I recently asked if Ancestry is worth it? Hmmmm….. How do I answer it? It is the place with the most wrong stuff and a place with some of the best stuff. I have paid subscription fees for 12 years this December so I would have to say it is, but like everything else you need to be smart.
Lets start with what I hate about Ancestry.
- I hate trees build by subscribers and users with NO sources, nothing to substantiate what they post. Then the next want-to-be family historian comes in and starts their tree and uses those “wonderful” hints and builds their tree again with undocumented family members. Before long you have a huge tree and you have traced yourself back to the old country. Unfortunately just like the whisper game you played in grade school where a a message was sent around a circle of children, your tree is as wrong as that classmate who had to say the message out loud. I have turned these off as hints. It isn’t to say that I haven’t taken a look at these trees when I was at a dead-end hoping that some one posted something they knew for a fact because their Grandpa told them. That little item gives me something to prompt my search in a new direction. Sometimes helpful, sometimes nothing to be found. Family trees without any sources is just gossip, nothing to back it up.
- I hate the cost. When I divide it out over the year it really isn’t that bad, when I look at what I have spent in 12 years it is appalling.
What I love about Ancestry.
- Indexing. The fact that I can put in a name, a date and place and get potential hits. It makes lots of sources that used to take hours to search is what I now call low hanging fruit. Easy pickings I can prove or disprove lots of things in short order because I can see familial relationships once every ten years.
- Partners for the same price. My favorite partner is Newspaper Archives. This is so wonderful in that I can search and read old newspapers that have been scanned in OCR fashion. What OCR is, is Optical Character Recognition. What that means is, it recognizes the letters and make words, so you can search on a name and find newspaper articles about your family you would not have known about. I no longer only look only around birth and death days for significant family events, but now can also learn about when they sang for the church choir-giving me a church name to search, when they attended wedding showers-finding cousins, played sports-learning talents, made the honor roll-giving me school names and won the Halloween window decorating contest.
- I can do it at home in my jammies. I will never be able to visit all the places I want to, to dig and find the family history I am in search of, but Ancestry gives me access to enough information that I can always find something new, at home while the snow howls outside.
- They are constantly adding new information. Each year when it comes time to renew I think do I or don’t I. I still do because of the additions they make each year. The amount of data that they make available online is amazing and a real help to those of us who are researching our family history. It is those additions that make my family stories better and better. It is that data that makes me learn more not only about my family but also about my nation and the road it has traveled.
There are many other things to like, hate and be indifferent about in an Ancestry subscription, but these are a few of my highlights.