Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship With Ancestry.com--and Why I'll Probably Keep Subscribing

Well it's nearly the end of June, and time again to pay my annual subscription fee to Ancestry.com

Every year I waver back & forth--should I continue subscribing?   There are many things I dislike about the website, but some parts are helpful.  I have been a subscriber since Dec 2000, and have seen a lot of changes in Ancestry.com, some good, some not so good. Is it worth it anymore? Let's see....

THINGS I HATE ABOUT ANCESTRY.COM

1) Their search engine, both for general historical records,  and specifically for census and history books and published genealogies.  I don't even bother with general searches for historical records anymore, except as a  diversion when I don't have anything better to do. Usually those searches produce next to nothing for me.  Census searches are usually more fruitful.  However, I have had the unfortunate experience of finding a census record, not bookmarking or printing out the record, and when I return the next day to view it again, having the search engine tell me it doesn't exist.  This has happened numerous times to me. So now I bookmark everything important that I find, and/or write down the page number of the census (Ancestry's census viewer page number, not the page number on the actual scanned record).

Another tip:  When searching in Ancestry's scanned history books or published genealogies, go directly to the index, and don't even bother with the search engine. Chances are the search engine will tell you nothing can be found.

2) The "New" Search format vs the "Old" Search format. I always use the Old Search format.  The New Search format is NOT user friendly.

3) Their family trees.  I had a very bad experience a couple of years ago.  I started my family tree on Ancestry World Connect back in 2000 and was very happy with the format.  I put in eight years of work researching and compiling, including copious notes and documentation.  A couple of years ago, Ancestry.com  decided to change/upgrade their format, and insisted that all subscribers using Ancestry WorldConnect Tree upgrade to the new format.  I tested the water with just one of my gedcoms, and uploaded it.  HALF the individuals in the tree were deleted, as were ALL of my notes.  Eight years of work down the drain. I was mortified.

Luckily I  managed to recover the data.  I purchased Mac FamilyTree that very same day and immediately transferred all of my gedcoms from Ancestry.com.   Now I publish my online family trees only on Rootsweb.com  (which btw is owned by Ancestry.com).

The Rootsweb.com format  for family trees is vastly superior to the Ancestry.com format. You can view the data in many different ways, such as pedigree, descendency or text view (which can go out many generations).  Plus you can search indexed surnames for each tree, and see an alphabetized list of all individuals on the tree on Rootsweb, and you can't do that on Ancestry.com family trees.

Another big issue with Ancestry.com family trees is the mind-boggling level of misinformation in them. Yesterday I was looking at  Ancestry.com public family trees and found some that included  my paternal  gg grandparents in Missouri (for whom I have tons of documentation). There were over twenty trees with horrendous blatant errors.  Apparently people copy or merge other people's family trees and the horrendous blatant errors get copied, too.  The worst thing is that there is no way for me to leave a message for the other users that the information they have is incorrect.  As least on Rootsweb.com I can leave a post-it message to correct errors and share documentation.

And then there is the error-filled zombie horror of OneWorldTree.  They need to shoot it and put it out of its misery.

4) Weird computer stuff that keeps me from accessing the website.  Does this only happen to me? I wonder.

 If I've been signed in on the website for more than a couple hours, I start getting weird deflective messages.  For instance, instead of the Ancestry.com search page,  I may get a page with a message that "you are signed in on more than one computer (not bloody likely!) and need to sign off on the other computer or wait thirty minutes before you can use Ancestry.com again" (??).  Or I'll get a page indicating that --sorry-- Ancestry.com  is just not available at the moment (but that may be due to heavy use, of course). Or the links to records just suddenly stop working with a continuous bad server connection message (Safari web browser issue?)-- but only when I  am clicking on a link to a record that I really really want!!! :-(

You'd think  that subscribers wouldn't have these kinds of problems--considering  the amount of money Ancestry.com charges for a full subscription.


THINGS I LIKE ABOUT ANCESTRY.COM

1) Having complete access to US census records 1790-1930.  This alone keeps me coming back year after year. It has been the single most helpful facet of the website for my research.

2) The new Card Catalog search feature.  This comes in handy when I am thinking of purchasing a genealogy source book.   I always check the Card Catalog on Ancestry.com  first to see if the book is available there. No sense paying for something I have already paid for!

3) US Military records, especially the WWI draft cards and WWII draft records.  These have proven to be quite helpful in my research recently.

4) City Directories, Wills, Land records, and the US obituary index have all been helpful to my research. But not as much as the census.

5) The Stories, History & Published Genealogies section.  Having access to hundreds of scanned books & manuscripts is really awesome.  Just remember to use the index, not Ancestry.com's  search engine.


Have a great day!

Betty

© Betty Tartas  2010

3 comments:

Brenda said...

I agree with you about ancestry. I, too, have gotten the message about being signed in on another computer. I only use my home computer to access it. The other positive to ancestry is I have been in contact with distant cousins and shared information.

Greta Koehl said...

Agree with your pluses and minuses. I cannot figure out whey they even keep New Search. I often pull Ancestry up on two computers at once and so far have not had any problems. The "Ancestry is experiencing problems" message occurs way too often. Good tip about using the index. There are lots of hidden gems in Ancestry, but you have to know what they are, because the search engine won't take you there. Great post!

Jim Owston said...

Excellent synopsis of the Ancestry.com site. I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. Just like most things in life - there are things we don't like, but the positives may greatly outweigh the negatives.

Keep up the good work.

Jim