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2001 internet family research vs 2021 research

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  • 2001 internet family research vs 2021 research

    Looking for affirmation for my suspicion, or a clarification.
    When I started researching my family's genealogy on the internet in around 2001 I came across a lot of forums started by groups and private citizens and over a couple of years these sites expanded their holdings,as documents became digitized. During this time I was working in Beijing, and don't recall having to pay for any of the information; It was a devil at that time to convert Chinese currency to foreign funds,anyhow.
    However now I find that not only is ubiquitous at controlling genealogical data,but charging a rather grand sum to access this data. All that data that was compiled for free,and all the efforts researchers put into compiling said data, how has Ancestry been allowed to control such a massive percentage of all data. Why just earlier today I was on a Canadian government site,and to access their data I have to go through Ancestry, a private company! ...or am I misinterpreting the changes?

  • #2
    I don't know that Ancestry is charging for data that was originally free, but if you have examples from your experience, you know best about that. They do have U.S. Censuses and some other records which can be found at other places. has a lot of data, some (like many censuses) overlapping with Ancestry, but offers it for free. If FamilySearch doesn't have a record, they will link to Ancestry or whatever source has it. Ancestry is not the only company which charges for access to its databases; MyHeritage and FindMyPast are two other large subscription sources for research data for genealogy, and there are smaller, more specialized sources out there that generally require fees or subscriptions as well (you can find passenger lists at the Ellis Island website, for example). MyHeritage will link to FamilySearch for some things.

    For better or worse, Ancestry and the others either compiled the data, or obtained the rights to offer the databases, and can charge for access (this is their main source of income, certainly not any DNA testing they offer). Over the years, Ancestry has acquired the following formerly independent companies or websites, and perhaps some others:, RootsWeb, Fold3,, FindAGrave, and also the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) data that they have since removed. Some were free, and others charged for access to the records they offered.

    Note that many public libraries, at least in the U.S., offer "Ancestry Library Edition" to library members to use free in the library on the library's computers. And, if you go to a Family History Center (FHC) near you, they usually have an agreement to offer free access through their portal, to not only Ancestry, but other subscription databases such as FindMyPast (for UK and Irish records), Arkiv Digital (for Swedish records), and several more on the computers you can use at the centers. Of course during this pandemic, the FHCs have been closed, and still are; but, keep it in mind for use in the future.

    There are also dates during the year when Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage have offered free access to specific databases, such as Veterans Day for military records, or St. Patrick's Day for Irish records; you need to monitor those sites, or some genealogy blogs who would alert you ahead of time about those offerings.

    For records that have been microfilmed all over the world by the Family History Library (FHL) and are not usually offered by Ancestry or others, the FHL has been digitizing them and making them available online, either on the website, or in one of their FHCs, depending upon the permission granted by the entity that owns the original material. I have found many records at that the other companies just don't have, particularly for records of my ancestors from outside of the U.S.A. Sometimes FamilySearch will show that a record exists, but they don't have the image. Usually they do provide the source in those cases, and give a certificate number or similar. Then one would need to contact the proper office or record depository to request a copy, and that usually entails a fee.

    Genealogy is not a cheap hobby, but you need to keep looking for ways to access information from other sources. If you know the locale where your ancestors lived, many times there are local sources, churches, or historical societies that may be of help.
    Last edited by KATM; 15 June 2021, 02:41 PM.