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Well it isn't the Addams family... it is mine!!
For those people who are interested in researching their family tree, you will find that there is no end of websites available online to help you with your search, whilst I don't imagine you can trace absolutely everyone on your families ancestry, you can certainly use these websites to double check and treble check the information you currently have and use the websites in conjunction with one another to confirm pieces of information. The latter I do on a daily basis and my main source is www.ancestry.co.uk.
Ancestry.co.uk is quite possible the largest genealogy website there is because it houses all of the census information you could possibly need to use, except for 1841 because A census has been taken every ten years since that date, except in 1941. The first genealogically useful census was not taken until 1841, when names were recorded. This site is also the home to over 4 billion names.
Ancestry is simple to use, rather like Genes Reunited, the layout is simple and the useage is simple thus making it a pleasure to use. The added extra with this website is that you get a 14 day free trial of its services, after those 14 days you can decide whether or not you wish to subscribe for a whole year. When you sign up for the trail you will be taken through a series of screens as you to fill in your name and email address and you will also be asked to use a credit card, no payment is taken until after the 14 day trial ends and should you not wish to continue with the service then you simply ring the free phone number which is emailed to you to cancel this subscription, if you do not ring to cancel it then money will be debited for a total of £69.95, which is on average extremely good value for money because most websites of this nature charge you 5p per view and if you are really serious about researching your family tree you will be looking at hundreds of pieces of data on anyone day. However, I still insist that you fully read the terms and conditions before continuing with the registration. You can of course opt not to partake in the 14-day free trial and just be a guest user but your resources will be limited.
However, once you have access to the website the homepage is laid out very simply. Along the top of the homepage are lists of options and dominating the rest of the screen is the search facility, a list of all the census records you can find within this website and to the left hand side of the screen will be details of the last ancestor search you did under 'View Your Recent Activity' and also opportunities to build your family tree and 'Work on a List of People I am Looking For' which is an excellent part of the site, you
detail what ancestors you are looking for and the people who run the website hope you look by going through all of their information and in turn any links they find are emailed to you with references so you can check them out, I have used this service twice and have managed to locate my Great Grandfather. You can also keep up to date with what new information has been added to Ancestry by using the left hand menu to select 'See Recently Added Databases'.
I mentioned you have a series of options upon the homepage and they are broken down into sections:
** Home **- this function will always take you back to the homepage which is the first page you will see upon logging in.
**My Ancestry ** - On this page you can view your most recent activity on Ancestry and decide what you want to do next. You will also see a list of people you are looking for and if any information has been found about them, and then you can click on the relevant button to read that information. You can add people at any time. One piece of advice I would give to anyone using this facility is that you should try and use as much relevant information as you possibly can, this makes the likeliness of the search easier and anyone found is more likely to be a relative you are searching for, if you simply type in that you are looking for John Smith born in England then you will receive masses of information of which 90% of it will be useless and it will be a waste of your time searching through every piece of information to whittle them down.
This page also dedicates itself to obituaries, but for the time being this facility is only available to US Newspapers and there are plans to extend it to the British Isles at some point in the future.
Another useful tool on this page is 'Shoebox'. When you are searching through vast quantities of information you will almost certainly come across people whom you might think belong in your family tree but at this moment in time are not too sure. Shoebox allows you to save this piece of information so that you can come back to it at a later date.
Finally on this page is a link to the Ancestry Community, which I will come back to within its own section.
The next option along the top of the screen is 'Search'. This is quite possibly the page you will use the most, it is certainly case where I am concerned. The screen itself gives you the basics of your research. You can enter the surname and forenames of the person you are looking for, their approximate year of birth, the country in which they were born, the county, the approximate date of death and within which country you think death occurred and you can search for all options or Census Data, Births, Deaths, Marriages, Communities, Immigration and more besides. I always ask for 'All Records'. Now depending on what you are looking to find out will be dependant on the information you will include. If you do not know the year of birth then try to approximate because it will make the search a lot easier to narrow down the search and obviously if you do not know the date of death, either estimate or leave it blank is my advice.
I should also point out that there are two options of searching. Ranked or Exact - Ranked gives you the information in the order in which it best matches the information you have entered and Exact will only find what you enter. I always use Exact because I am lucky enough to know a lot about my family back to the 1800's and it helps me to tie up loose ends.
However, with a ranked search you will see listed with stars next to their names, the order of importance in which this information is linked to what you initially entered. To view the information you simply click on the record type. Then before you will appear the said information which I usually print off so that I can makes notes on it should I wish to do further research. Then, depending on what type of information it is will depend on what you can look at, for example:
If it is a BMD which stands for Births, Deaths and Marriage record then you will see before you a record which states Name, Date of Death/Marriage/Birth followed by Birth Date, Death Registration (if one), Month and Year, Registration District, Inferred County and Inferred Country. All of this information is useful to you because it allows you to do further research should you need to.
If it is a census record then the screen is totally different and you will have a lot more information at hand. For example - you will be able to view other members of the household which gives you more information about ancestors, you can view the actual census record to see what occupations they did and you have all the source information you need to order copies of the records from the records office.
If you do an exact search your options are very limited unless you have a fairly good idea about whom you are looking for and you will possibly find that your search results do not return anything to you in this case. So if you are unsure about the information then use a ranked search. It is more time consuming but it is worth the extra effort to find that piece of information.
The next option along the top is 'Family Tree' and this is quite simply the place to start entering all the information you find to create your tree if you are not using another website to do this. I don't use this site to record my family tree, but I have used it to keep together some pieces of information
Pictures of ancestry.co.uk
and the good thing about this section is that it is a step-by-step guide about how to start your family tree and it does make the task very simple. If you are a novice to this kind of thing, then I would suggest having a look at the step-by-step guide as a useful tool. You can also print off your family tree at any time so that you can see what it looks like. I do this constantly so that I can double check I have added everything that I know is a family member/ancestor.
Finally we have the Ancestry Community. In this area, you can share research or ideas with other Ancestry members or contact those members with research interests similar to yours. The message boards on this website aren't as well utilised as other websites which for me is a downside because you can end up never getting answer to a query as I have found. However, you can search the message boards for other members who may be researching the same family tree as yourself by simply using the search facility, which will be in front of you, or you can add a message to the boards in the hope that people will contact you and to do this you basically click on a letter that is listed alphabetically below to see last names starting with that letter and you go through a series of selecting the relevant letters and then select a last name and see who's chatting about it. You can also use the 'Members Directory' to search for other members of the Ancestry community who have common family history interests. You could find someone who knows about your ancestors.
Overall I would suggest that anyone who intends to start researching their family tree or has been researching their family tree uses this website because it is brilliant at finding pieces of information and is an extremely useful tool when you need to double check references. Since I have used this website (and I am lucky that an uncle of mine pays his subscription and that I can use it) I have managed to find a Step-sister my Nan never knew the name of, where she lived, what she did and when she unfortunately died, but I have also managed to place 35 people into my family tree and eliminate hundreds more.
I have also been able to find out that one ancestor was an extremely successful businessman back in the 1800s and he owned his own factory and employed over 20 people and it is information like that, which is hard to come by. I also like the facility of being able to look at the actual census record itself, I have printed of hundreds of copies about my relatives and the information on them is endless.
However, although I do recommend this website to anyone interested in genealogy I would also again warn you to be careful with anything you do find and use and make sure you check it as many times as you possibly can before adding it 100% to your tree.
Good review - fortunately they've added the 1841 census now, but I must have been a member of the site when you were because I remember it not being there.
You have reminded me, reading this, of some of the very useful features they have since (sadly) taken away. Your overview is comprehensive and very thorough.
octavio.teixeira 07.06.2007 03:08
Another great review, well done.
lauricha 04.04.2006 13:55
Had to give this an E, everything I needed to know was covered! i wish i could trace my familys history, but we dont know my grandads parents real names and my mums sicillian! Oh well, should be good for some! Laur