Ancestry Ancestry
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Ancestry Review

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Rating:
Bottom Line:
Extremely comprehensive database of all kinds of searchable records; numerous resources for research help; member connect option

Full Review:
Ancestry is one of the largest online communities for family history, and its slogan, "the more you share, the more you discover," is spot-on. It's been accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has acquired Fold3.com, formerly Footnote.com, to span even more records for your research purposes. The digital family tree is easy to use, and entering family names allows you to connect to other members who share similar information, which we found to be especially helpful.


Pricing

The cost of the genealogy service depends a lot on what you want to get out of it. The U.S. Deluxe Membership is $19.99/month, or $99.99 for six months. For access to international records, you'll want the World Deluxe plan, which is $34.99/month, or $149.99 with a six-month commitment. The new World Explorer Plus plan gives you access to all records on Ancestry as well as all records on Newspapers.com and Fold3.com. This plan is $44.99/month, or $199.99 for six months.


Getting Started

To sign up with Ancestry, all you need to do is provide your name and email address and your account is instantly created. However, you must enter billing information if you want to start using its services. It does offer a 14-day free trial, but still requires you to fill in your billing information. You can cancel online or by calling its customer support team any time before the 14 days is up. Your card will not be charged until the trial period expires. We received a welcome email when we initially registered our email address and another welcome email upon completing the billing information for our free trial. We also received a welcome message on our Ancestry account, which detailed steps for completing our public profile, finding other members who are also researching our ancestors and how to get help with our research.


Building Your Family Tree

Ancestry makes it extremely easy to start building your family tree. There are demo videos, FAQ pages, member discussion boards and downloadable guides available if you don't know where to begin. The service recommends starting your tree with yourself by entering your first, middle and last name, your gender, your birth date and place of birth; for this, it asks for city, county, state and country, which you can enter as much information as you know. To add your family members, it will ask you to fill in this same information, or as much as you know. It will also ask you to note whether your relative is living or deceased, and if the latter, fill in a death date and place of death. Even if you aren't sure of exact dates or years, entering whatever information you do know is helpful because Ancestry will search its archives and other member profiles to find a match that is close.


Once you begin filling in your family tree, you will be prompted to save your tree. You can enter any name you prefer and check the option to keep it public or private. Making your family tree private means that names you share with other members will still pop up for them when they search, but they will not be able to see your full family tree. If you choose to make it public, other members will be able to see your tree and details of any shared family names; however, any ancestor you have marked as "living" will not be viewable by other members. You can also add stories, photos, audio files and video files to your family tree and individual relatives. For example, if Ancestry finds a U.S. Census record of your grandfather, you have the option to add it to his profile within your family tree. This will also update the information you have entered into his profile and display it when other related searches are found, so you can compare the accuracy.

When you are building your family tree, you have the option to view it as a pedigree chart or as a family tree. The pedigree chart is horizontal and builds to the right, whereas the family tree is the traditional vertical style. On the left-hand side of the screen, you have options to zoom in and out and drag the screen around once your tree starts to expand. You can click on any person within your tree to add children, siblings, parents or spouses, and edit each individual entry at any time. The green leaf symbol that appears next to individual entries indicates that Ancestry has found a hint, which could be either a record or a member tree that could be a potential match. Clicking on this leaf takes you to the results, where you can review what has been found and "accept" or "ignore" it. Accepting will give you the option to add the information or record to your tree. You can also select "undecided" so that Ancestry will save it for you to review later.




Records and Other Features

We were pleasantly surprised with how quickly results were found when we started our family tree. We tested entering only a full name, birth date (without the year), place of birth (with just the state) and place of death (also with just the state). The hint leaf appeared almost instantly, and we found accurate results from another member tree, the U.S. Social Security Death Index, the U.S. Find a Grave Index, U.S. City Directories and the Kentucky Birth Index. You can review each individual item, and in some instances even view the original document itself. Certain documents, like birth indexes, will display the information but not let you view the original document; this varies by state.

You do have the option to order a copy of it with VitalCheck, which is a service that allows you to order copies of birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates for a fee. In order to complete ordering, you must enter some required family information, and based on what you enter, it will decide whether or not you are entitled to receive copies of these documents. If your results yield the Find a Grave Index, you can click on the link to take you to this external website, which lists a full obituary and pictures of the physical gravesite itself.


Outside of your family tree, your home page allows you to do several other things. The top right of the page lists your messages, recent leaf hints, profile and account settings and preferences, the option to upgrade and a link to the help page. You can also do a quick search from your home page for a name and place of an ancestor you are curious about. The Shoebox, also on your home page, gives you the option to save records you have found to review at a later time, and the To Do List feature allows you to keep track of your research by checking off items and viewing recently completed tasks.

The center bar that expands across the full top of the page has drop-down menus for things such as family trees (if you have created multiple), a search bar, AncestryDNA, Learning Center and Publish. Publish will take you to another page that allows you to order customized items, including photo books, calendars, collage posters and other printable documents with your family information.

AncestryDNA is a feature that helps you find new details about your ancestry and ethnic mix. For $99, it uses the latest autosomal testing technology to test your DNA against others in AncestryDNA's database. This testing spans 26 regions and ethnicities and helps you identify your ethnic breakdown by finding DNA similarities between you and others who have taken this test. Ancestry sends you the kit, you send back a small saliva sample and experts take 6 to 8 weeks to analyze your results, which are emailed to you in a percentage-based breakdown.



Customer Support

If you cannot find an answer to your question on Ancestry's online support and help communities, you can contact customer support via email or phone. The availability varies by which region of the world you are calling from. In the U.S., it can be reached Monday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET. A list of times for other countries can be found on Ancestry's contact page.


Conclusion

Ancestry is a wonderful resource when it comes to genealogy and family research. It searches billions of articles that include military records, U.S. Census and vital records and even historical newspapers. The option to connect with other members looking for the same thing is a really nice touch and extremely helpful in family history research. Genealogy can be a bit overwhelming and time consuming, but this service aims to make it as straightforward as possible. Since Ancestry is adding new records all the time, there's a benefit to the long-term plan, and the 14-day free trial will help you decide what you want with this service.

Sign up for Ancestry | Compare to Other Genealogy Services

If you have a question or concern we haven't answered on our site, please let us know. Your question will be added to the NextAdvisor Forums so that we and other experts in our community can answer it. Due to volume, we aren't able to respond to every question, but we answer as many as we can.



Service Details

Price:Free 14-day trial;
$19.99/mo or $99.99/6 mos for U.S.;
$34.99/mo or $149.99/6 mos for World Explorer;
$44.99/mo or $199.99/6 mos for World Explorer Plus
Features:Family tree builder; database search; massive record and image archive; member connect; enhanced family tree features; contact with genealogy experts; DNA testing
Resources:Census records; voter records; birth, marriage & death records; military, immigration & emigration records; newspaper articles; photos; maps; memoirs; public member trees
Customer Support:Email and phone

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