Thinking of digging up your past with Ancestry.com? Here are some commonly-mentioned advantages and shortcomings of this website.
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Get the facts — it has a wealth of digitized historical documents that you can browse for clues as to who your ancestors really were. Forget hearsay and rumors… the hard evidence is right there!
Explore your past through family trees — Using the website’s interface is quick and easy, and facilitates exploration. You can create multiple family trees, and compare them with others who use the website.
Opt out if you can’t uncover anything — Each subscription package comes with a 14-day free trial, so if you don’t find any pertinent information in that time, you can cancel your subscription with no penalty. Check out this tutorial to learn how much a subscription to Ancestry can cost.
Save all of your hard work — Ancestry saves your family trees, even if you only have a free account, so you can go back and explore them further later.
Is your trail hot or cold? — The “Hints” that you get on Ancestry aren’t always spot-on, and without a paid subscription, you often won’t be able to access the historical documents necessary to determine whether someone is actually related to you or just has a similar last name.
Sometimes, the hard copy is the only copy — As digitization technology is relatively new, the documents you need to do a genealogy search may not be on Ancestry.com yet. While the website may help you get started, you may have to do things the old-fashioned way and visit a local record-keeping facility, such as a library, courthouse, museum, etc.
You pay for what you get — The subscriptions for access to the record databases are expensive. A six-month subscription at $13 per month only gets you access to records based in the United States. If you want records from other countries, the price jumps to $35 a month. Plus, some of this information can be found in other places and won’t cost you as much money, if they cost you anything (see above point).
Bottom Line: 7.5/10
Ancestry.com is a great training ground to learn about genealogy and put your heritage-tracking skills to the test. As you explore your “hints”, build family trees, read historical records, and compare notes with fellow users, you’ll hopefully get a better sense of what you should be looking for when it comes to piecing together your past.
It’s not the be-all and end-all of lineage research, though; the information it has only goes back so far in time, and it might not have the information you’re looking for at all (at least not yet). Try it out and see if tracking your family history is something that you like to do; if it is, you can use it as a starting point for learning how to do your own legwork.