Finding Your Folks: To Ancestry, or not to Ancestry …

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I was surfing the 'Net the other day and stumbled across a blog which caused me great concern. It was on and was a place where customers and technicians could share information and opinions on different programs offered by, probably the largest genealogy corporation in the world (The Generations Network, Inc.). I have been a member (subscribed to their services) since 2000, when they were in their infancy, and, for the most part, have been quite satisfied with their performance.

I had a little fright about a year ago when a server glitch erased my password and "they" gave me a new one (sort of concerned me that they could do that) and I've had the usual "Mac" generated problems and issues, mostly with having to struggle to keep ahead of their browser requirements. But I do dearly love their census images and their family history books and appreciate their effort to put the actual images of World War I draft cards online.

Back in 2000, Ancestry was pretty "primitive" compared to today. They had a free family tree service (Ancestry World Tree) and a free message board service for both surnames and regions, and, for members, an online family tree program which was exactly what I needed, since I didn't have any type of genealogy program for my computer. Nobody could see it but me and that's the way I wanted it. I really took advantage of this until I could purchase a genealogy program and continued to use it until their browser requirements shut me out. I then deleted my private tree from Ancestry.

I purchased a great genealogy program (Reunion) and submitted my family tree to Rootsweb, at that time a free, independent genealogy Web site, with its own family trees, message boards, and databases. It was truly a site for the people and operated purely on donations and contributions. I was so thrilled with them I sent a large donation.

But all good things have to end and the big fish eventually gobbles up the little fish - and Ancestry bought Rootsweb, promising to keep it free, which they have done so far.

They began merging certain parts of Ancestry with Rootsweb and really screwed up the message boards. They are still awkward and hard to maneuver. They also purchased Genforum but have left those messages in the same format. Thank the Lord!!

Also, when you submitted your family tree to Rootsweb, it automatically went on Ancestry's World Tree, which was okay … until they notified us that they were taking our info from the free tree and making a new one called "One World Tree" which people would have to pay to access. They did give a time frame in which people could remove their family trees and thousands deleted them. But … this meant they were also deleted from Rootsweb. I decided to leave mine alone. My info is also on One World Tree which was a total flop anyway, so it doesn't matter.

Ancestry also purchased Family TreeMaker (FTM), the most popular genealogy program on the market … but with a very bad marketing attitude, similar to that of P.T. Barnum. You know … the one about "suckers?" Since the purchase, FTM's attitude seems to have rubbed off on Ancestry and appears to be something like, " … suck in the newbies ... they don't know any better and when they find out, it'll be too late. We'll already have their stuff." FTM's CDs, burned from information gleaned from newbies and full of errors, are notorious.

From reading their blogs (I'll give you the URL in a minute), it appears they have changed their public and private member trees again, information has become lost in the change and people are not happy about it. Also, photos have been taken (copied) and used by others without the permission of the site owner. In other words, it is a real mess. Here's the URL. You can read the messages for yourself. Click on "Comments" under "More Questions and Answers ..." by Kenny Freestone.

I know that many of you out there are still new to computers and I'm only trying to help you make some decisions. People ask me about using Ancestry almost every day. is by far the best program on the Internet for providing databases with factual information (Civil War and other military records, censuses, historical newspapers, family and regional histories, original marriage records, etc.) and their subscription to access these databases is well worth the price. Except for the password glitch, I've never had problem. I have only the United States subscription. I'm not ready for the European part yet.

The U.S. GenWeb project, through the various state and county GenWeb sites and archives, is another excellent resource for primary information (court records, Bible records, tax lists, etc.) but because information is user submitted, there may be gaps in the information. You may have several wills from book A, but none from book B, for example.

Ancestry has been tremendously valuable when I've had to check your family stories or try to add information to them, especially with their census records. I would just caution you strongly to be careful about using their private or public member trees. Keep your tree on Rootsweb if you want to share it with others, and "prune" certain information before you make a Gedcom to submit. I take off all my notes, leave my sources, and set the cutoff date for living people at 1910, not 1930 as Rootsweb has it. Just feels a little safer.

Next week I hope to get back to families, starting with the Owen family in Jasper, Upson, Pike and Meriwether.

Stories about your families who lived on Atlanta's south side are always welcome. Send stories to or Mail to The Citizen, P.O. Drawer 1719, Fayetteville, GA 30214. All letters and e-mails I receive are subject to being used in the column.

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Submitted by pinkst on Thu, 01/17/2008 - 11:56pm.

To Judy Fowler Kilgore I was reading some of your story.And I find something on the Arnold family which is my husband family here in fayette, but it was not calling fayette it was call Near Over. And now i come to a road block.I just want to know were Fayette call Near Over.Thank you

muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Sun, 01/13/2008 - 12:42pm.

Turns out that every single one of my grandfathers with the L-- surname, all the way back to about A.D. 1000 in London, is known. With very little room for doubt, the line runs back to a grandfather who arrived with Penn in the 17th century from W. Sussex and settled in Pennsylvania. His dad, grandfather, great-grandfather, and so on--WAY back--are known. (His grandson fought in the Revolutionary War, as his marker in Washington PA indicates).

Most were simple farmers (alas, I am neither a Duke nor Dauphin), though that earliest known fellow was a barrister.

On the one hand, it's pretty cool having this ancestral information available. My wife's dad doesn't even know what his grandfather's name was--a fact that is inconceivable to me.

But all the fun of doing genealogical research has been done by others!!!

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