Is having a subscription to worthwhile?

+10 votes
Not that I'm hugely annoyed, but I'm trying out a temporary free subscription to (mainly because when I search around, I keep running into records that I can't seem to access without subscribing to the site. But I ran into what appeared to be a record of my grandfather, but linked to the wrong parents, using ONLY a 1910 census as a source. I admit, for a paid site, that is pretty thin evidence. Thats the only problem with census records, how can you know whom they are speaking of unless you have other sources that you can compare that census data to?

They appeared to get 90% of all the other data on my grandfather correct, which had to take at least some work on their part, given they might not of actually known the person they created a record for. But it struck me that there were plenty of other sources online that provided the correct data, but they didn't bother to crosscheck or list those other sources.

I left a comment letting them know about the error, and left a link to my public page on WikiTree to show them who the correct parents were. (I would have preferred to email the person privately, but there didn't appear to be a way to do that).

Has anyone run into noticeably bad records on Is using worthwhile regardless of potential problems? I wasn't planning on creating any content, but perhaps use it as a potential source for record digging.
asked in The Tree House by Michael Hammond G2G6 Mach 1 (11.3k points)

10 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer
A great site if you know how to use it properly.
answered by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.4m points)
selected by Jerry Baraboo
+14 votes
By all means Michael, use it as a source for digitised records, but totally ignore the family trees, which as you have found can be blatantly incorrect.
answered by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (330k points)
And those Ancestry trees can be blatantly incorrect hundreds of times. At least at Wikitree if we're incorrect, we're incorrect only once.
Wishing for a Like button on Anne's comment.
Also wishing for a like button on Anne's comment.

Though, I have this to add to John's initial answer: Family trees can be blatantly incorrect, but they can also point you in the right direction. I don't know how many times I would come across a part of a tree that looked weird on Ancestry, looked up names, and found out that person A was being listed as married to their grandparent, person B, because their grandparent of the same sex, person C, shared the same name! (John Doe listed as married to Jane Doe, when he was really married to Mary Q. Contrary; his grandfather, John Doe, was actually married to Jane Doe!)
+6 votes
Hi Michael,

Ancestry is good on primary sources such as the censuses but the family trees on that site and the other sites need to be looked at very carefully indeed, findmypast is another good one for sources, I'm not sure the quality of the trees though. And many people forget that familysearch has free primary sources to. Generally i use the source information on various sites and only look at the trees if i get stuck with an ancestor as sometimes then they can give you a hint of where to look next.


I think wiki is the only family tree site with a strong commitment to high quality sourced records and unfortunatly the incorrect link your describing isn't an uncommon situation. Well done for spotting it though and your now able to help other historians not step into that trap.


I had an interesting one with ancestry a long while back where I couldn't find any records for one branch of my family, and I found they had consistently recorded the place name in their sources with an incorrect spelling, its took me 6 months of e-mails and countless links to other places to get them to even acknowledge they might have made a mistake and would look into it and after 2 years they hadn't fixed it (it is fixed now i think), and this place isn't a small village its a city in England


Happy hunting

answered by Paula Dea G2G6 Mach 5 (52.9k points)
I agree with everything the others have said.  I have been an subscriber for several years now, having begun with just the USA site.  A few years ago I upgraded to World, just to get data about Canadian ancestors.  Following the Green Leaf Hints is acceptable as long as you stick with the primary sources.  ONLY use other Family Trees, Millenium, etc as leads because they can contain a lot of mis-information due to incorrect linking.  They do not provide data on living persons.  So you really have to have info on grandparents, and work backwards.  Primary Sources include, birth, baptism, marriage, death, burial records. But be sure to read the actual record, not just the printed version.  The original can contain more data not transcribed.  Good Alternatives are church records. Less accurate are census records, because they are only as good as the knowledge of the reporting person and the understanding of the census taker.  (Sometimes in older records there may be a language or ethnicity barrier as it effects pronunciation & spelling.)  Sometimes data on gravestones can be wrong as numbers can be transposed & names misspelled.  The same with obituaries. Though all are certainly good leads. A more recent addition are Town/City Directories which can provide occupation, names of employed person & spouse, employer & address, residence address.  The benefit being they are published yearly.  Many even provide "deceased" info.  Helps to fill in gaps between censuses.  It is because of this easy, automatic link to primary records that I continue my subscription of $75.00 every 6 months.  Happy Hunting...
+6 votes
I have been an Ancestry subscriber for years. I use the site only to search their records. I never look at anyone else's tree. I have the international subscription which I use to find English records.
answered by Jeanie Roberts G2G6 Pilot (120k points)
Like Jeanie, I use Ancestry for records.

In addition to searching records, I use my Ancestry subscription to check the URLs of Ancestry Family Trees that are linked in WikiTree biographies. A sizeable fraction of them are dead links (for abandoned family trees), so I delete the link (possibly saving someone else the trouble of trying to track down a nonexistent source). But I usually leave "Ancestry Family Trees" as a source, so the next person has an indication of where the content came from.
+5 votes
Lately it doesn't seem like Ancestry does much to actually search their sources and relies on the tree-makers to link things together.  OTOneH this does make it more necessary to look at the trees, but OTOtherH, I mostly ignore anything but the actual links to censuses and other databases.  Sometimes I'll look a the timeline on a profile I have a knowledge of to see if the owner has things right, but generally I search from Family Treemaker and first look at the censuses listed in the results and then look at the trees to see if one of them has any of the missing censuses; link to FindAGrave to see what it has to say and then see if there are any other useful things.  

However things will and are gradually changing since once I've gotten most all of the censuses up to date, I'm going to have to do s more specialized searching and it will be interesting to see if I find more on Ancestry or FamilySearch.  But I'd hate to give up since I've subscribed ever since i started serious genealogy in 2002 (well to be honest I probably started it in 2003-2004 but I did subscribe to from the beginning and they eventually were sold to"
answered by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (371k points)
+5 votes
While I agree that most trees on Ancestry are at most, suspect, the Jewett tree run by James Jewett is pretty good.  I've communicated with him outside of ancestry and he is intent on having good sources for his data.  If I have a question, he is always there to answer and, if I need a bit of verification, I will look at his tree (it's HUGE!).  That said, I agree that, in general you don't want to look at the Ancestry trees.
answered by Bob Jewett G2G Astronaut (1m points)
+4 votes
I've used Ancestry for years. I like the format and ease of building a tree there; and for now, I can sync my trees on Ancestry with the ones on my computer which means I only have to input data once. As others have said, the family trees over there can be ridiculously inaccurate, though. I've found my third-great-grandfather supposedly alive and well decades after he was killed in the Civil War. A lot of people seem to be so eager to build up their family trees that they just don't care if it's accurate or not. The other problem that I've had is people who would look at my trees, take information, personal photos, or short biographies and notes that I've written and uploaded them to their own trees without giving proper credit. Serious genealogists won't do that as they want to know the particulars of a given source. I've found that the most reliable trees at Ancestry have been set on Private, and you have to contact the tree owner if you want to know more on their trees.
answered by Sabrina Combs G2G6 Mach 1 (18.5k points)
+3 votes
About once a year or so I will spend 20 bucks and subscribe for 1 month and then cancel. Then for that month i'll check out all the new hints and see if there is anything worth keeping.
answered by Jim Tareco G2G6 Mach 2 (26k points)
+2 votes
you can try other sites such as Find my past I have found so much about my family including wills and probates from them plus they do great deals
answered by E G G2G6 (6.6k points)
+2 votes
I use ancestry all the time and I love it because of the hints that it gives me. The problem is that you have to use the hints and look at other sources, not everyone on ancestry is good about that. I only trust the trees that list their resources and then I still do my own research to make sure they are correct.
answered by Terri Seymour G2G Rookie (260 points)

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