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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Ancestry.com

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 28, 2016

 

Our Library System has subscribed to Ancestry.com Library Edition for several years.  It is available for use in-house only which is often the case for genealogy/family tree online databases.

 

Other online databases provided by the library may be accessible from your home computer and your library card.

 

Ancestry.com Library Edition is purchased from ProQuest, a library supplier for several online products, and this product is part of Ancestry.com LLC, the largest privately held genealogy company in the world.

 

Headquartered in Provo, Utah, Ancestry.com was started 25 years ago as a company providing CDs containing various information sources of genealogy products.

 

Today they provide access to 16 billion historical records with 70 million family trees and 200 million photographs.

 

The company is growing rapidly as more information is converted to online products.  Ancestry.com is also acquiring similar companies to grow its database, including its 2013 acquisition of “Find-A-Grave,” an Internet site with millions of grave records.

 

The Library Edition is primarily for researching specific family names and individuals, while the “member services” are sold to individuals allowing family trees to be grown from information on the databases.

 

My sister-in-law has told me for a year that I should join, so about 6 weeks ago I took the plunge and became a “member” of Ancestry.com.

 

To a public librarian, the first time is overwhelming with information and data pouring from the system to surround the small initial data entered around your own name.

 

My parents and grandparents popped into my family tree almost effortlessly.  My grandmother’s maiden name was misspelled, and another date was wrong.

 

Many records on Ancestry.com are digitized with a computer developing the print data, so mistakes are common but can be corrected.

 

The little leaf on a record means that Ancestry.com has found more information that “may” be a match, and one click brings it all forward for your review.  From a librarian’s perspective, it would be easy to “slop together” a family tree with questionable results.

The U.S. Census materials bring street addresses, and a list of everyone residing at a residence for 1940 and before, and it is interesting the household of many families a century ago.

 

Military records, death records, and cemetery monuments quickly populated my family tree.

 

Eugene Brock, my step-mother’s first husband, was killed in Germany as part of World War II, but I was surprised that he didn’t generate any records except an application for a military grave monument in 1949 in Maysville, Ky.

 

It was becoming interesting to me to see which relatives generated records and which didn’t.  A distant cousin named Dewey, who died the same year I was born, was discharged from the Service in World War I and returned to Akron where he divorced his young wife.

 

The poor fellow had his name misspelled in record after record, which took a lot of work to fix as he populated my family tree.

 

I was impressed with the volume of information and ability to link it all together; but it must be done slowly and carefully reading all the documentation with each link.

 

It would be easy to gather a garbage heap of genealogy around your name unless care is taken with data entry.

 

Think about the information that you are generating today, and what future generations will see about you!  Most of it will be something you will never see or read, just information generated around some government file.

 

Hope that your relatives write your obituary correctly, as it may be the only information about you to survive for future generations.

 

Better yet, maybe you need to write your obituary now complete with updates and be sure your family can find it.

 

And with the purchase of Find-A-Grave by Ancestry.com, be sure you have a nice cemetery monument as that may be the only “photo” that pops up in your account.

 

And hope that you have a descendant that will correct the spelling of your name!