Ancestry has become the biggest genealogy search website on the planet. It’s no wonder that everyone has heard about this site. But what does Ancestry have to offer and can help it you to discover who your ancestors were?
There must be some reason why it has become the number one go to site for family historians all over the world? Just why has it become so popular? Well read on and I will explain to you why.
Here’s a question for you!
If you do not know what a particular product or service has to offer then how do you know that you are getting what you want? And also whether you are in fact getting value for money.
Before you do commit to anything you should do a little bit of background research first. It’s only common sense after all, isn’t it?
And that is why you are probably here. You want to know what Ancestry is all about, whether you should join the site, or whether you should just leave it alone.
To make your decision easier I have covered what you can expect from Ancestry looking at four different areas or criteria. I will explain each one of these in turn.
4 Main Criteria:
If though you want a more detailed explanation of the tools and features to expect on this site then please check out my Ancestry.com Review.
Also included in this review is a discussion about the different packages to choose from, how to build your family tree, search for your ancestors, how to get help and support, and more besides.
When you have finished checking out this guide why not check out my Best Genealogy Sites For Your Family History Research post. And then after that head on over to Top Ten Reviews where they review the ten best genealogy search websites that are both free to use and subscription based.
1. Vast Databases of Records
One of the main reasons why Ancestry has become the biggest genealogy search website is due to the vast amount of records that they are contained in their databases. 20 billion records thus far, and with about 2 million added each and every day.
Having so many records at its disposal has certainly helped make it the number one go to place for the family historian. Another reason may probably be the many advertisements that we see on our TVs each and every day.
Viewing actual documents on the Ancestry website is a very useful tool that you can use. This viewing tool is available to any level of membership to Ancestry.
You can use the viewer to zoom in to any part of the actual document for closer examination. Examining the actual documents is important as I will explain below.
But what sort of information can you found on the Ancestry website?
Find information within the following categories:
- Census and voter lists
- Immigration and travel
- Schools, directories and church histories
- Convict, criminal, land and wills
- Reference, directories and almanacs
And there’s more records being added all the time!
When you start searching the website you will only have limited information that you actually know about and can work with.
You will probably know the minimal details, such as the name of your ancestor and maybe where they lived and roughly when they were born and when they died. You can use this information to make a start to finding your ancestors.
As your knowledge of your family tree grows then you will be able to use Ancestry’s advanced search option. For example, you could put in an exact year of birth, or maybe put in a tolerance of one or two years either side of a certain year. You could even put in an exact parish or town.
Filling in other information such as your ancestor’s spouse, siblings or parents can also help you pinpoint any records about the ancestor that you are researching.
Using members family trees for research:
Besides trawling through the vast databases on the Ancestry website you could also gather information from the many family trees that the site contains.
These have been built up by the members of this website. However, I would advise you to take care when referencing and using the information that these trees hold.
Sure they do have key details that will help you trace your family tree further back. But you will find errors and discrepancies within some of them. This is due to poor research conducted by the member.
Some members are too hasty to build and put up a family tree and so have not been so thorough when it comes to verifying any records. So please be aware of this!
I have used members trees in the past to help me with researching my own family. But I have always taken the time to check whether the information that they hold is indeed correct. They can help you break down brick walls but please use them with caution.
2. Research Aids
There are quite a few different research tools that Ancestry offers that will help you to trace your family tree. These include actually building your family tree online, getting hints to further your research, personal blogs and apps, as well as AncestryDNA which you most likely would have heard about.
Create Your Family Tree Online
One of the great features of Ancestry, and any other genealogy search website for that matter, is the ability to create your own family tree. You start building your tree by entering information about yourself, your parents, then grandparents and so on.
It is a great way to easily create a tree and to edit and build on as well.
My father, when he was researching our family history would draw these family trees the old fashioned way, i.e. with pen and paper. This was a time-consuming process.
He would have to draw out the branches and write in the names, dates and places. If there were any corrections or additions to be made then this could become quite messy.
Doing it the old fashioned way!
Either he would stick with the unattractive family tree or he would have to spend even more time to redo the tree. This is all well and good to redo the tree, but when you do more research then you would have to do this time and time again.
Fortunately we live in a digital world and the use of computers makes this task much, much easier. You can add more ancestors to your tree and change or add details with little effort.
However, if you have already built your family tree at home using a genealogy software program then you need not fear having to manually re-enter all of that information into Ancestry’s family tree builder.
You can save your family tree as a GEDCOM file in your program and upload the file to Ancestry. And then continue with your research within the Ancestry website.
Getting Help Along The Way
One feature of Ancestry that you maybe familiar with is the hints that will be attached to your ancestors in your tree. This feature is a strong drawing point for Ancestry and has featured on the many TV advertisements about this company.
When you build out your family tree you may see a leaf appear next to the name of your ancestor. This leaf will show you all the different records that maybe linked with your ancestor.
I say maybe because it is as the name suggests just a hint. It will link you with all types of records ranging from birth certificates, Censuses and even other Ancestry members’ family trees.
This feature is a bit hit and miss I guarantee, but the more information that you provide then the more accurate the results will be. And so this will help you to break down any brick walls and it will also further your family history research.
Personal Blog and Mobile App
One more key feature which Ancestry offers is your own personal blog. Here you can inform other members as to the progress of your research. This is also a great way to connect with other members.
As people can see what you are writing then they may offer you help and strategies that you can use. Also, you may even connect with a distant cousin this way. If you do then this will again help you further add details to your family tree.
The Ancestry mobile app can help you check your family tree while you are on the go. We are not tied to our computers when it comes to researching our ancestors. So while we are out and about we can carry around our family tree conveniently and reference to it whenever we want to.
The app is also a great way to scanning photographs using the camera on your phone. Here you can then upload and attach them to the relevant ancestor of yours.
Another key feature that you will almost certainly be aware of, (thanks to the TV ads), is the DNA genealogy testing that Ancestry provide. This test can actually help you further your family history research.
It can help you locate where your ancestors lived and so as to their ethnicity. And besides that it can help you see their migration route and also even connect you with your distant cousins who have already taken the AncestryDNA test.
By making this connection you can then build on your research further by comparing your notes with your new-found cousin.
I will say though that there are two other DNA genealogy testing companies that you can try. Ancestry only offers AutosomalDNA testing but there are three types of DNA testing that you can do.
There are over 700,000 markers in your DNA that the AutosomalDNA testing can perform. It will help you to determine common ancestors and so give you results for 4 to 5 generations back.
If though you want more information and want to go further back into your family tree I do recommend that you check out 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and Living DNA.
To make your decision easier you can check out my Best DNA Test For Your Ancestry Research post, where I cover the 5 best DNA testing kits that are available to buy today.
3. Connecting With Millions of Members
Ancestry has become the biggest genealogy search website in the world, and as I have said, this is partially thanks to the billions of records that it contains. It is no wonder then that this site has millions of members searching their vast collection of records. You can therefore take great advantage of the community of Ancestry members.
I have already touched upon members family trees that you will come across on the Ancestry website and given advice on how to use them. Connecting though with other members will help you immensely with your own family history research.
For example, if you do get stuck with a particular ancestor then you can ask the community through the MessageBoard on how you may next proceed.
Other members are only too glad to help you with any problem that you may have. After all genealogy is a hobby where we all help each other. Sometimes we may get stuck with our research and it is not a bad thing to put up our hand for help.
Would you rather just struggle with the problem yourself? Of course not.
One other thing that I advise you to do, (depending on your time constraints), is to be active within the community. As you become more active then you will be noticed more and so the better the chances are that you will get the support that you are looking for.
Also, it may help you to connect with distant cousins.
There are discussions on different areas of research in the MessageBoard, such as queries relating to the location of where information was collected on your ancestor. Also, you may want to reach out to people in different countries around the world.
So you may want to check out members from the United Kingdom, or you may want to try further afield and connect with Australia.
World Archives Project
Ancestry has gathered many of its records through government and official agencies. It has millions of birth, death and marriage records within its’ databases. But not all information has been put online as yet or may not even be accessible for Ancestry to collect and digitize.
And that is where the World Archives Project and you come in. You can do your bit by submitting documents and information that you think can benefit other members. As I have said just before genealogy is a hobby where we can all help each other. And this is a great example of doing exactly that.
4. Help and Support
Genealogy is a hobby I have said where from time to time we will need support. You may get the help that you are after from the millions of members who have already signed up to Ancestry.
But if either your query is more specific or you would rather get advice from Ancestry themselves then there are various options available to you.
First of all before you contact Ancestry I would suggest that you check out the MessageBoards and see if you can get help that way. As I have said there is a very large community on the site who are only to glad to help you out.
Help Is Available!
If you do get stuck, for whatever reason, then you might get the advice that you are looking for by checking out the Help Articles on their website. There are also a range of different questions and answers that have been asked by other community members. So you may get the help that you are after by checking these out.
If you do not find what you are looking for then might I suggest you use the ‘Ask a Question‘ button that is located at the bottom right of the community page. Either a member or an Ancestry representative will try to help you out with your query.
If you wish to contact support directly then there are a number of ways that you can do so. You may want to at first enter in your query using the online form. This will save you time and money if you instead decide to call Ancestry directly.
Response from an online query generally takes within 24 hours. I have used this service a few times and have gotten a response within a day.
Otherwise you may wish to speak to someone instead. You can thus call them but if you are calling from outside the United States then expect this option to be expensive. Also, you may have to wait awhile before you get connected with support.
One thing that I have covered at the start of this post is the costs involved with this genealogy website. There will be plenty of upselling that you will experience when you try to access information or other services.
Depending on the level of membership you will not be able to access all available records. You may therefore need to shell out even more money in order to get the information that you require.
Ancestry is to be honest the most expensive genealogy search website that I have come across. I am not saying how Ancestry should run their business and how to charge people.
But I will say this. They do need to provide a service and they are putting new records on to their site all the time.
And hence costs are involved on your site. After all they do have the most amount of genealogy records than any other site today. And they can help you with your genealogy research in lots of ways.
Do I recommend Ancestry?
Despite being the most expensive genealogy search website I do recommend Ancestry.
This site has helped me immensely to build my family tree. I have found many records that have helped me along the way as well as other members family trees. The community has been a great help to me when I have struggled with whatever problem that I had.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
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