Will Ancestry.com Really Help Me Trace Family History?


Does Ancestry.com really work?The Ancestry.com commercials on TV make it seem that if you use their website you’ll likely find that you’re related to some amazing person long since passed. So does this really work, or will you be left wondering why you had to use your credit card to find out your ancestors were a bunch of lame-os?

Overview
Genealogy is a growing hobby as more and more baby boomers are retiring and finding things to fill the void that their job once did. For some, delving into the family history is a hobby and a fun way to find out where you’ve come from. In some rare instance it’s found that people’s families have a checkered or glorious history. in most cases though things are a little less glamorous and a little more yawn inducing.

The Claim
Ancestry.com is good at not making big bold claims for their service. They simply plant the idea that if you start searching your family records you’ll stumble on an interesting factoid or two that you can bring up at the next cocktail party. It isn’t very dubious, but it is slightly exaggerated, as the average user will find nothing of any real value, and only an exceptional user will find they have an exceptional family history.

The Hype
The hype comes in the form of the commercials they run showing people learning seemingly interesting things about their ancestors.

They do push the limits on what is considered interesting. One customer they showcase looked up his family and found out they lived next door to the Wright Brothers. It’s doubtful that in 100 years people will feel giddy that their ancestors lived next to Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

The Cost
If you want to delve deep into your family history it’ll cost you. Ancestry.com usually runs a two-week limited access free trial and this is the time you should take advantage and use it to find the info you’ve been wanting to get. They try to save the juicy bits or the older stuff for their paid memberships.

They want a whopping $146 per year for full access. This is rather alarming for records that are available at public libraries and other databases with a little hunting. If you’d rather have it spoon-fed to you in one place you could pay the price and knock yourself out.


Start Looking
The Commitment
You have to do the digging, Ancestry.com just provides the information. It’s up to you to go exploring and follow the trail through your family tree. This could entail hours and hours of searching, but if genealogy is a hobby of your this will be something that you don’t mind doing.

User Feedback
Those that have tried Ancestry.com have reported that it does a good job of compiling information from many different sources and presenting it all in one place. There is a preference shown for Ancestry.com over other similar services like Genealogy.com.

It does seem like Ancestry.com is better funded than their competitors, and perhaps this leads to more data being gathered and a friendlier user interface. These would combine for a better user experience and help it to gain status as the de facto place to search family histories.

Does Ancestry.com Really Work?

Ancestry.com doesn’t do anything ingenious or remarkable, it’s just a storehouse for information that is readily available for anyone to obtain. It “works” because it provides things like census data and other public records for those that are wishing to search for this kind of thing. Some people might think that it constructs your family tree for you by just entering your name.

It does not do the research for you, it merely puts the information at your fingertips and allows you to construct and save your family tree online.

Our Recommendation
If exploring your family history is something that brings you a lot of joy and satisfaction, and you don’t mind spending money to have public domain data presented to you, Ancestry.com is one of a few options available to you.

Official Website: Ancestry

What do you think? Does Ancestry.com really work?


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie October 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Having been an Ancestry.com member for several years now, I find that it is much more cost and time effective for me to find the documents and information online as opposed to ordering Microfiche and/or Microfilm, waiting for it to arrive and then searching a file that may or may not contain the information I am looking for. Worse yet having to drive to North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee or any number of myriad of other places my ancestors have lived and traveled to, then spending days or even weeks in different courthouses searching for information that may have been misfiled, misplaced or destroyed. Plus there is the added incentive that you find long lost family members and others who may be working on the same line as you and have already found information that you need. It is a wonderful networking site for family history buffs!

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Jessica B November 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Hey, did you also wonder who your ancestors were? Were they well known people who created history? I am asking because I’m close to finding out myself through Ancestry.com. I found out about this site from someone and thought it might be a waste of time; but then I also realized soon enough that Genealogy is becoming a fast growing hobby amongst people. Of course that aroused a lot of curiosity and here I am now, part of Ancestry.com working my way down the history to find any hidden great names.

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Karen N December 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I started doing Ancestry.Com over spring break last year because my daughter requested me to do it. She had seen the commercials on TV with the green leaves that pop up. By the end of the week, we had over 300 names on our family tree. We connected to two other Ancestry.Com members who had done research on their part of the tree so we could add their information to our tree and visa versa. We discovered immigration records, census data, navy deployments, and draft cards (that include the height, weight, and physical description of the men). I never would have done this on my own without the research tools provided by Ancestry.Com. I’ve taken the tree that I’ve developed to two sides of my family to see what blanks they can fill it. I’m about to spring for the international records which costs extra but I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t get much more information wtihout going overseas. I wish they would display the names of living descendents in the tree. However, I’ve found that I can search deceased relatives obituaries online and often the survivors are listed which provides clues. I haven’t met anyone, in our family or not, who isn’t fascinated with their family tree.

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Donna January 9, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I’m a user on Ancestry on and off, and have been for a couple of years.
I wanted to start researching my family but had no idea where to start. I’d seen the advert for Ancestry so figured i’d give it a try.
I must admit i was very suprised at how easy it to use, and have found it an invaluable tool in keeping all my records together and up to date.
I also love the way it will automatically look up the records of people in your family tree once you start putting in their details.
An excellent tool, i don’t know where i’d be without it!

Would definitely recommend it and although it does cost quite a bit of money for the top package, if you’re serious about your family history it’s well worth it.

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OldTimer January 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Have been a member at Ancestry for a while now, and although i’ve not foud any riches in my family it has allowed me to find some interesting facts about my ancestors.
One of them for example was killed by a horse in World War I.

It’s much easier than having to go to the library and look through records manually.

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DownTheLane January 17, 2012 at 9:56 am

@OldTimer – I’m so sorry, but i laughed out loud when i read you’re comment about the horse.

I love Ancestry – I’ve done loads of family research on it and even found out my Dad had a sister i knew nothing about!
My tip would be not to sign up for the paid services straight away, you won’t need them straight away. Just use the free part of it to start you out.

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Nancy February 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Ancestry.com definitely works. I have been using it for so long that I don’t remember how long I have been using it! I started out innocently trying to find connections to a Cherokee ancestor, and stumbled on relatives Mary Boleyn – and many many others. We are all related to someone famous or semi-famous – you just have to keep searching. Even without finding famous relatives, you will find very interesting stories and connections. Sign up, use it, and enjoy the search!

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RLG August 4, 2013 at 10:12 am

Ancestry.com is amazing. You would be so surprised on how much information is out there on your family. I am new to Ancestry.com, but every time I am on the website I find out more and more information on my family history. Time really slips away from you when you are on the site. It is so interesting. It is pretty affordable too. I enjoy it and recommend it to all my family and friends.

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