Genealogy Sites - Ancestry
Ancestry.com, the first of the large commercial websites, was started in 1990 in Utah by two young Brigham Young graduates Paul Allen and Dan Taggart. Under the name of Infobases, they began offering Latter Day Saints (LDS) publications in floppy disk form. They also began producing the Ancestry Magazine.
Allen and Taggart were still in control when Ancestry officially went online with the launch of Ancestry.com in 1996. They then began the task of creating an online genealogy database service that was subscription-based,
In the following years the company expanded rapidly through internal growth and acquisition (among their purchases being Rootsweb in 2000, Find A Grave in 2013 and more recently Geneanet in 2021). Ancestry.com became a publicly traded company on NASDAQ in 2009.
In 2012 Ancestry.com was acquired by the European private firm Permira and its co-investors (including the management team). The reported price was around $1.6 billion. In 2020 the company was then acquired by the private equity firm Blackstone. The price had risen to $4.7 billion.
Ancestry has the largest collection of records from around the world, totaling some 30 billion in 2022. These include census, immigration, military, and vital records. In the US they include such records as:
- city directories
- church records (of various denominations)
- wills and probate
- and social security applications.
They have the capacity for you to build your own family tree on their site. You will be alerted on possible matches from their huge database of records and user-submitted family trees. This would include their ‘shaky leaf’ suggestions, hints that are sent to you automatically.
Some reviewers have found that Ancestry.com is robust and accurate for American records. Ancestry.co.uk is very good for British records. But do an international search and the results become less accurate.
Ancestry.com requires a paid subscription on a monthly basis (pricing from $25 to $50 per month) to access most of its features. The lower number reflects US records only, the higher number all records. Ancestry has today more than three million paying subscribers.
How Does Ancestry Compare as a Genealogy Site?
Ancestry.com is the commercial leader as a genealogy site and also for DNA-testing. Today Ancestry’s genealogy site reports some three million subscribers, as against around one million for MyHeritage.
Its genealogy site is clearly the leader in America. Ancestry.com is competitive in Europe, although it probably lags behind MyHeritage in Germany and Scandinavia. MyHeritage with its base in Israel is also stronger in Jewish genealogy. In Britain British-based Findmypast with its access to British records is a strong competitor.
Ancestry DNA started in 2012, later than some of the other US DNA-testing providers. However, due to their commercial and advertising muscle plus their own genealogical support, they have become the leaders in the field.
It has probably the most accurate ethnicity test. The test is so specific that it can even narrow this down to specific townships and villages. This is a major advantage for AncestryDNA users because of the large customer user base (reported at 22 million). And the large user base has meant more potential matches as well.
For those in North America, AncestryDNA can provide clearer migratory paths (what they call genetic communities) to immigrant landing places in America and Canada. Their tool is very useful as it can help you determine where parts of your family lived at different time periods.
Ancestry has also released an Ancestry Health package. This includes reports related to your genetic health, carrier status, and wellness traits based on your DNA testing.
The company presents its results in a clearer manner than other services and places the information it provides in a useful historical context.
An investigation into how to delete your DNA from AncestryDNA found that it is possible to erase your record and even destroy your physical sample. But they don’t make it easy. And you have no idea how long they plan to keep your sample.
Ancestry.com requires a paid subscription to access most of its features. The Ancestry DNA test costs $99, although special offers may be available.
How Does AncestryDNA Compare?
AncestryDNA has prioritized ethnicity tests. Their users are predominantly American with ethnic origins being their primary interest. And for these North American clients they are the best at it.
The large size of their customer base has also meant that AncestryDNA has the largest potential pool of matches; and these are organized on the site by category (by first, second and third cousins etc). Still, other providers can also offer quality matches and some have better tools in how to manipulate this data.
AncestryDNA does not track maternal and paternal heritages separately. That option was discontinued after two years in 2014. African Ancestry provides this service for African Americans. Altthough AncestryDNA may be able to track roots back to Africa through autosomal testing, there is a limit to how far you can go back and how specific you can be with origins.
For health-related DNA traits, AncestryDNA may not be your best option. 23andMe offers far more health-related traits at a very similar price. Since 23andMe was founded on the idea of personalizing health through DNA testing, they have a head-start in getting the FDA approvals required to offer DNA tests for specific diseases and conditions.
Some alternative views of Ancestry DNA by Family History Fanatics is shown in this video.
These are some customer comments:
“Ancestry is a fabulous website. To be able to find relatives from the past is great and their help makes things so much easier. The DNA test has helped me find cousins I never imagined I had from all over the world, as well as telling me all about my own ethnicity.”
“After buying my wife a DNA kit as a Christmas gift, they helped themselves to another £50 from my bank account three months later. I did not buy a membership and on top of that, my wife pays £10.99 a month for updates! Be very careful and read the tiny print when buying one of these.”
“Horrible site. What really upset me was that they used my info to create a tree that has my deceased father and sister as another women’s husband and child. I have requested the removal of at least the pictures of my family members from that users tree (several times) and it’s fallen on deaf ears.”
“After banging heads against the dead end adoption society and state laws, thanks to Ancestry DNA, within a week of getting back his test results, I was able to finally find my adopted son’s biological paternal family, who only lived about 50 miles away for all those 45 years. Unfortunately his father died a few years previously but had always told his family and had always tried to find him, but was blocked by the bureaucratic brick wall. So they were all thrilled to finally meet up and he acquired a step mother, two sisters and a brother. A very happy and successful ending.”
“You can find some good information, but you have to be smart about it. The DNA matches are the best part since I have found some relatives that I didn’t know. The issue is that the computer can only pick out information if it is entered accurately but since any user can enter or use the information there can be some glitches.
For instance, someone entered a married name for a wife instead of the maiden names. So the computer picks up the married name to find the parents and then the information is incorrect. Unfortunately this information gets used over and over again down other family trees.”
Customer Rating: 74% (average of Trustpilot and Amazon ratings). AncestryDNA ranks 2nd of the 6 DNA-testing sites reviewed here.
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