Follow Friday: Ancestry.ca

I love genealogy. I’m also fortunate enough that my family’s ancestry is (relatively) trackable. My Scottish ancestors (the Frasers) arrived in Canada in 1815, my Irish ancestors (the O’Shaughnessy family) I have back to 1837 in Nova Scotia, my English side (Cox) arrived in 1907, and my French Canadian side (the Menards) – well, I have once source citing their ancestors (Boucher) arriving in Quebec around 1619. You know, just hanging out with Champlain, waiting for some filles de roi. When people ask “what” I am? I’m Canadian, thank you very much.

The Details:

My family currently shares a Canada Deluxe Membership at Ancestry.ca. It’s 119/yr and gives us access to Canadian Census data to 1916, Birth, Marriage & Death information, primarily from the 1800s and early 1900s (you’ll get lucky if you’ve got French Canadian heritage like me. Excellent record keepers), Immigration and Passenger Lists, other Canadian family trees and some newspaper data (I’ve used this mostly for obituary information.)

It currently suits our needs, but we have in many ways reached the end of our Canadian rope. To learn beyond arrivals in Canada, you really need the World Deluxe Membership, which is 299/yr – a bit steep for my budget, and even here it seems largely limited to Canada, US, UK & Ireland (Ancestry employees, correct me if I’m wrong), so if you’re not researching there, you may be out of luck beyond others’ family trees.

Best Features:

  • Member Family Trees — This has been incredibly helpful in my own research. I’ve been able to connect with other researchers who are looking at the same family and get more detailed data, information, and in some cases, even photographs. One member recently shared with me photographs he’d found online of my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Deidemia (Church) Fraser (1831-1914).
  • The little green leaf — This is their advertising hook and by golly they’ve hooked me. Enter a name into your family tree, and if you’re lucky a little green leaf will appear next to it. This means that in their system, they have someone with similar information either in one of their records, or in another member family tree. Sometimes it’s completely off base, and if you don’t have the right membership you won’t be able to see the information (devastating.) But sometimes it can lead to marriage records, attestation papers or census data that reveals information you didn’t know yet existed.
  • Site functionality — It’s a relatively simple process to set up an account and begin making your family tree. I’ve experienced only a few hiccups in the system (when adding children to a relationship, be sure to connect them with both the existing mother and father – it doesn’t do this automatically!) I started using the program when it was MyFamily.com in the previous millenium. It was pretty easy to use then and is just as easy to use now.

What’s Next?

  • For young amateurs like myself the price can be pretty steep. If you’ve got all your information already and have no interest in using their resources, it’s free. But that little green leaf draws you in…
  • I’d love to see them offer the program at reduced cost to students, teachers or members of historical organizations.  I know that they have reduced prices for Canadian Legion Members, so why not extend it further?
  • There are a number of ways they could make the site more accessible to educators, including classroom, school or board memberships with heightened security — and if these exist, they should be more obviously promoted online.
  • Most glaringly: I understand that they are an American company, but their resources are very limited once you go beyond North American and the British Isles. I appreciate the difficulty in finding or accessing resources in many countries. As it stands, I would not use this program as an activity in my urban, multicultural Toronto school. It’s likely that I would be the only one able to find any records at all.

My recommendation? If you’re at all curious about your family history, start with the 14 day free trial. Just don’t blame me if you suddenly find you can’t live without it.

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2 comments on “Follow Friday: Ancestry.ca

  1. Gord Hines
    June 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    I love Ancestry…. Some comments:
    SCOPE: I have the World Deluxe subscription.
    I’ve been luck enough to find mid 1800s pre-Germany census records, Australian records (some UK ancestors were sent as prisoners to early Aussie penal colonies). Canadians are frequent US border crossers or travel via USA to distant points. I often find surprises in their border / immigration records! Canadian who relocated to the US often become US citizens. Their citizenship records can be amazing at times (I found a photo and birth certificate copy once!).

    COST: Use your local public library to access Ancestry… this is FREE with your library card… ‘tho’ perhaps some libraries do not need anything more than your physically being in the library, card or no card.
    If you are a member of a local genealogy association or historical society, they may offer “free” access to selected online genealogy services, including Ancestry. I say “free”… because in Saskatchewan, you have to pay $25 for a premium annual membership to get access. The allow you to book use remotely from home also. Base membership is only $25 yrly so cost is still reasonable for what you gain.

    Finally, I pay about $30/ month via credit card. There is no better value I can find for the enormous scale and scope of records today… with the close runner up being the FHL of the LDS. . I often find clues in the LDS that lead me directly to more detailed records on Ancestry. The two compliment each other nicely.

    I especially like the way Ancestry integrates with so many genealogy programs… I use Family Tree Maker. I can download any original image file records from Ancestry to my own PC — and that is priceless.

  2. Gord Hines
    June 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    I should add one “ps” to my previous remarks about Ancestry…. I do NOT like their deceptively worded statement about the privacy of member provided data and information. Ancestry (or some related parent/ subsidiary or similar legal entwining) has patented software technology for disaggregating data provided by “registered” users (whether paying subscribers or otherwise) so that reusing the “data elements” is not in and of itself a violation of any copyright or privacy law. Anything you put on an Ancestry website can and will be made available to others. Ancestry only “promises” that if you “privatize” your family data, it will not be traceable to you. Many users with “private” trees have found their information winding up in “public view” on the http://www.mundia.com genealogy website owned by Ancestry.

    So be forewarned… do not put your information about living individuals in your family tree on an Ancestry website. Keep that on your own computer.

    … and be wary of the “new” synchronization” feature between Ancestry online trees and the ones on your computer.

    Living persons on your computer might inadvertently(?) wind up being uploaded to the Ancestry website.

    Best if you keep living persons in a separate file on your computer… and learn how to merge a “synchronized” tree downloaded from Ancestry to your computer into your file with the living persons. It can be tricky but worth the time it takes to learn how to do it using your genealogy software program.//g

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