries, check out our article on how to cancel a free Ancestry trial safely.

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