We recently acquired an Ancestry.com account. I’d given it try once, many years ago, when it was new, but didn’t have the time to put into it. And, because it was new, it didn’t have some of the great features it now has.
Learning to use the account has been interesting. It tries the memories of the older folk, who know their history but not necessarily proper names. You learn your surname wasn’t always spelled THAT way. And you learn some new information. For example, we learned last night that a great-grandmother had been previously married. You can access birth, marriage, and death certificates, military documents, census pages, and more.
A lot of hard work goes into family genealogy. I know, because I’ve watched my mother do ours. On Ancestry.com, you can connect with others who have information you need. A lot of these users are private, and you have to contact them and request they share data, because in the genealogy world, information is jealously guarded. Why? If you put that much work into it, I’m betting you would be hesitant to share with anyone who wasn’t as serious as you. It's like a stranger asking to see your first draft. Or your mother.
This is a great tool for writers. If there’s nothing interesting in your family history, check out someone else’s! See what famous names have unknown siblings or children that might have an interesting story to tell. If nothing else, period-era names are a gold mine—probably not enough to justify a monthly fee, but the free 14-day trial will get you all you want.
Ancestry also allows you to build your tree as you think it should be. So even if other users share information, the building is all up to you. If you’d rather leave that crazy cousin off the tree, you can. But be warned, someone, someday will be looking for him. It’s like anything else on the Internet. Not everything is always, 100% correct. We’re all familiar with the woman on the State Farm commercial who believes everything on the Internet is true. Don’t be her, even on Ancestry.com.