I have a longstanding love of history and that inevitably lead me into wondering what my own ancestors might have been doing and seeing in any given time period. I started a few years ago and because I had no spare funds I only used free sites in order to do this. Frequent advertising of Ancestry on TV made me think I was perhaps missing out on some good resources there so took the opportunity of signing up for one of the free weekends they have been doing for a while which let you look at all UK records for free. This is different from a free trial when you have to give them credit card details, you only need to have an Email. If I found it useful I was hoping to ask relatives to get me a subscription for my next birthday.
Ancestry offers Census, birth marriage amd death registration details that could help you order a certificate, parish records, some Will transcripts, apprenticeship records, etc. Some more unusual records only are available for a small area. I could see school log book entries for ancestors in one part of Surrey when I looked but not for anyone living anywhere else. My long experience in doing research also tells me that they are charging for much information that is actually available for free, which may disappoint some but there is a convenience in having one site to concentrate all your searches on for a while.
The search form contained some glitches when I used it. It has a long drop down list of places that does not recognise some towns my ancestors lived in as existing. The restrict to this place only did not ever work showing irrelevant results. The option to have similar sounding last names show up in results is of limited use for ancestors born before 1600 because many letters had different sounds than today but Ancestry obviously doesn't know this, basing results only on modern sounds.
The transcription of some records for my own ancestors was poor. Old handwriting isn't easy but a I was surprised at some mistakes.
I found some unique pieces of information on this site but as I have done so much myself it would not be worth a subscription for me. If you are a beginner I would say see what you can do for free first and don't presume Ancestry is the sole or best source of info for any area. If you can afford it though there is lots to enjoy.
In fairness I must correct my statement that FMP was cheaper, it isn't. I based my statement on last years 6 monthly subscription, where I believe I paid £65. I must have caught them at a promotion discount time. This year it is about £82 for 6 months. The enhanced viewer problems were widely reported in 2008 for firefox and IE8, none of the solutions regarding admin rights or cookies worked for me, uninstalling the OCX worked, this too is on the Ancestry boards.
Furthermore should you decide on Ancestry.co then you can make great savings by buying the Family tree maker software platinum package. This was on sale for £30 (Comet, Dixons, Amazon etc) and gave 6 months full subscription to UK records. The Family tree maker world edition is about £65, this give you 6 months free to all its world records. There have been some bad reviews on this software, but for me it isn't that bad when you consider it is free when offsetting your greatly reduced subscription.
I have had an interest in my family history for many years and about a decade ago, started to quiz by only surviving Grandparent about her side of the family. After jotting down numerous notes, I didn't really know where to turn next. So for nearly 10 years, all my findings sat in a notepad, just gathering dust. Then, just over a year ago, I discovered ancestry....
====What Is the Site?====
Ancestry is available around the World, so has people researching their family trees in various countries. Family history seems to be all the rage now and knowing how to put the information you have into practice can be the hardest thing. Ancestry helps you start to build your own tree, entering the details you know and then it will offer up suggestions for historical hints and tree matches.
Ancestry boasts a huge collection of historical records, including census records from 1841, Births Marriages and Deaths, pallot records, military records, Wills & probate, criminal records and immigration and travel. The records really are extensive and are constantly being updated. Unfortunately, at this time of writing, the 1911 census still isn't on the site, only part of the Summary Books, which is annoying as other sites already offer the full 1911 census.
====Family Tree Builder====
This facility is so simple to follow on the site. Starting with yourself, you can add any information about you that you would like, then simply click the relevant box to add your mother, father, spouse, siblings and children. Once you have added details about a person, a green circle will appear in the top right hand corner of the page and a shaky leaf will appear if hints have been identified. Clicking on this will show you what suggestions they have, whether it's historical records which might be your ancestor (or you!) or a match from another person's tree on the site. It is entirely up to you as to whether or not you accept the hints on offer. You can choose to dismiss them or review them. Once reviewed, you can then choose whether you want to attach the record to your tree or not. If you choose to accept a match from someone else's tree, you can also choose to add/alter that ancestor's closest relatives, including their parents, spouse and children. If you come across a record that you're not entirely sure about, you can save it to your "Shoebox" so you can think about it again at a later point in your research.
====What Can You Add to Profiles?====
Obviously adding a date of birth and death where applicable are the basics for forming your profiles for people within your tree. Say you are doing your own tree, you might like to add how much you weighed when you were born, or which schools you went to, as well as any other significant events in your life. You can add anything you like as there is the option to add custom events to your profiles. You can also upload photos or scanned documents to back up your story and help to bring it to life. Or write stories to add, which tell of a specific point in a person's life. For example, on my own page within my family tree, I have a photo of me as a baby, my weight, my Christening with a photo of me with my parents, the schools I went to, my jobs over the years and any teams I was part of. The possibilities are endless really.
====How Do Other People's Trees Help Me?====
In my case, I could only go back a very short way on my Dad's side of the family, having to stop at my grandparents. However, by finding other people who were also researching the same branch of the tree, I managed to take the family back another generation, allowing me to find historical records to verify my findings. Once you have connected with another person by accepting hints from your tree, you will receive updates as to any additions they make to their tree. This can be found on your home page under the title "Member Connect". This will give you a day-by-day breakdown as to what records, photos and people have been added to these trees which you have already found helpful. It will also alert you if anyone has used your personal records to enhance their research, which can provide you with the perfect ice breaker should you with to contact them and ask questions.
====What If I Don't Want the World to Know My Story?====
Not a problem. Simply choose to create a private tree when you start. People might still see your tree as a suggestion as they search through the records, but they will only see a couple of people, with no geographical information. If they want to know more, they will have to send you a message, when you can choose to invite them to your tree or not, or to supply them with the information they are hoping to find out. The same can be said of photos, as any within private trees will show up with a no entry sign on them, telling you to contact the photo's owner should you wish to try and see it.
There's reassurance that no one, unless invited to your tree and given permission to see living people, will see your home page. Or indeed any page for any living relative. This is intended to keep your personal life just that, personal. This security covers photos and stories also connected to a living person. The site only knows if someone has passed on if you give them a death certificate, or if they were living over 100 years ago from my experience, although I have had the odd person born in the 1700s flagged as still living!
====Contacting Other Members====
This couldn't be simpler, you just hit contact this member and you can send them a message direct through the site. You have your own inbox where people can reply or send you messages and it's up to you if you wish to swap emails so you can keep in touch away from the site. I have found distant cousins around the world, which I now have built up a relationship with and to me, this is amazing!
There is a forum, or message board, as it's called where you can post a question and hopefully it will be answered. Again, I have been lucky here and always had my queries answered allowing me to expand my search and tree.
====Your Home Page====
I have already mentioned the member connect, which is a big part of the homepage. You will also see any news about collections which have been updated or recently added. There's a short breakdown of your tree, telling you how many people are in it, a shortcut to any family members with automatically sourced hints for you, how many photos you have, a link to your homepage and the last person you viewed. On top of that, you can see the last few records/photos/people you added to your tree, there's your shoebox, which records you most recently looked at, a search box and links to every other section of the website.
Many of the certificates can be ordered direct from ancestry.co.uk. I have done this on several occasions and only once have been disappointed. Sometimes you will have to guess as to whether you think you have found the correct certificate and only once it has arrived, will you know if you've ordered the right one. Thankfully, I have been lucky so far with this and this can really help you to take your tree back yet another generation. The only let down I had was when I tried to order my Great-Grandmother's death certificate and was told they couldn't find it. I went on to order it from the Free BMD website. And this is where I found a huge flaw in ancestry. The other website is so much cheaper when it comes to ordering certificate. On ancestry, you will be looking to pay around £24 for a certificate, whereas the other site has them available at under £10! That's a massive difference. Whichever site I've ordered from though, there is a sense of excitement as I open the envelope to see what new information is about to be uncovered.
There are several tutorials to help you understand what you sort of information you need to get your tree going. These are presented by Time Team presenter, Tony Robinson.
====Can I Only Have the One Tree?====
No. You can create as many as you like. So if you wanted to do one for your mum's side and one for your dad's, that's not a problem. Just remember, the more trees, the more maintenance!
====Inviting Others/Being Invited====
You don't have to do your research alone. You can invite your family to your tree through an email sent out from the site. You can also choose what involvement they can have, whether you just want them to be able to see how you're doing, if they can contribute new information or give them total control and let them edit the tree, adding or deleting people and events. Choose carefully! But that said, you can always alter their control or delete them from being able to be involved - at the end of the day, you have the overall power. You can also decide if they should be able to see living relatives or not. I only allow people I know to see this and not other members of ancestry.
You may also find you want to invite other ancestry members to your tree if you have a common ancestor. This is simple to do, either through email or just invite them through username. If you are invited to another tree, this will appear on your home page under My Trees.
====This All Sounds Great, But What Does It Cost?====
There are several options available on this site. Whichever level you choose, it works out cheaper to pay for a year in one go, as monthly it will cost you more. I bit the bullet and went straight in at the top level, which grants you access to all the records they have from all over the World, meaning you have access to global records, which as I have found ancestors in India during the Mutiny of 1857, has proved very helpful to me. Costs start at £83.40/annual one off or £10.95/month for the basic, the middle cost is £107.40/annual or £12.95/month or for the top level £155.40/annual or £12.95/month. They will email you ahead of your subscription ending to let you know they will automatically renew your account, giving you time to cancel should you so wish.
====Ok, So I've Built My Tree, Now What?====
That's up to you. You can print individual pages for ancestors off the site, just as you can do with census records. The site also offers you the chance to have posters, books and other keepsakes created. I've not done this yet as I'm not ready, nor do I have the money. There are lots of options available and all have different costs, none start particularly cheap, but I think they would make lovely family heirlooms, along with the certificate and other bits and pieces you've put together over the years.
You can request DNA tests through the site - again, not an area I've explored - and for another charge, you can look for living relatives. I've not gone down this route yet either. If you find yourself confused when trying to figure out how your great-grandmother's, uncle's, son's, great-grandson is related to you, don't panic. There is a new facility on everyone's page which you can click on, and ancestry will do the head scratching for you!
====So, After All That, Do I Recommend Ancestry?====
Yes! I have used a few family tree sites and I have found this to be the most helpful. The layout is easy to follow, the records easy to search and their suggested hints are generally quite helpful. On the rare occasion that I have had to contact their customer support, they have responded quickly and politely, being very helpful in their reply. This can become addicted and I have been known to sit up most the night where I've become so excited as to what I was finding out. I'm now back to 1600 on many branches of my tree when before I only knew of a couple of generations.
====14 Day Free Trial====
We all love to try before we buy, so if you're tempted by what I've said, you could give it a whirl without paying a penny!
Also on ciao
I have mentioned in one of my other reviews, I have been doing my family tree for many years and have gone far back as the late 1300s and use another site for researching along with this one and many others to help me progress further finding my ancestors and what kind of life they lived, I have not found any millionaires as yet but have found some that were very wealthy and had many estates and businesses.
Ancestry is a research site that has lots of things to search, such as Birth, Death and Marriage records, it also has reference numbers for ordering a certificate, and they are volume and page numbers and district of the event.
You can if you wish start a tree online with this site and add to it as you go along, and if anyone else is doing the same they can contact you and you can exchange information if you want to, but it is not essential as it is an option not a must.
I do not have a full memberships now as I have found a lot of my information and I now use a local archive library to look up parish records and they have Pcs there to use and this site is free access, so I do not need it anymore at home as I rarely need to look up anything now.
I have found lots of my ancestors, places of births, marriages and deaths, and army records, it has parish records, and censuses and they are very useful to look at where they lived and who lived with the person or persons and also their profession and if they were married, single, man or woman as some names are for both male and female.
In the old days, usually a man went around every household with a slate board and chalk to write all the people living in the addresses but as time went on, they then used paper and pencils, and sometimes with especially the chalk it kind of smudged a little and that is why sometimes the info on the censuses can be a little wrong as they had to transfer them when they went back to the office or wherever they did their work from.
You can look at other peoples trees from this site but you must be registered and pay for the service to be able to look at them, and lots of fresh info can be found and then researched yourself at the archives to verify their tree info is correct as they may have just been given the info from a 3rd party, I always back up what I find and they I know for sure that everything is correct and I have the correct person as sometimes I have gone down the wrong tree source.
It can appear to be a little expensive to use this site but it is worth every penny, there are different price bandings, the first one is £83.40 per year but it can be paid either in one payment or by monthly instalments of £10.95 but it is much cheaper to pay for the year, especially if you are going to use it a lot and are using it for the full year, but if you are just wanting to look up for a few months then the monthly one may be better.
The 2nd one is £12.95 per month or £107.40 per year but with this one, you are able to look at Irish parish records and pre 1837 parish records, and the other one is a worldwide collection that you can look at if your ancestors came from or to another country, the choice is for whatever your research is at the time and where it takes you.
All you need to do is register with a username and password, set up which payment method you need and you just login and use the site.
Once you have used it a few times and looked around it, as there are lots of choice categories, then you will settle into it nicely.
It is a very interesting hobby and also rewarding when you have searched for months, sometimes years and then found your ancestor.
If you are thinking of starting your tree, try this site and see if you can find anything interesting.
I recommend it to anyone to try.
I give it 5 stars.
Thank you for reading my review.
Following my wedding in 2006 I wanted a hobby to fill the void that wedding planning had left. I had always been curious about my family tree and wondered how true some of the stories about pirates and gyspsies that I had been told as a child were. What began as a little dabble turned into a huge rollercoaster full of facinating stories, haunted houses, shipwreck survivors, championship wresters and diamond miners, american pilgrims. I found a whole new arm of my familymy husbands family found links with every king going back to the year dot.
Through this adventure the site that I turned to when researching was Ancestry and it just gets better and better. Even now I am finding new links and facts about my family. It has a hint facility so if a piece of data is added that possibly matches your family member this is shown by a little leaf.
I have the worldwide membershio which although is over £150 a year (and seems a lot) it is worthwhile for me as it gives access to the whole site and also to some of the other worldwide sites. This year the 1911 census is being added to the site and although this is available on other sites you currently have to pay so will mean another saving for me.
The site is really easy to use and mirrors a lot of the family tree software on the market. It is well worth taking up the 14 day membership and having a look.
Ancestry.co.uk is a website where you can search for your ancestors as the name suggests. I was able to succesfully track back my roots up until the late 1700s through most family lines relatively quickly, due to the fact the site has been around for many years, you'll find that once you get into the 1800s, there's already someone who has researched a lot of the family trees and by clicking on the family tress section with the desired name and birthdate, you are likely to find a lot more relatives.
The amount of information throughout the last century is not as good as it could be, so ideally you want to be able to know the details of your great grandparents because if you get someone who was present at the 1901 census, you can more or less backdate it 100 years from then with ease. Saying that, you can always start off with your parents or even yourself if you don't know much about your family and by noting the quarter of registration, volume and page no. on this website that the said person appears in the birth registry, you can then acquire birth certificates for £7 from gro.gov.uk and begin searching in that way.
The amount of information available before the 1800s or in other countries is not particularly amazing and it seems the Scots like to keep information to themselves to, so you are you unlikely to find info of Scottish related births and deaths on here. I wasn't impressed with the information held about marriages either.
Ancestry.co.uk is a dream website if you have an unlimited amount of credit cards, when taking into account the 2 week free trial offered that just requires you to register with a debit or credit card. You can cancel before the 2 weeks are up and not get charged a penny. During the 2 weeks you have full access to the majority of the records. I can't comment how this site compares to other similar services as I've never used any, I found it easy to get the hang of and was impressed overall with it. The annual price of around £90 is quite pricey but worth it you need lots of info.
When you cancel your free subscription, they offer you a whole range of offers before you leave and some of these might be more up your street than the ones that appear initially on the sign-up page.
Once you've started on your family tree there are a number of decisions you'll need to make.
Amongst the first are who are you going to put on your tree ie: will you be restricing it to just "direct" ancestors (grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents) etc
Will you be including everyone ie: not just your grandparents / great grandparents but their siblings & extended family as well?
Obviously, the more people you are searching for the more searches you will do. So you have to decide whether to splash out on a site like Ancestry which charges more for it's membership than a site likes genesreunited does.
To put this in context genesreunited charges just under £20 for a year's membership. You can buy 50 credits for £5 so spending £100 would allow you a year's membership plus 800 credits.
That doesn't sound a lot if you're searching for birth records, marriage records & census entries for the people on your tree, does it? If, for example, you've got 100 people on your tree it would allow you to use just 8 credits on each person before you'd have to buy more credits. As someone who has spent a lot of time researching my own family tree I can tell you that you don't always find the person you're looking for in the first set of records you click into, especially if you're looking for people with a reasonably common surname.
In contrast Ancestry offers 3 packages from you to choose from. For the purpose of this review I'll stick to the Essentials package which is the cheapest option at £83.40.
Once you've paid the fees, that's it. There are no more charges to look at the census scans or any of the other information involved in the package. It doesn't matter whether it takes you one attempt or ten attempts to find the person you're looking for on a census ~ the site doesn't charge you any more and you're not using up any of those precious credits.
At the time of writing the Essential membership gives you access to a whole of information including:-
+ Births, Marriage & Death Index (1837 onwards): The is continually being updated with most of the 1837 - 1900 period being complete. Work is still continuing for the years after 1900 although some are complete or close to completion. The easiest way to check how complete a year is is to visit the freeBMD wesbite.
+ England, Scotland & Wales Censuses (1841 - 1901)
+ World War I Pension Records (1914 - 1920)
+ World War I Service Records: You can now access the scanned records of people who served on the Front during this conflict.
Those are just some of the things that the Essentials membership offers. It would be impractical to list each & every set of information, suffice to say that the site itself divides the collections into the following areas:-
+ Census & Voter Lists
+ Birth, Marriage & Death
+ Immigration & Emigration
+ Directories & Member Lists
+ Court, Land, Wills & Financial
+ Directories, Encyclopedias & Reference
as well as allowing you to contact other site members regarding their trees.
New sets of information are added from time to time (none of the World War I records were on the site when I first joined) & there's an ongoing World Archives Project that aims to transcribe information not only from the UK but from America, Australia, Sweden, Italy & a number of other countries.
The site also provides you with possible matches on censuses as well as people who appear in the family trees of other members.
If you're the sort of person who's serious about researching their family tree and wants to do it properly by tracking people through the censuses etc then this is the site for you!
Ancestry.co.uk membership is a must for the serious family historian with family to research in England and Wales.
It isn't perfect, no website is, and it isn't cheap, the basic 'Essentials' membership is £83.40 per year if you pay in one payment.
What do you get for your money?
Well you get full access to England and Wales censii from 1841 to 1901. (Both transcriptions and actual images)
All England and Wales birth, marriage and death registrations from 1837 to 2005.
WW1 Army Medal Cards
Some WW1 Army service records. ( These are still being added and as some people may know they are not complete as they were a victim of WW2 bombing)
WW1 Army pension records
Historical Telephone Directories and many more pieces of other information.
What is wrong with it?
Well some censii transcriptions are shall we say imaginative.
There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly the enumerators handwriting can sometimes be difficult to read. Secondly some of the transcribing was done by prisoners in England and some transcribing was done in Asia.
Neither of these forms of obtaining 100% accurate transcriptions to be advised.
You can get a 14 day free trial, you do have to give your credit card details but as long as you remember to cancel before the 14 days are up there is no problem.
One thing never to do despite the encouragement on the site, is to order a birth, marriage or death certificate from there. They add on a large premium and it's simple to order one yourself direct from The General Register Office at Southport. ( You do it online and they cost £7 each and are normally received within one week).
If your main family history is in Scotland then I am afraid there is not much information on Ancestry. The Scottish government website Scotlands People is what you need.
Irish ancestry isn't covered on the Essentials membership, you can upgrade to Premium, but be warned without quite detailed information to start with you will struggle with Irish ancestors and I wouldn't recommened spending the extra money as a beginner.
If you are a complete beginner then don't spend any money straight away. Start by asking your family what information they have. Look online at what information is available free of charge, one good place to start is BBC.Co.Uk. If you look on their Family History homepage you get pointers in the right direction.
One final thing, you can get hooked, quite easily and it is an absorbing hobby, Oh and don't be surprised when what you find isn't what you expected, it never is.
I had always thought about researching my family tree but had never really gotten around to it, until I saw a two week free trial at ancestry.co.uk.
I thought I might as well have a go, so I signed up. You do have to register your card details as if you are really signing up but you are always able to cancel before the end of the trial period.
You get a choice of three subscription packages:
Essentials - 10.95 a month in which you can search and view historical records from Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes to Census records.
Premium - 12.95 a month which is everything from the essentials package plus access to pre-1837 Parish & Probate records, all Irish record collections and more.
Worldwide membership 18.95 a month which is everything from premium plus unlimited access to the world's largest online collection of family history information.
I went for worldwide - you might as well if it's free! My free trial ends this week but I think I will continue on the premuim package as I have a lot of relatives in Ireland. It's quite expensive for the worldwide package but I think the other two are quite reasonable compared with some other sites.
To get going you can look through a collection of 4 tutorial videos starring Tony Robinson (that bloke off the telly!). That will give you a bit of information on how to get started and a few hints.
You can search with as much or little information as you have although when you get further back you may want to search with just a name as dates are a little hazy and people can be registered with different birthplaces. Some of my relatives were born in Derbyshire but the records can say Nottinghamshire or even Leicestershire, and different places can be named on different records.
A very helpful tool is to click on the community link on the top row of the pages and search for 'member connections'. You can type in the name of one of your relatives and if any other member has that name in their tree you can search their tree to see if it matches. You can then transfer each others data or contact them.
I found a member with my great great grandfather's name in it. I searched their tree and saw that they had been searching for a very long time - they had nearly 22,000 names in the tree!!! Lots of them were backed up by records so I knew it was legit (you have to be careful not to guess or assume or you could go seriously off track).
There is also a 'find famous relatives' link on the right hand side of every persons page so on the off chance I clicked that link on my great, great grandfathers page of this other tree, and low and behold.....
I'M RELATED TO MARLON BRANDO!!! Oh my god!
And some physicist called Robert Boyle(?).
(Both very distantly, of course)
When you are searching ancestry will also give you hints. If they link the name with a record you get a little leaf symbol next to the name and you can check out this record. Usually it is quite helpful but sometimes it can be very, very wrong! They will also give you links to other peoples trees if they have a matching name on there.
When you start to get further back, say pre 1860's you have to be very careful because details can be wrong or dates can be quite a bit out, it also gets a lot harder as some records just don't seem to exist.
You will also find some sad stories and some sweet tales. It is kind of comforting to know more about your family and when you start to go through it you do realise just how good we have it.
For example, My G,G,G grandparents came over from Ireland towards the end of the 1800's. But because they struggled to find work their children got sent to the workhouses.
My G,G grandad's brother was around 12 when he started there but the register mentions some children as young as 3! A few years leter they moved him to the army, he got killed not long after in the war.
Makes you think, doesn't it?
I have been on the site for around 10 days and have already found family on both parental sides back to the 1780's (although I have spent quite a lot of time on there - I feel an addiction coming on!)
All in all, I would highly recommend this site as it is the best value of all the sites I have looked at - especially with the free trial. I would also recommend starting your family tree as it is very rewarding. If you are at all interested, sign up to the free trial and see how it goes... what have you got to lose?
Ever since I was little I have always been fascinated by history of some form or another and my own family history has been no exception. I have fond memories of sitting as a child spending hours gazing at the grainy photographs of the people with no names in my Grandma's photo albums, wishing that I knew more about them. Despite having a keen interest in my family tree it has only been in the past six months that I have started making a conscientious effort to put some names to the familiar faces staring back at me.
It is certainly true that genealogy has quickly risen in the popularity stakes and it seems that anyone and everyone are trawling the archives compiling their family tree. A lot of these people have jumped on the 'Who Do You Think You Are' bandwagon and it is fair to say that this successful television programme has reinforced my interests. However, this was not the only reason for me wanting to research my family tree; instead it was one that was much closer to my heart. I have always been extremely close to my Grandmother on my mother's side and I had always known that she never knew her real mother as she died when she was around eighteen months old, after giving birth to her brother. However, what I did not realise that she literally did not know anything about her mother other than her name. As she had been relatively close to her father, I had quite foolishly assumed that he would have told her about her mother. This, combined with the fact that certain things like this just weren't spoken about explains why her photo album is full of unknown faces. This may sound a bit clichéd and morbid but I made it my goal to find some information before my Grandma was in her grave.
After taking on what felt like a mammoth task (and still does six months in) I was really unsure about where to start. Initially I began by googling things like 'family tree', 'ancestry' and 'census records', you name it, I tried it. After numerous searches ancestry.co.uk was the website came up more than most. The site not only kept appearing in my searches, adverts kept popping up everywhere, even when I wasn't looking for them! However, I was initially really sceptical because of the simple fact that the site required either a monthly or annual subscription. As I didn't know whether the website would even help me in my search I kept delaying my registration. I naively believed that there must have been a better and cheaper alternative. So I started off my research using a site dedicated to the 1901 Census. What I liked about this site was that I could 'pay as you go' and I thought it would work out to be the cheapest option. However, I was sadly mistaken and I ended up spending a small fortune purchasing £5 worth of credits every ten minutes. After realising my finances could not sustain this amount of expenditure I decided to look again at the Ancestry website. I am so glad that I decided to take a risk and pay the subscription fee as the website has proved to be invaluable in helping me achieve my goal. In fact because of ancestry.co.uk I have achieved much more than I even thought was possible.
Basic Synopsis of the site:
Ancestry.co.uk is a totally unique website in the field of genealogy because it combines the resources to research your family tree and the software to build your tree as well. This is unique because unlike the traditional 'pay as you go' sites you don't have to use additional software unless you want to; you can do everything in one place so in theory saving you money. It differs to many websites as it is a subscription only site, which at first I didn't like. However the more I have used the site I believe it is actually the best system.
What really convinced me to join Ancestry was the promise of fourteen days access for free. I thought this would be a really good way of finding out whether or not it was a waste of money without actually having to spend any! However, all was not as it seemed when I tried to sign up as I soon realised that to gain access to the free trial you still had to sign up for a subscription. This basically meant that I had to enter my credit card details. If after the two weeks I did not want to continue the subscription then I could cancel my subscription so in theory the two weeks would be free. This kind of practice really does irritate me because I always worry about being conned into paying the subscription and worry that it will be difficult to cancel the subscription. Despite my fears I signed up and was relieved to realise that the website was actually rather useful. In my initial signing up I had picked the second cheapest of the three memberships and after the free trial I decided to just keep on paying the monthly fee and after the progress I have made I am happy to do so.
When you sign up to the website you are taken to a page dedicated to the various membership options. There are basically three main options which are set out clearly, however I found it took me a little while to read all of the information as I wanted to be entirely sure what I was signing up to. The three options are:
Essentials Membership -
This is the cheapest option at £83.40 a year or £10.95 a month. For your money you get access to the Birth, Marriage and Death records and the Census records. Although this is good value for money compared to other pay as you go sites I felt that as I was going to be paying a monthly fee I wanted access to as many records as possible.
Premium Membership -
This option costs £107.40 a year or £12.95 a month. This is the subscription that I chose as I felt it offered the best value for money. The difference between this option and the cheaper one is that it gives you access to pre 1837 Parish and Probate records. After reading this I was easily swayed by the promise of going even further back in history and decided that this was the best option for me. At the time when I signed up I convinced myself that I would pay monthly in the hope that I could get my research done quickly so I could cancel the subscription as soon as possible. However, looking back now I should have just paid the annual fee as it would have been cheaper still.
Worldwide Membership -
The most expensive subscription out of the three costs £155.40 a year or £18.95 a month. The difference between this option and the previous two is that it gives you access to more records from other countries. As I had no reason to believe that I had any ancestors overseas I decided that I couldn't justify spending the extra money. I suppose if you were doing this for a living and researching other people's family trees then it would be worth it. However if you are just researching your family tree as a hobby and you have a tight budget I would not recommend this option.
After reading the small print at the bottom of the page I later found that you could also 'pay as you go' but this was still an expensive option. I really like the fact that you can choose between paying monthly and annually because if you don't get on with the site or with your research then you can cancel your subscription early. It basically gives you the freedom to choose rather than being forced into shelling out one large lump sum unless you're certain you will use it.
What makes ancestry so special to me is the fact that the site holds so many records alongside the basic census collections and birth, marriage and death records. This ranges from a host of military records, immigration and emigration, phone book directories, University Alumni records, medical records and much more - too many to list in fact. I personally have found the military records very useful as I have been able to find out what regiment my ancestors were in and the exact date they signed up. Not only this, but I have been able to print out copies of the forms with my ancestor's signature on when they initially signed up. It is little details like this that makes it all worthwhile and makes the names seem more human.
If you choose to use the website to build your family tree then there are lots of extra features at your disposal. These do however come at a cost. If you click on the 'Print & Share' button you are taken to Ancestry.com where you can pay to have your family tree printed out professionally. I have not yet used this service, however I have looked at the options and they products look very professional, if a little expensive. The products include family history books, posters, calendars and the like.
Another service that the website offers is DNA testing - this is not the same type of DNA test that they carry out on programmes like The Jeremy Kyle Show; instead it claims to find 'genetic cousins'. As I have not used this service I cannot comment on whether it is reliable or not.
The website also has its own online shop where you can purchase birth, marriage or death certificates for your ancestors. They also sell family tree building software and other random things like tickets to events about genealogy. I have looked into purchasing certificates through this site and I would strongly advise you against it. This is because of the simple fact that it is very expensive, at a cost of around £10 per certificate. Instead I would suggest that you order the certificates directly from www.gro.gov.uk where they are £7 each. This is one of my few criticisms of the company, however at the same time I can see they need to make a profit!
Once you sign into your account using the login box at the top right of the screen you are taken to the home page. If you have entered your family tree using the software available then this will be your homepage. At the top of the screen underneath the ancestry logo there is a bar with lots of links to help you get started. This includes a link to the search function, print and share, community, DNA, Learning Centre and Shop. The only one of these links that I use consistently is the link to the search page. In fact I find the other links quite pointless and unnecessary. As the website holds so many different pages it is difficult to describe all of them. However they all appear to use a similar layout and colour scheme. As the site holds so much information there some pages that are inevitably crowded and busy looking. However on the whole the design is clean and the pages are simple to navigate. After taking a little while to get used to how the site works I can know navigate the site without even thinking about it.
The Search Function:
As there are so many different kinds of records it is not surprising that there are many different ways to search for an ancestor. If you know exactly what type of record you want to search you can click directly on that set of records and search only within them. That will obviously limit your results, making it easier to pinpoint your ancestor down. If, however you want to do a more general search you can use the main search box. In the main search box you can enter the first, middle and last name of a person, their date of birth and death and location. It is not essential to put all of these if you do not know them.
Every time you search for a record, if you are creating your tree on the site then you can choose to save that record in your 'shoebox'. This is an extremely useful function as it means that if you can't print it out you don't have to worry about trawling through records to find them again. Also when you have found a specific record, on the page before you view the original it gives you options to search for the same person in a different records, thus speeding up the process as you don't have to re-enter all of the information.
If you are searching for somebody that you have already included in your family tree when you begin to type the name in it will give you the opportunity to pick them. Alternatively you can go and view your family tree and search the records from there. Either of these two options makes little difference to the results.
Overall, I have had mixed results from the search facility as sometimes results are then, and then next time you search for them they can vanish. Also I find that if I put all of the information I know about the person then the result I am looking for does not come up, yet if I put less information in I can find what I'm looking for. I have also come across a few spelling mistakes in the transcriptions. By this I mean that on the website itself, the record is recorded differently to what it says on the actual census records. In many cases it looks as though somebody has just misread the census and taken a complete guess at the name. Although this is very frustrating I can understand how it can happen as the writing in the older records can be extremely difficult to decipher. This problem is sometimes rectified by similar sounding names appearing in the search results.
One other small criticism is that despite having almost every record imaginable one thing that I do feel that is missing is the option to search for a specific address and the residents of that house. The website that I used previously to this had this function and it was extremely useful. There have been a handful of occasions where I have had to use another site.
Despite painting a very gloomy picture of trial and error, I have successfully managed to trace my family tree back five generations from my Grandma and finally have some names for the faces in her album. Ancestry.co.uk has been instrumental in this research and without it I would have given up a long time ago. It's not perfect by a long shot but I have found the faults are workable.
I have been using Ancestry for about 5 years now, ever since I first became interested in researching my family tree and was extremely pleased when I found out I could put forward my opinion about the site on DooYoo!
Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) is a website for helping people to trace their family history, and in my opinion it currently holds the best range of materials for helping someone to do this. There are various subscription options that you can sign up to:
1)You can get the 'Essentials' monthly membership for £10.95 which gives you access to census records and birth, marriage and death indexes. For the beginner genealogist, this is a fantastic package which would deliver everything you needed!
2)The next step up is the Premium monthly membership which now costs £12.95 and gives you everything the Essentials membership does but with added access to parish records and irish records. This is the package that I've been signed up to and I have found the added extras to be really useful for someone who does as much genealogy as I do. I'd definitely recommend this to someone who was exploring their family tree in a little more depth.
3) Finally there is the Monthly Wordwide Membership which costs £18.95 which offers access to all the previously mentioned information but with added access to overseas records to help you find out more about ancestors abroad. Personally I don't have enough of my ancestors who came from/travelled abroad to warrant me paying out for this membership, but I can see how it would be extremely useful for those with a more varied family history (as opposed to mine who were all cotton workers from Lancashire!!)
Lastly, you are also able to pay annually for these 3 separate memberships which would cost you £83.40 for the Essential package, £107.40 for the Premium package and £155.40 for the Worldwide membership - it sounds like a lot to pay out but it's definitely not when you consider how much you will save throughout the year.
Anyway I think it's about time we look at the materials Ancestry actually has on offer. It has the 1841-1901 censuses online which have been transcribed so that you can search for your ancestors. However, you can also look at the original census pages which is incredibly useful for making sure the information that has been transcribed is correct and also because it's sometimes nice to just see the actual writing on the page! The one thing I would warn is that the transcribing is not always accurate, this is nobody's fault but due to some of the writing being difficult to read or very faded, you do get incorrect spellings, wrong ages, etc. The more you use the site, the more expert you will become at finding people in despite of these mistakes and the more satisfied you will feel because of it!
My top tips for finding people where they have not been put on correctly:
1) Don't put in exact spellings, sometimes it is useful to put the first 3 letters and then a * sign: for example, if I'm looking for a John Heelis, put John as first name and then Hee* as the surname. If you still can't find them-try not putting a surname in at all, put in their first name, approximate year of birth and where they were born and then scroll through the results looking for possible matches!
2) Learn about the areas local to your ancestors, I knew that one of my ancestors came from a certain place in Staffordshire, but on some of the censuses he's down as coming from a nearby village. This can sometimes help with finding people.
3) Remember that on the 1841 census, the ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 years ie I'm 21 so I'd have been put down as 20. This can be really difficult when looking for someone when you know their exact year of bith.
4) Remember that when the census' were carried out, it was a record of people who were in the house that night-don't be surprised to find people in an unexpected place or address, this doesn't necessarily mean they've had troubles at home!!
These are my top tips but remember, it can just be trial and error too, the best way is to get started yourself.
The other main feature at Ancestry is the birth, marriage and death indexes. These are pretty much fully transcribed from 1837-about 1917 and also from 1984-2005 and therefore you can find these people by searching. Unfortunately the big gap in the middle (1917ish-1983) is still being transcribed and therefore you need to find it manually. You do this by:
Going into the bmd records at the right hand side of the site. Choose either 'Birth', 'Marriage' or 'Death'. You can then input a surname and the year the event took place. Eg I know John Smith was born about 1942. I put in John Smith 1942 and then choose +/- 2 years (you can also choose 5 years, 10 years etc) and then manually look through the indexes till I find him-it does take time but it's worth it in the end.
The last main really useful collection is the military records. Ancestry have all the WW1 medal cards online so if you know the bare information about your fighting ancestor you should be ablle to find this, plus WW1 service and pensions records. These are absolutely fascinating if you can find them for your ancestor but don't hold your breath as only about 30% of these records actually still exist due to the building that held them being bombed at the time.
There are many other features on the site depending on your subscription type: Irish records, Parish and Probate records (which include christening, marriages, burials before 1837 and an index of wills-again this can be a bit hit and miss as only certain records have been put on thus far), Global collections for Australia, the USA etc), British Phone Books Records, some newspaper records etc. I'm not going to go into too much detail on these records as I think they are quite varied, you might type in your ancestors name, get lucky and find something, but they aren't necessarily records you can depend on finding.
Lastly there are features which allows you to upload your family tree, people can add onto your tree if they feel they have more information and whilst this is a nice feature, you do need to be careful not to accept this information too readily-remember they might not have done their research as thoroughly as you! You can also take your uploaded tree and use the publication tool though which you can create and order printed family trees, family books etc. I haven't done this myself as yet but the tool looks very professional and I'd feel very comfortable ordering my own family tree from here.
Ancestry is very user friendly and it's very easy to find what you're looking for. The tabs across the top easily direct you to where you need to go, and it's very simple to get your subscription up and running. When you do a search on your ancestor you can put in details such as approximate birth year, birth place, residence etc and because you can do this, it is very easy to narrow down your search results.
I'd recommend Ancestry above all over family tree sites, it has the most features and, after using various others, I find it to be the most intuitive and the most easy to find what you want. Every time I've used another site I've been left feel unsatisified so if you're looking to start using a site I cannot recommend this one to you more. The one disadvantage to Ancestry is that I don't think it tries hard enough to get new exciting records onto the site, there are others which I think get into the midst of new projects a bit more quickly.
Thanks for reading this review, I hope it's helped someone out there to decide what site they'd like to use! Also as a last thought, if you have a relative who'd like to get into family history or in fact already uses the site, why not get them an annual subscription as a gift? Someone's just gotten me one for Christmas and I'm chuffed as this has set me up for the year!
I first started tracing my family history way back in the early 1990s. At that time, researching where you came from involved making numerous trips to record offices and libraries all over the country, and then spending hour after hour trawling through microfilms searching for that elusive John Jones, living somewhere in Liverpool. Having hit several hundred brick walls and with no idea where to look to continue the search I put the ancestor information away for a fair few years, only pulling it out again in 2001 when the 1901 census was released to the public - and this time you could search it online. Since then more and more records have become available on the internet, and the easy accessibility of many key sources has meant that tracing your family history is a fascinating hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone.
The largest of the genealogy websites in terms of the number of records it has available is Ancestry.com, and in my opinion it should be one of the first ports of call for anyone interested in tracing their family history. Once you've picked the brains of everyone in the family you know to find out what they know about your family, toddle over to Ancestry.com and carry on the search.
What does it cost?
You do have to pay to use Ancestry, and it isn't cheap, but compared to the costs of train tickets to look at these records elsewhere, and for the ease of being able to look at them in the comfort of your own home, I think it's still very good value for money. It is worth saying that many libraries have subscriptions to Ancestry, as do the National Archives. They also offer a free 14 day trial which is good if you want to get a feel for the site before paying any money to them.
At the moment there are various options available in terms of membership.
1. You can purchase credits on a 'pay as you go' basis. To view 12 records will cost you £6.95. However, while this sounds like a good option as it is much cheaper than membership; in the long run it might cost you a lot more as you'll quickly work through those credits trying to identify the right record for your particular John Jones.
2. There is also a choice of 3 membership options - essentials which gives you access to essential UK records, premium, which gives you access to all the UK records, plus some Irish records, and worldwide membership which gives you access to all Ancestry's global records collections including US, Canada and Australia. Essentials membership costs £10.95 a month or £83.40 a year, premium is £12.95 a month or £107.40 a year and worldwide membership will set you back £18.95 a month or £155.40 a year.
If you are just starting out researching, and as far as you know your family are from the UK I would suggest just getting the essentials membership as for most people in the UK this will suffice. If, as I did, you then later find relatives who emigrated you can either upgrade to worldwide membership or view a few documents on a pay per view basis. For those whose use cashback sites, Ancestry sometimes offer cashback which can reduce the cost of a subscription a little bit!
What records are available?
There are so many records on this site that there are far too many to list individually. However, the main ones you'll find yourself using are the indexes of births, marriages and deaths and the census returns for England, Wales and Scotland.
The census returns have all been transcribed and you can search on a number of fields such as name, age, place of birth etc. At the moment you can't search for an individual address, though you can read the descriptions of the areas covered in each record set and locate the relevant return that way. Most times the search facility is excellent and you'll pull up exactly who you want first time round. However, I have found the transcriptions wrong on a number of occasions, particularly for unusual names. For example, my great grandmothers maiden name was Trampleasure which I have seen transcribed on Ancestry as Frampleasure, Tramplery and Framplureay! A bit of clever searching (leaving the surname out and filling in all other fields for example) will usually lead you to the right record, and if you do find a mis-transcription you can update it so that other searching for the same name can easily find it! To view the records you'll need to download the Ancestry viewer (which is free) and then you will be able to open images of the original documents.
As well as the census returns, other popular collections on the site are soldiers service records from World War One (though this collection is incomplete at the moment), the index cards for the medals awarded in world war one, some probate records and some christening records.
What else can I find on the site?
As well as the records Ancestry has a number of additional features which can be very useful, especially for those just starting out tracing their family history.
The Learning Centre provides invaluable guidance on how to start tracing your family history, as well as information about the distribution of individual surnames in the nineteenth century, and meanings of surnames.
There is also an application built into the site for you to record your family tree, and attach documents and photos to individual members. As an added bonus, Ancestry will then try and match the information you've entered with the records it holds, and then let you know if there is a match. You can also make your tree available to other Ancestry members, and if you have an ancestor in common they can then contact you through the site.
How easy is the site to use?
As far as I'm concerned - very easy!
As you can see from what I've written, ancestry is a monster of a site. While it does cost a bit for a subscription, it is very easy to use and the sheer number of key records on the site make it an essential for anyone interested in tracing their family's history.
I've always wondered about my family history and have many times asked my parents and grandparents about their parents and grandparents. It wasn't however until two years ago when I decided that I was going to make a considerable effort to find out more about my own genealogy. I have since then used a considerable amount of different resources and have managed to trace some lines of my family walk to the early 1700's. One of the websites I have visited frequently is ancestry.co.uk, which has in short been a very resourceful tool.
Ancestry is a brilliant genealogical websites that contains a large quantity of useful information as well as the all-important records to enable amateur and of course professional genealogists in their search for their own history. The website however does charge for this service, as although it is possible to search their database for free the information you will glean for doing so is far from useful as place names and other important information is frequently blanked out. A UK subscription to Ancestry.co.uk costs £9.95 per month or £83.40 per year. A world subscription is also available, which costs £18.95 per month or £155.39 per year and gives you access to all the records on the UK subscription as well as the United States Federal Census records.
Living in the UK and so far only having located ancestors in the UK I only have the UK subscription and therefore can only accurately comment on this. After reaching ancestry's home page you simply log into your account and then begin searching for all those ancestors. A search box is located prominently on the first page and into this you simply type in as much information about the relative you are looking for, as you know. This includes first and last names, year of birth, year of death and countries and counties born in. Obviously the more information you have the more accurate the results ancestry finds will be. You must however bear in mind that even then you may not find the relative you are searching for.
Once you have entered the details and hit the search button ancestry will provide you with a list of records in which someone with such a profile has been found. These records can include the census of 1841, 51, 61, 71, 81, 91 and 1901 for England, Scotland and Wales as well as birth marriage and death records. There is also a possibility of ancestry bringing up matches in World War 1 medal cards or draft records as well as Parish and Probate records. To see more information on a particular match you simply click on it and the information will be brought up on screen.
For census records this includes the details of all the other household members as well as the ability to view a scan of the original census sheet. For birth, marriage and death records this includes the location and quarter as well as the ability to view a scan of the original sheet. Parish and Probate records usually contain less information and no viewable scan and World War 1 medal cards and draft records just list the information with no viewable image.
When searching for a specific relative however you can choose which records to search. You do this by clicking the search button and then when the original list loads you click on the specific record tab on the left hand side of the screen. This will then bring up all possibilities for this record.
Furthermore with ancestry you have the ability to search for soundex entries, meaning names that sound similar to the one you have entered or are only slightly different. This is a useful tool and sometimes people were enumerated wrongly or simply changed the spelling of their names.
As well as being able to search for records ancestry you can also be used to compile your family tree. This package is quite good as is perfect for family historians who are just beginning their family search. It gives you the ability to enter basic information about your relatives as well as attach the records you have found using ancestry to them so that you can easily find them again. It also gives you the ability to hide information on living relatives. Once you have entered all the information you may then be contacted by email by other people who believe they have the same ancestor as you. This occurs because the information is fed into ancestry's search facility it doesn't however mean that anyone can search your tree as only information about the person entered into the search box can be viewed.
Ancestry.co.uk also has a learning centre where you can watch short videos on how to make the very best of ancestry's facilities as well as handy genealogy tips. In this section there is also an option to find out what surnames mean and print a family tree chart.
The final thing I will say about this website is that it is about it's layout, which in my opinion is brilliant. It is laid out in a very simple way with tabs to different section along the top of the screen and then further tabs in some of these sections along the left hand side of the screen. The colours used are quite neutral and pleasing to the eye making it easy for you to concentrate on the information you may glean rather than on colours or pictures flashing in front of your face. Ancestry also contains very limited adverts and most of these are often advertising sections of their site, which sometimes come in very handy.
All in all I must say that I am thoroughly impressed with the service that ancestry offer. At first you may be a little shocked by the price that they charge but the information you can learn is amazing and because the site is easy to navigate this information can (not always) be found easily and swiftly. Better still the site is constantly being updated, which makes it even better value for money. Another good point is the fact that they also have a very good support service who sort out any problems quickly. Subscription cancellations are also dealt with quickly and efficiently.
All that is left for me to say therefore is that if you want to learn more about your family history then ancestry.co.uk is definitely the place to start.
I have found, as a family historian, a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk a must. Ancestry.co.uk holds a wealth of information from census records going back to 1841 to paris records going back even further. Ancestry are continually adding to their collections and recently added British WW1 Medal Rolls and service records. They even hold data from British Phone Books between 1880 and 1984! There is so much more too.
You an upload or build your own family tree, take part in the community, take a look at the learning centre or visit the Ancestry shop. Now they even have a DNA section!
There is so much you can see and do at Ancestry. While the subscription seems quit pricey it really can be worth it when you're researching your family history online. I have been a member for 2 or 3 years now and still find Ancestry.co.uk very useful and worthwhile.
The world of genealogy is a fascinating pastime and one which becomes more pervasive and demanding of time the more you put into it. I have spent the last eighteen months converting our own records history from a hand written collection of notes into a computerised database and a web based family magazine. I outlined the steps in this journey and gave some general advice and thoughts on lines of research to anyone who might wish to follow me in a recent article published in these pages.
This review features Ancestry, a huge repository of historical information. It is written on the assumption that you are looking beyond your immediate family members and the creation of simple three or four generation tree charts. It also assumes that you do have some knowledge of the genealogical data which has been extracted and collated and made available across the internet and what to do with it. I am starting with this site which claims to be "the leading online network connecting families with their histories and with one another".
This is the first of a series of occasional articles on the tools of the trade, concentrating on specific software programs that I have useful and worthy of recommendation. Each takes a significant step beyond the casual dabbling and requires a degree of learning, time, patience and cash. I do not claim that they are the only packages on the market or that I rely solely upon them in my own researches.
WHO ARE THEY?
The Ancestry family (Ancestry.com in the US; Ancestry.co.uk in the UK) is part of the MyFamily.com, Inc which also includes Rootsweb - a site offering search engines, genealogy forums, links to other family history resources, tutorials and training and a repository for your completed tree - and Genealogy.com - the parent of Family Treemaker [FTM] - the widely used family history database software. The 2006 version of [FTM] is currently available for $29.95
WHAT DO YOU GET?
Ancestry is a subscription site. It offers subscriptions on a monthly or an annual basis and within that there are a variety of databases that can be chosen. Enrolment is a simple matter and can be undertaken on line at either site (with payment in the appropriate currency by credit card). You can also go online at either site although at times Ancestry.com has recognised that I am logging on from the UK and has switched me to Ancestry.co.uk - unless I made a formal protest!.
UK membership gives access to the complete 1851 to 1901 census records; the indexes of Birth Marriages and Deaths (1837 - 1983); Parish, Probate and Military records; Pallot indexes of Births and Marriages prior to 1837; Irish Immigration records and access to the Ancestry Community.
If you choose the American site or choose the Worldwide membership route, you will also gain access to US Federal Censuses (1790 - 1930); Slave schedules of 1850 and 1860; a Veteran's Schedule; a Merchant Seaman schedule of 1930; Social Security Death Index; Births Marriages and Deaths; the US Immigration collection and the Obituaries Collection. There are also many other collections including the US First World War draft cards and newspaper indexes.
Current costs are given below but there are frequent offers to tempt the new user and also discounts for membership renewals:
UK deluxe membership £ 69.95 (Annual); £9.95 (One month trial)
UK World membership £199.95 (Annual)
US deluxe membership $179.40 (Annual); $23.95 (Monthly)
US World membership: $299.40 (Annual)
GETTING GOING WITH ANCESTRY.CO.UK
So let's have a look around our new research facility. The dominant feature of the home page is a general search facility which trawls the full set of Ancestry databases. This is the portal to the majority of your research activities. You are invited to enter a given name and surname as well as (optionally) the year and country of birth and death. Two options can be chosen: "Ranked Search" which uses a soundex key, listing the results as approximations of the spelling of your search criteria and ranking them (1 to 5 stars) according to the closeness of the perceived match; and "Exact Search" which uses only the strict spelling of your search criteria.
However before we begin searching you might initially want to find your way around the site. At the top of the page, below the site logo, is the navigation bar ("My Ancestry"; "Search"; "Family Trees" and "Ancestry Community") and we will explore these areas later. Below the search box is an area containing links to the fifteen UK censuses (seven for England; seven for Wales; on recently added (1841) for Scotland - the returns for the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands can be accessed through a separate link) carried out between 1851 and 1901, and the other main database areas (the UK and Irish Probate and Parish Records; the England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes; the Pallot Birth and Marriage Indexes and the index of Irish Immigrants: New York Port Arrivals.
On the right hand site of the page is an announcement panel which may advertise the latest additions and facilities or special offers (at the time of writing there is a free access offer). Below this is your personal activity panel. This area will become increasingly customised the more you use the site. It will remind you of areas that you last explored, maintain "A list of people I am looking for" and find other Ancestry members who may share your interests.
We will have a look at the search page next. I am going to use the surname "Nessworthy", a family which originates from South Shields. This can be found on my wife's maternal line and has a very interesting story attached to it which we have told in the Blue section of our website:
"THE NESSWORTHY GENESIS": http://www.craxford-family.co.uk/simppage5.php
I want to get "a feel" for the family as a whole at the moment rather than to find any one individual or to find spelling variants. So I am going to carry out "An Exact Search", will not put in a First Name and will confine this initial search to England. I will not set any year parameters. This gives the following results:
1901 England census: 47
1891 England census: 23
1881 England census: 13
(there are no returns at all from the earlier censuses)
There are also 102 entries in the Civil Registration Index between 1837 and 1983 and a further 43 births, 36 marriages and 27 deaths between 1984 and 2003.
If we now click the 1881 England census link, the thirteen known Nessworthys are listed in alphabetical order along with an estimated year of birth, a place of birth, the relationship within the family and a residence. Each entry had two further options: "View Record" and "View Image". "View Record" extends the information about the individual and also offers options (which tend to differ from census to census) to view other family members, education, employment and the neighbours. This latter - and relatively new - feature can be a very useful tool particularly when you are in a close-knit community or a village. As you move up and down the censuses you become more aware of who lived and moved where and where husbands and brides resided. It also provides you with the Census registration information: an RG number (11 represents the 1881 census), the district and sub-district, the institution, folio and page numbers.
"View Image" brings up a scan of the actual handwritten page from the census book. The information again varies from census to census but should offer the "Condition as to marriage" - helpful in tracking down a spouse who appears on one return but not on the next. The 1881 census also included a column which was headed "If (1) Deaf-and-Dumb (2) Blind (3) Imbecile or Idiot (4)" although a value was rarely entered here. Think what would be made of a suggestion like that for the next census in 2011!! It is always worth while looking at these scans to confirm spellings. You can also scan forwards and backwards along streets.
At each stage there is the option to save or print out hard copies of the page.
We'll turn our attention to the England and Wales Civil Registration Index (1837-1983) now. Again the Nessworthys are listed in alphabetical order, ten to a page. The one option here "View Record" brings up a version of the index listing showing the type, year and quarter of registration. The district where registered and the volume and page number. These latter items are of vital importance if you are considering applying for the actual certificate.
The page link lists the names other individuals registered at the same time. This can be useful in narrowing down the name of a spouse from the marriage indexes.
Be aware that these indexes are not complete. Ancestry.co.uk is a sponsor of the FreeBMD site although the data on the two sites does not always correspond. However it is improving all the time and there are now dedicated search pages which split the indexes into six sections: Births, Marriages and Deaths respectively for each of 1837 - 1984 and 1984 to 2004.
An important caveat
I gave this warning in my first article and it is one that you should remember whatever the source of information you are looking at. You must bear in mind that any of these indexes have been re-written and often interpreted from the original hand-written forms by volunteers. You should also remember that when these censuses were being taken that a large swathe of the population were illiterate and that regional accents often interfered with the way that surnames were spelled. Then there are individuals (or whole families) who were known by names other than their given name. This often means that if your surname is even slightly out of the ordinary you will have to consider all the variations of spelling. In this line of the family we have found relatives under the names Nesworthy, Nosworthy, Norsworthy, Nurseworthy and all the combinations losing the final 'Y').
THE ANCESTRY EXTRAS
It is now time to have a look at the other resources and facilities that are on offer. On returning to the home page you will notice that your "Last Record Viewed" and "Last Search You Did" have been filled in (in this case it notes '1881 England Census' and 'Nessworthy'. This is helpful as it will quickly return you to the point you reached at the end of the last session.
The "Ancestry Community" is your gateway to like-minded researchers out there on the internet. You can create your own public profile which may help other people to find you. You can read or take part in surname or keyword based message boards - these are sorted alphabetically. You can also use the membership directory to search out other people with common interests.
"Family Trees" allows you to start building your own tree with information you have found in your searches. There is a general consensus that information about individuals born after 1930 is kept hidden from public view. This is also the area where you can search for other trees registered with Ancestry that may contain names belonging to your family. This section contains a "celebrity tree" feature. Current incumbents include Brad Pitt, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Albert Einstein.
The Ancestry World Tree is a repository for individual family trees around the world and is claimed to be the largest collection of its kind on the internet. Currently it contains 400 million names (including 25 million from the UK and Ireland). It is possible to build your tree 'by hand' but the quickest way is build a GEDCOM file (a standard genealogy information output file) with your computer software and then export it to the Ancestry web site. Full instructions are given on the World Tree page.
The "My Ancestry" page allows you to collect together information, contacts, links and other information into a single place. Currently in beta test mode, Ancestry is piloting an "Obituary Hunter" facility. At the moment this will search newspapers in the US for obituary notices with a plan for an extension to the UK.
A WORKED EXAMPLE
I knew from my father that my grandfather's name was James Ernest and that he had died about 1950. He had originated from Cottingham, a village in Northamptonshire somewhere near Rockingham Castle but I did not have a date of birth for him. My father was born in 1916 so it was reasonable to presume that James was born in the latter part of the nineteenth century. I discovered from the village web site that the publican of a now disappeared inn (The Three Horseshoes) in the 1880s was a Thomas Craxford. Could this be my great grandfather?
I should perhaps explain at this point that the three villages historically linked with our family are Gretton, Cottingham (about 5 miles to the west) and Middleton (another mile or so to the west of Cottingham). It has to be remembered too that individual and population movements were must more difficult and slow (horse, cart, bicycle) in those days.
A first search for "James Craxford" on Ancestry.co.uk gave the following England census results: 1901 (2); 1891 (1); 1881 (4) 1861 (2); 1851 (1) - with 2 from the UK 1851 census sample. My initial delight was tempered when the 1901 detailed results revealed a Walter James from Kent and a William James born in Lincolnshire and living in London. This turned to consternation when the 1891 result was that of a James Craxford, admittedly living with his wife in Northamptonshire but in Middleton and aged 86 years.
The 1881 return was much more revealing. There I found James E. Craxford (son - born about 1873) living at Water Lane, Cottingham. That's more like it! The "View Record" tab gave me the reference to the census - Kettering Corby RG11/1579 2 36 34 (Always keep any reference number you find with your notes or as part of your database entry for cross-correlation and future use). The view image link brought up the actual hand written entry from 1881 showing that James Ernest was 8 years old and a scholar. The page also contained details of his parents (John and Sarah - not Thomas!) and three sisters (Henrietta, Louisa and Sarah). I also stored away details of the three James Craxfords (born 1814, 1846 and 1871 respectively) and living in the Islington area of London for future research.
So far so good, but what happened to him in the interim. What else can we find out about him? The next search was of the England and Wales, Civil Registration Index: 1837-1983 which produced 13 births, marriages or deaths of James Craxford. None of these matched a birth about 1873. I then wondered whether the index entry could be wrong and looked for James Croxford (114 candidates) and James Crawford (a somewhat more daunting task returning over 1000 names). I drew a blank in both places. However, the 1891 census did show a James Croxford born in Cottingham in 1872 working as a servant in Spondon in Derbyshire and the 1901 census showing a James Croxford born in Cottingham living in Leicester with a Tom and Lizzie Scott.
We've got as far as we can at the moment with James Ernest but what about the other question I posed at the beginning of this section? We now know that his father was called John. There are no John Craxfords listed in the 1871 index; but there are four (three in Gretton and one in Middleton in 1861). Let's try the latter. Sure enough, this entry gives us details of a William Craxford (born about 1806) a widower living with his two sons, John and Thomas. Further research has confirmed that this Thomas did indeed become an innkeeper.
We did subsequently discover that James had two other sisters and a younger brother. Armed with that information we were able to make contact with other descendents of this branch of the family tree that we had never met before. Several of them still live in Cottingham and the Water Lane cottage is still in the family. From various sources we have been able to put together a photograph gallery of the offspring of John and Sarah Craxford. You can see it at:
I gave advanced warning of the problems of the spelling of names in my general article about investigating your family history. This is a case in point and very close to home.
I did eventually find my grandfather in the BMD indexes at www.freeBMD.org.uk - under the name of James Ernest Croxford registered in the September 1872 quarter (Kettering 3b 183). The actual certificate (http://www.craxford-family.co.uk/showphoto.php?photoID=160&showdocs=1) is clearly in the name of Craxford. The certificate also gave me his mother's maiden name of Claypole. His marriage certificate (1905 Bromyard, Worcestershire) confirmed that he was a rather peripatetic individual.
THE LAST WORD
If you are developing a serious interest in tracing your family history, have computerised and are running a genealogical database, Ancestry should be high up (if not at the top of) your list of priority resources. It has centralised access to a formidable array of historical data from the obvious sources (the UK census returns and the civil registration indexes) to the not so obvious (Pallot indexes, newspaper indexes). At the outset, a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk should be sufficient for the needs of a UK resident whose main background is also in the UK. Later worldwide access becomes at attractive addition (at a price) for tracking down those loose ends and missing links.
The prices I have quoted may seem high but then so are the basic tools or equipment for any hobby. There are other sources of the same information but you will quickly discover that none of them are either entirely free or complete. This is one resource that you will return to again and again - and as you become more versed with the ramifications of its facilities it will become increasingly invaluable.
The title of this review is taken from the opera "The Mikado" by Gilbert and Sullivan. The full quote, by Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, reads: "I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable."