One question I hear often from clients and others—friends or others who reach out to me or attend my presentations—is whether Ancestry.com is worth the money.
First, let me stress that I am in no way connected to Ancestry.com; I am not employed by them and I do not earn commissions if people take my advice and sign up for memberships. I have used Ancestry since about 1998 off and on, and full time for the past 15 or 20 years, so I am very familiar with its functions and features.
That’s not to say Ancestry is perfect. Far from it. There are a lot of people who don’t like the service or the company, for a variety of reasons. But, honestly, I find it useful for the work I do, warts and all.
One drawback is that this service is not, and never has been, what I would consider inexpensive. There are options to help ease the pain in the pocketbook; there also is the option to purchase memberships as gifts for those hard-to-buy-for genealogists in your life.
If your research interests don’t reach beyond the United States’ borders, then the U.S. Discover package is for you: This costs $119 for six months and $229 for 12 months.
World Explorer allows you to search records from 80 other countries, including our North American neighbors Canada and Mexico. I use this one because I have clients whose family roots in the U.S. don’t go too deep. In fact, I have recent ancestors who emigrated from England to Canada, and from Germany to the U.S. This plan is a tad pricier: $169 for six months; $319 for 12 months.
Level Three: The 'Rolls Royce'
Finally, there is the All Access membership, which, as the name implies, allows access to all of Ancestry’s vast world-wide collection of records as well as access to other search sites owned by Ancestry. Those include the military-records site Fold3 and the Newspapers.com Publisher Extra plan, which allows you to search thousands of digitized newspapers from the 1700s to today for stories about or obituaries for your ancestors. This costs $259 for six months and $479 for 12 months.*
While it is the most expensive, the All Access plan allows you to search these other database sites without having to subscribe to them separately. If you already subscribe to these, you may want to wait subscriptions to expire before signing up for it, or check with Ancestry to see if you can get credit for the remainder of those subscriptions if you cancel them and switch over to All Access.
Another plus for members is you will have access to short videos that explain how to use the website’s features, as well as research tips on a wide variety of topics for beginners and intermediates. This feature requires an Ancestry account, which is managed by Vimeo. It is free to anyone with a World Explorer membership. Fees may apply to those without Ancestry subscriptions.
If you are on a tight budget, or you aren’t sure if you would get your money’s worth from a subscription, check with your local library. Most libraries today have institutional memberships to paid websites like Ancestry, Fold3, and others that you can access for free with a library membership. That’s a pretty good deal.
The downside: You cannot build your own family trees on Ancestry using a library’s membership. You can, however, download any records you find directly to your computer and use those to build your tree using one-time paid software like Family Tree Maker. The upside: You are surrounded by books and people who love them,
FamilySearch is a database offered by the Latter Day Saints based in Salt Lake City, Utah; by signing up for a free, you will be able to build family trees on the site and save records to those trees. It’s a great option if you are just starting out and aren’t sure how serious you are about doing the research. (If you’re like most of us, though, you will be addicted to this work almost immediately!)
Happy searching! And remember: You can always contact me through this website or at my email address—TwistedRootsGenealogy@gmail.com—if you have any questions about this or anything related to genetic genealogy, historical, or basic genealogical research.
* While I really like Newspapers.com, I, personally
, am not a fan of Fold3, as I find it difficult to use. It is not nearly as intuitive as other database search engines and, frankly, so far, I haven’t found anything there that I couldn’t find on free databases available online. That said, I will have to revisit the site to see if this has changed.