May 2, 2010

Is Ancestry.Com Worth It?

I think this has to be one of the most searched phrases when it comes to genealogy on the internet.  I also think there is not one “right” answer that will fit everyone.  Here is my 2 cents worth on the issue since I use this site almost daily.  It is the only paid genealogy subscription I have currently.
I became a member way in 2002 so I have been using the site for eight years.  I have seen it grow tremendously in that time period.  They also have made many improvements to their data and searches.  For me it has been worth the money for the yearly subscription.  I should mention I have the US Deluxe subscription.  I need to do further research on what is available for the international subscription before I upgrade.  Below are my pros and cons for a paid subscription to Ancestry.com.

Pros
Census Information:  I have used the census data the most out of all their databases.  Searching has been relatively easy.  There are numerous ways to search, even just by first name and location.  I have found ALMOST everyone that I set out to find in at least one census.

Everything in One Place:  With all the different databases available on Ancestry.com   you can search for almost everything from one place. You can type in your grandfather’s name and if you are lucky he will pop up in numerous census years, military records, death records, other member’s trees, and if you are very lucky maybe pictures posted by other members.  This can save time by staying in one place instead of website hopping.

Paying for a Subscription Can Be Motivating:  Sometimes life just gets in the way of genealogy.  Or maybe you have hit a brick wall and become frustrated with researching.  But when you are paying for something you are more likely to use it (at least I am).  When I get frustrated or bored with one group of ancestors I just move on to someone else—partly because of my paid subscription.  Of course this is not just Ancestry.com specific, but applies to any paid genealogy site.
 
View Scanned Original Documents:  Many of the databases have the original document scanned.  Some examples include the census, World War I draft registrations, passport applications, plus others.  I believe it is extremely helpful and critical to view original documents whenever possible.

Locate Other Family Members:  You can search countless other members’ family trees plus other public family trees all from Ancestry.com.  There is a fairly good chance you will find someone out there with some sort of connection to your family.  You can post on free message boards but not everyone who keeps data in an online tree frequents message boards.

Different Membership Levels:  There is some flexibility in how much you pay and what data you can access.  You can have the USA subscription or the International one, depending on your needs.  Also you can pay yearly (which is cheaper) or quarterly if it better suits your needs.

Wealth of Information:  There are about 4 billion historical records (according to Ancestry.com) to search.  You should be able to find something on your ancestors even if you only have minimal clues.  Browsing through the list of databases can give you ideas of things to research that you might not have thought of previously.

Cons
Expense:  No matter how many records they have or how convenient it is to search records in your pajamas at 3:00 am, it is still an expense.  If you do not use it on a fairly regular basis you are wasting your money.

Searching Can Be Slow:  The searching and loading of pages can be slow.  I used to think this was an issue just with my old laptop.  But reading the Ancestry.com blog it appears this is a widespread problem.  On the plus side they are aware of it and claim to be making improvements, but it is unknown when this will actually get better.

Poor Indexing:  I have come across this many times.  Names and other data are not indexed correctly so they do not come up in searches.  I would expect some errors.  The original writing on documents can be difficult to read and they have indexed a massive amount of data.  However from doing some reading and researching on the net it seems I am not the only one who holds this opinion.  I have personally seen the original written name—clear as a bell in my opinion, butchered in the index.

Some Databases Available Free Elsewhere:  Not all the data on Ancestry.com is exclusive to their site.  You can find the California Death Index, SSI Death Database, and census sheets to name a few, elsewhere at no cost. 
 
Wealth of information:  I have listed this under both Pros and Cons.  Because even though it sounds great to have 4 billion records at you fingertips, it can be overwhelming.  Many times I feel like I am missing out on data because I do not know where to look.  It is almost impossible to know every database and I have found some by chance.  So many records appear in search results,  I believe many people do not go past maybe page 3 or 4.

Ultimately you have to take you own genealogy needs into consideration to decide on any type of paid subscription.  Hopefully this list will give you some issues to think about so you can make an informed decision.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info...well written.

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  2. Thanks for the info...very well written.

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  3. very helpful to a newbie

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