2024 Jun 13 Thu

What is Ancestry Good For? – Part 1

What is Ancestry Good For? – Part 1
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Over the last several years I’ve used Ancestry.com to look up many of my relatives. In fact, it was the first place I went to on my first night of looking. If I recall correctly, I either saw a banner ad for the web site or it was a thought that had crossed my mind and I remembered the commercials I had seen that pushed me to go to the web site at that moment. I didn’t want to pay for anything so I took a poke at the free 1880 census index to see what I could find.

It took perhaps two days, but I realized quickly that the things I was looking were not anywhere on Ancestry. I couldn’t find my third great-grandfather’s family. Not his parents or siblings or anything like that. Frustrated, I decided start at source: the cemetery where he was buried at.

I finally got wise to how much cheaper it is to have an annual subscription to Ancestry. The monthly cost was starting to drain me pretty hard. I’ve kept up my membership every year since then. I’ve also come to learn what exactly good Ancestry is and how it best aids in my own personal research.

There are many, many records available through Ancestry’s paid subscription that is also available for free through the LDS via their web sites and microfilm. The question is, how patient are you to get a hold of the information? Since many people treat genealogy as a passive interest or active hobby, Ancestry made available the same records quickly.

It also provided a way for a new kind of people who took an interest in genealogy. They are aptly named ‘lazy genealogist’. Why are they lazy? Because they will copy other people’s work, they will not or cannot differentiate the difference between two persons of the same name that live hundreds of miles apart, and they ‘attach’ everything to that person. The real problem with that is, most of the ‘records’ being attached are other ancestry trees that belong to persons who did no work and generally have no proof. Their ‘member connect’ is a perfect example of what Ancestry is not good for. How often have you seen variations in names, dates, parents, or children and their records are zero or one (from another tree)?

One example of this is a blog post I wrote a couple years ago here: Misspellings and the Lazy Genealogist

If one person makes a mistake and another person copies it, that is the equivalent of the blind leading the blind. Unfortunately, this is the primary thing it seems that most of Ancestry’s users do. Those who know this and value their work always make their trees private.

I could continue to preach the evils of Ancestry is being used for, but it does have it’s saving grace, their indexed US census records.

Unfortunately, that is about it. It’s not a perfect system, but it is the fastest system to search through just the same. Learning how to manipulate the results is a whole different process I’ve learned too. Sometimes the wild card does not work. Sometimes you get nothing back repeatedly. There are times when I’ve resorted to searching through the records page by page only to discover the name I was searching for had been written over in the administration office of the census bureau.

I’ve used the LDS web site www.familysearch.org and found Ancestry.com to be much better.

Despite the minor troubles, I just described, that has been encountered, if I used Ancestry.com for nothing more than the indexed census records, then it is well worth the cost of the annual membership.

So what is Ancestry.com really good for? Their census records.

I’ll cover other good points another time. I decided this is going to make for an interesting series on the good, the bad, and the ugly of using their web site.

Read Part 2 here!                                    Read Part 3 here!

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Editor-in-Chief for The Daily Journal

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