Ancestry.com is one of the leading genealogy sites on the Internet. Started as a publishing company in 1983, the Provo, Utah-based Ancestry.com bills itself as "The world's largest online family history resource," assisting professional historians, scholars, students, law enforcement, collectors, amateur sleuths and just plain ordinary folks in the genealogy field.
Ancestry.com – also known as "The family tree folks" – is a veritable treasure trove of information featuring over six billion records. That's a lot of data, providing the browser with a dizzying array of historical facts, figures, photos and documents culled from various archives in the United States and from around the world.
Building a family tree, or maybe adding on to one? Ancestry.com wants to be the main facilitator, dispensing invaluable information from such resources as immigration and emigration records, military records, birth, marriage and death records, official census reports and voter lists.
Ancestry.com has been assembling a vast digitized and indexed collection of historical records since 1996. These folks are dead serious about genealogy, with their paid subscribers – 1.6 million worldwide to date – creating over 24 million family trees with over 2.4 billion profiles. Add to that a growing archive containing more than 60 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories, and Ancestry.com becomes the go-to site for genealogists, history buffs or anyone looking to complete a family background check.
A visit to Ancestry.com is a trip back into history. Lining the top of the site are such categories as Family Trees, Search, Collaborate and Learning Center, with drop down boxes for each pointing the way to the fascinating world of genealogy. A user can get started for free, entering one's name, sex, age, birthplace and which side of the family tree (mother, father) one prefers to pursue. Complete that, and up pops more data to be filled out, including grandparents' names. Depending on your individual status, the site then delivers the initial results, which could include Public Member Family Trees, United States Federal Census records, World War I and II Draft Registration Cards, et al. And off to the right of the screen, your official family tree slowly begins to take shape...
Ancestry.com can boast of an impressive list of genealogy sources. They include:
- Social Security Death Index
- U.S. Marine Corps Muster Roles 1798-1940
- California Birth Index 1905-1995
- U.S. Civil War Soldiers 1861-1865
- New York Ellis Island Passenger Lists 1820-1957
- England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915
- U.S. Revolutionary War Rolls 1775-1783
- England & Wales Criminal Registers 1791-1892
- U.S. Passport Applications 1795-1925
Equally impressive is the site's Photos and Images department. The sources here include:
- Library of Congress Photo Collection 1840-2000
- U.S. School Yearbooks
- Historic American Postcards Collection 1893-1960
- African American Photo Collection 1850-2000
- U.S. Civil War Photos 1860-1865
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Two of Ancestry.com's leading competitors are MyHeritage and Geni. MyHeritage was founded in 2003 and is based in Bnei Atarot, Israel. Geni was founded in 2006 and is based in Los Angeles, California. Both sites are of the genealogy/social networking variety, inviting the curious to sign up as members and engage and interact with each other in the building of family trees. And yes, that means contacting the relatives.
MyHeritage utilizes a metasearch engine for genealogy queries, sending them through its own database and 1,526 additional databases. The company, which boasts of 757 million profiles, also employs a unique Soundex or Megadex component, which enables users to locate spelling and sound variations in names.
Geni is more of a genealogical version of LinkedIn, the popular business-related social networking site which created quite a stir on Wall Street in May 2011 when it went public. Geni, which currently boasts of over 100 million profiles, readily encourages users to interact and collaborate in the growing, care and nurturing of family trees. Oh yes, it's free.
In terms of resources and sophistication, Ancestry.com is the more professional and comprehensive site by far. For one thing, Ancestry.com has been at it longer, first entering the ranks as a publishing company way back in 1983 and eventually evolving into a full-fledged, no-holds barred online genealogy conglomerate.
One can't helped but be impressed with Ancestry.com's long, tethered reach back into history, which not only features the numerous records, census reports, indices, lists, registries, etc. already cited, but such collateral sources as old newspapers and periodicals, maps and atlases, town histories, phone books and city directories. Top, easy-to-use cyber tools also enrich the experience, making Ancestry.com the Internet's premier genealogical research site. Also recently added is the Ancestry.com app, for use on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.
Ancestry.com is the closest one can currently get to time travel this side of H.G. Wells. But be careful when researching those family trees, as one never knows what "missing link" may fall out. At Ancestry.com, the phrase "I keep seeing dead people" takes on an entirely new, exhilarating meaning.
Ancestry.com, which went public on November 5, 2009 (NASDAQ: ACOM), is out to earn revenue. The company advertises extensively, with many of their personal story-type commercials – e.g., my ancestors lived next door to the Wright Brothers – now a staple on American television. Thus, they are not shy about charging for their services, which entail the following:
- 14-Day Free Trial*
- U.S. Deluxe Annual Membership $155.40
- U.S. Deluxe Three Month Membership $50.85
- U.S. Deluxe Monthly Membership $19.95/month
- World Deluxe Annual Membership $299.40
- World Deluxe Three Month Membership $83.85
- World Deluxe Monthly Membership $29.95/month
*Note: You MUST actively cancel your 14-day free trial if you do not wish to continue or risk being billed for a regular membership.
Compare this to their leading competitors:
- Family Tree Builder 5.1 genealogy software your choice of 36 languages/free download (21,766,743 downloads to date)
- Premium version of Family Tree Builder/$75 annually
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Ancestry.com generally garners high marks on the World Wide Web:
"Ancestry.com sets the standard for online genealogy search websites with their enormous and diverse databases. The one thing that sets this site above all others is the digitalized documents available for viewing." - TopTenReviews.com
"In just two nights of work I traced one of my family lines back to the year 1050 and discovered that some of them were Knights, Barons, and Lords. Very interesting. Learning more about my family history has not only been fun, it has helped me get a better grasp on who I am and where I came from...Ancestry.com is the best site – this project would have taken me way longer using other methods. There's so much valuable information and an incredible amount of research available on their site." - FriendshipExpress, San Diego, CA, Viewpoints.com
"Finding all those records conveniently in one place was well worth the price of the subscription. I bought the world deluxe and it’s been worth every penny." - Elizabeth, ObituariesHelp.org
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