Keeping History Alive, Part 3: Ancestry.com
It’s been nearly a month since the last installment in my Keeping History Alive series. There was a good reason for this, though. I’ve been busy trying out Ancestry.com. The folks over at Ancestry.com were nice enough to give me a month free to review the site and I kind of got lost in it. Not in the “it’s a maze where you can’t find anything” sense. Their website is very well put together. It is both easy to use and feature-rich, a balance that can be hard to strike. Instead, I got lost in the “there’s so much information here I don’t know where to begin” sense.
Let’s start at the beginning, then. You first set up your family tree. You can do this by manually adding members or, like me, by uploading a GEDCOM file. GEDCOM files are the standard file format used by pretty much all Genealogical software. So if you’ve been building your tree, you don’t need to start from scratch to move to Ancestry.com. As you build your tree, Ancestry.com will search their records to see if they have matches (called “hints”) for your family members.
These hints could be old census records (1930s and earlier), US Public Records, other member trees, etc. They even have international data so don’t think that only US-based relatives will get hints. As of this point, everything is even free. The only catch is that while you might be able to see that Great-Uncle Joe has hints, you can’t examine them specifically to see whether they are really Great-Uncle Joe and not someone with a similar name and date of birth. (It seems to happen quite often if my family tree’s any indication.)
Subscribing costs between $12.95 a month and $29.95 a month depending on whether you choose US Deluxe or World Deluxe membership and whether you sign up for an Annual, 3-Month or Monthly subscription. Once you are subscribed, the real power of Ancestry.com is unleashed. You can see old records and add them as sources to your tree. In many cases, these old records can wind up adding facts you didn’t have before and perhaps even relatives you hadn’t added. These new entries can lead to more hints which lead to more records which lead to more entries which…. Now you see where I went for a month.
The power is magnified even more when you connect up with other people searching on Ancestry.com. For example, my cousin happened to be doing research into our family tree on Ancestry.com at the same time I was. Any time he made an update, I was aware of it and could add his updates to my tree. One update in particular became quite interesting. He found out that my grandmother’s father had a sister. She married a man named IC (initials, not his real name, obviously). So I added his name into my tree and decided to search on it. The first search result was IC – from another Ancestry.com user. I loaded it up thinking it’d be my cousin’s tree, but it wasn’t. It was a decendent of IC’s. An honest to goodness long lost relative! Sure, he’s “only” a fifth cousin once removed, but still this was very exciting.
In a month, I’ve gotten a lot of information out of Ancestry.com and yet I’ve only really scratched the surface. They also offer other services like DNA testing and geneological experts you can hire. These are additional fees and I believe aren’t directly run by Ancestry.com. They act as a middle man to help you find a professional to assist you.
All in all, I’d say that Ancestry.com is an essential tool for anyone seriously interested in their family’s history. Even if you only use it for a few months, it can help you learn a lot about where you came from.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary month of Ancestry.com’s World Deluxe membership for review purposes. However, the reviews expressed above are my own and were not altered in any way by Ancestry.com or anyone else. In fact, after my complimentary membership period ends, I might continue on as a paying Ancestry.com member for a couple of months.