How accurate is Ancestry?

Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
42
Location
New Mexico
#1
Hello all,
Even before joining this site, I've always wondered if I could trace back and see if anyone in my family had served in the Civil War. I've asked around here and there, but there is zero concrete truths about how far back my family name goes. My last name is Crandall and I've searched on here, and online multiple times and see there are records that go back, and many Crandall's that fought in the Civil War. I've thought about getting an Ancestry account, but beyond knowing my Grandfathers name, there really isn't much more I know. My dad's dad left their family when he was very little, and just the name has passed down, we don't even have photos of him. There is a little bit more stability and roots we know about from my dad's mom's side, whose name is Terry, but again that is somewhat common for that time period, and area (Missouri).
So if I was to pony up the money for an Ancestry account and look through there, would it even be worth it, knowing so little about the relatives? I honestly have no experience using Ancestry, outside of stuff that I have read on here in the few days I've been a member.
 

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Zella

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#2
Ancestry can be quite useful for the access it gives you to records (and is well worth the money for me), but do not trust other people's family trees or the hints Ancestry gives you unless you verify the information independently. I think that's where Ancestry gets dicey. A lot of people on there (quite frankly) don't know what they're doing and their trees are a disaster as a result. At the very least, I always check to see if they have records supporting their information and then I go hunt that down independently. Likewise, a lot of the hints I've found are for the wrong person. But some of them end up being okay. Just like anything else, really: take it with a grain of salt until you can research/confirm on your own.
 
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
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445
Location
NC Piedmont
#3
I second what Mrs. Zella, our moderator, said about Ancestry. If you use any information that other users have submitted as far as family trees, make sure that what they have submitted makes common sense or you will have things like people living to be 150 years old, eighty year old women having children, marriages at five years old for bride and groom and other impossible facts in your family tree. I took the DNA test with Ancestry and I use the results to prove my research and guesswork in some cases. (you'd be surprised how often guess work can be accurate if you use a little logic)

If you are looking for information about your ancestors who served in the military, Fold3 is the way to go. A subscription is a lot less than Ancestry.com and you will have access to all sorts and types of military records depending upon the conflict.
 

Zella

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#4
or you will have things like people living to be 150 years old, eighty year old women having children, marriages at five years old for bride and groom and other impossible facts in your family tree.
:roflmao::roflmao::roflmao::roflmao::roflmao:

I've also seen CW ancestors listed on folks' trees as serving simultaneously in 2-3 different regiments in entirely different places at the same time. :laugh:
 

Waterloo50

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#5
Hello all,
Even before joining this site, I've always wondered if I could trace back and see if anyone in my family had served in the Civil War. I've asked around here and there, but there is zero concrete truths about how far back my family name goes. My last name is Crandall and I've searched on here, and online multiple times and see there are records that go back, and many Crandall's that fought in the Civil War. I've thought about getting an Ancestry account, but beyond knowing my Grandfathers name, there really isn't much more I know. My dad's dad left their family when he was very little, and just the name has passed down, we don't even have photos of him. There is a little bit more stability and roots we know about from my dad's mom's side, whose name is Terry, but again that is somewhat common for that time period, and area (Missouri).
So if I was to pony up the money for an Ancestry account and look through there, would it even be worth it, knowing so little about the relatives? I honestly have no experience using Ancestry, outside of stuff that I have read on here in the few days I've been a member.
I was in a similar situation but I had a first and second name to work with but even then it was tough going. On Ancestry, if you enter just the surname, you’ll likely be presented with hundreds if not thousands of results, the more info you have the better chance of success you’ll have, a likely place of birth or a rough idea of a birth date will help your search a great deal. I say go for it, give it a try, you only need one good link and you’ll uncover more about your ancestors than you think is possible.
 

DaveBrt

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Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Messages
2,070
Location
Charlotte, NC
#6
Hello all,
Even before joining this site, I've always wondered if I could trace back and see if anyone in my family had served in the Civil War. I've asked around here and there, but there is zero concrete truths about how far back my family name goes. My last name is Crandall and I've searched on here, and online multiple times and see there are records that go back, and many Crandall's that fought in the Civil War. I've thought about getting an Ancestry account, but beyond knowing my Grandfathers name, there really isn't much more I know. My dad's dad left their family when he was very little, and just the name has passed down, we don't even have photos of him. There is a little bit more stability and roots we know about from my dad's mom's side, whose name is Terry, but again that is somewhat common for that time period, and area (Missouri).
So if I was to pony up the money for an Ancestry account and look through there, would it even be worth it, knowing so little about the relatives? I honestly have no experience using Ancestry, outside of stuff that I have read on here in the few days I've been a member.
I would suggest you do a bit of basic research before going to Ancestry (though you may be able to use Ancestry to get access to what I am about to suggest). Try to find your dad in census records as far back as you can. Look for info on where born and when. They look at census for that state before and after the likely birth date. Look at marriage records to see if you can get any more information about his past. Then keep looking back through census to try to track him and his family to CW time. THEN you can start looking at CW records with some chance of finding a relative from the same area as you last found a relative.

It takes patient, step by step work, but many of us have been successful going that route.
 

Zella

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#7
One thing to add about the hints Ancestry gives you. It gives you the option to categorize them as yes, maybe, and no. So, if it suggests something that is plausible but I don't know, I use the maybe until I can follow up on the information. I use that feature liberally. Sometimes, I've been able to confirm that it was correct after all, and I add it to my own stuff.
 

ErnieMac

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#8
For the most part Ancestry is a collection of photographed historic records that have been posted on their website. It is up to you, the user, to connect those records to your family. You, personally, are at a bit of a disadvantage since your family records do not go back very far. Because of privacy issues, many of the historic records such as census data, marriage records are not posted after the 1940 - 1950 time frame. Without meaning to sound crass, it's better for research purposes if your ancestor is dead and you know when and where they died. If you can tie some of your ancestors to particular time frames and locations, it might be worthwhile to join.
 
Joined
Jan 23, 2019
Messages
58
Location
Belden, MS.
#9
A lot great advice given!
I have used Ancestry as a paying member in the past and if it's in your budget, I recommend it.
I have used the 14 day free trial numerous times over the years, just remember to cancel before they bill your credit card.
DNA testing, although expensive, is very useful in confirming family relationships and can connect you with living family members.
I use a lot of free resources like
http://www.usgenweb.org/
for one if you know geographic info on a relative.
Check out the Surname message boards as well any where they are available.
From my experience on free online public or paid sites sometimes it just takes time to know where to look and especially
with search engines knowing how to frame queries.
Ex. online library resources ex. https://www.archives.gov/ , death records, land records, obituaries, and so much more.
I have been to courthouses to search physical records in clerk's office archives for wills, old newspaper obituaries, land records, marriage licenses, anything they would allow me to search.
Be sure to get photocopies or pictures if allowed.
Longest trip I took to a courthouse looking was 220 miles, planned with visits to relatives final resting places.
Hope this is helpful.
Good hunting!
Robert
 

Zella

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#10
A lot great advice given!
I have used Ancestry as a paying member in the past and if it's in your budget, I recommend it.
I have used the 14 day free trial numerous times over the years, just remember to cancel before they bill your credit card.
The free trial is a really good idea if cost is a concern.

Another thought is that some libraries actually have free Ancestry access for patrons. (Mine does.) Might be worth contacting them about to see if that is true. It would be another way to test the service out before shelling out money.
 

AndyHall

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#11
Ancestry is invaluable for doing your own research, through census records, city directories, military pension files, and all sorts of other primary sources. Family trees created by other users should be treated with GREAT caution, because a single erroneous entry can throw them completely off.
 
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6,239
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#13
As I've said before, Ancestry is the place to start just because there's so many records in one, searchable, place. You can join monthly and it's quite reasonable. As others have said, the trees are most often faulty and many are plain junk. However, I always look to see if there's ones that are well-documented as there are some good ones. Also, I look for trees managed by people who seem to have personal family materials (e.g. photos) not easily located. Those folks often had the classic grandma who had boxes of "stuff" and their trees can also be helpful. Usually, you'll not get responses to messages but serious researchers will answer so while my hit rate is low the answers I've received have been extremely helpful. In my personal research I made contact with several cousins who had and knew "stuff" and they, in turn, put me in contact with other cousins. In my cemetery research I've contacted family members of people whose stones I've repaired and got quite a bit of insider information (and even a few donations to our organization). So, Ancestry is worth it at the beginning; just be sure to check everything out.

I don't tend to use very many web sites but do use newspapers.com, FindAGrave, and Fold3. All are owned by Ancestry and FindAGrave records are linked in Ancestry (but I've had better luck searching FindAGrave itself). For military records Fold3 can be helpful but often they only have the index cards. So, I pay the $ and order records - and definitely pension files - from the National Archives. The pension files are worth every penny as they contain lots of information you won't get from the service record; definitely don't pass on getting those if they exist. Once I know from things like census and marriage records where someone lived I usually target my newspapers.com searches to those counties and time periods.

For things Civil War, this site is an excellent resource. The membership is populated by many who are experts in certain things and they tend to respond if asked. The dedicated sub-forums usually have the answers to common questions. This one is a good place to start for reference materials:
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/standard-civil-war-reference-works.84521/#post-647519

I do use carefully-constructed Google searches and those can lead you to lots of good materials, many digitized and downloadable. If I'm researching things or events, and not people, I use Google a lot. If it's Civil War related I always look in my references - I have about 90 books - and also peruse the bibliographies for the most likely useful source material. If there are books I determine which are the better ones and either buy a good used copy (one can often find such on Amazon) or get a copy through ILL. Again, I'll usually examine the bibliography to see if there's something I've missed. JSTOR is a good place for journal articles. You can see some for free but a paid membership is needed for most. However, If I find one I really need I can get a copy through ILL.

I also always look to see if there's an historical society or a genealogical society in the county where a research interest lived and, if so, contact them. Hit rates aren't high for those (usually staffed by older volunteers) but sometimes they can be gold mines. Libraries of record are also good places to look, especially if the research interest lived in one of the older eastern states like Virginia or South Carolina where there are very large libraries with all sorts of things not commonly available. All have search engines and almost always will make digital copies of records (for a fee). On occasion I've even hired a researcher to go to a library and search for specific documents. It's not cheap but only once did I feel I wasted my money.

I've used a lot of other sources, too, such as state archives and probate records and the Library of Congress (which has a lot of newspapers).

Research is usually a matter of starting with the low-hanging fruit and then following the bread crumb trails. It's a bit of an art, methinks, and one gets better at it with time. Also, one learns what types of things to look for in specific instances, where such things are most likely to be found, and who to contact with factual questions (hint: reference librarians are your friends).

Tenacity is a good trait to develop, too. If I'm working a project I tend to dedicate a certain number of hours each day and keep good records of what I've found, possibilities to look into, and missing pieces needed.

That's it off the top of my head. Hope that was maybe a little of what you wanted (I know you said you wanted on-line resources and a lot of what I noted aren't such but only a small bit of what's available is on-line).
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
42
Location
New Mexico
#14
As I've said before, Ancestry is the place to start just because there's so many records in one, searchable, place. You can join monthly and it's quite reasonable. As others have said, the trees are most often faulty and many are plain junk. However, I always look to see if there's ones that are well-documented as there are some good ones. Also, I look for trees managed by people who seem to have personal family materials (e.g. photos) not easily located. Those folks often had the classic grandma who had boxes of "stuff" and their trees can also be helpful. Usually, you'll not get responses to messages but serious researchers will answer so while my hit rate is low the answers I've received have been extremely helpful. In my personal research I made contact with several cousins who had and knew "stuff" and they, in turn, put me in contact with other cousins. In my cemetery research I've contacted family members of people whose stones I've repaired and got quite a bit of insider information (and even a few donations to our organization). So, Ancestry is worth it at the beginning; just be sure to check everything out.

I don't tend to use very many web sites but do use newspapers.com, FindAGrave, and Fold3. All are owned by Ancestry and FindAGrave records are linked in Ancestry (but I've had better luck searching FindAGrave itself). For military records Fold3 can be helpful but often they only have the index cards. So, I pay the $ and order records - and definitely pension files - from the National Archives. The pension files are worth every penny as they contain lots of information you won't get from the service record; definitely don't pass on getting those if they exist. Once I know from things like census and marriage records where someone lived I usually target my newspapers.com searches to those counties and time periods.

For things Civil War, this site is an excellent resource. The membership is populated by many who are experts in certain things and they tend to respond if asked. The dedicated sub-forums usually have the answers to common questions. This one is a good place to start for reference materials:
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/standard-civil-war-reference-works.84521/#post-647519

I do use carefully-constructed Google searches and those can lead you to lots of good materials, many digitized and downloadable. If I'm researching things or events, and not people, I use Google a lot. If it's Civil War related I always look in my references - I have about 90 books - and also peruse the bibliographies for the most likely useful source material. If there are books I determine which are the better ones and either buy a good used copy (one can often find such on Amazon) or get a copy through ILL. Again, I'll usually examine the bibliography to see if there's something I've missed. JSTOR is a good place for journal articles. You can see some for free but a paid membership is needed for most. However, If I find one I really need I can get a copy through ILL.

I also always look to see if there's an historical society or a genealogical society in the county where a research interest lived and, if so, contact them. Hit rates aren't high for those (usually staffed by older volunteers) but sometimes they can be gold mines. Libraries of record are also good places to look, especially if the research interest lived in one of the older eastern states like Virginia or South Carolina where there are very large libraries with all sorts of things not commonly available. All have search engines and almost always will make digital copies of records (for a fee). On occasion I've even hired a researcher to go to a library and search for specific documents. It's not cheap but only once did I feel I wasted my money.

I've used a lot of other sources, too, such as state archives and probate records and the Library of Congress (which has a lot of newspapers).

Research is usually a matter of starting with the low-hanging fruit and then following the bread crumb trails. It's a bit of an art, methinks, and one gets better at it with time. Also, one learns what types of things to look for in specific instances, where such things are most likely to be found, and who to contact with factual questions (hint: reference librarians are your friends).

Tenacity is a good trait to develop, too. If I'm working a project I tend to dedicate a certain number of hours each day and keep good records of what I've found, possibilities to look into, and missing pieces needed.

That's it off the top of my head. Hope that was maybe a little of what you wanted (I know you said you wanted on-line resources and a lot of what I noted aren't such but only a small bit of what's available is on-line).
I appreciate the info. Due to military obligations I’m in New Mexico, but know most of my family came from the Missouri area. I never thought about trying the library back home, so when I’m there this summer I’m going to look. Thank you for your info!
 
Joined
Mar 22, 2018
Messages
4
#15
I appreciate the info. Due to military obligations I’m in New Mexico, but know most of my family came from the Missouri area. I never thought about trying the library back home, so when I’m there this summer I’m going to look. Thank you for your info!
I appreciate the info. Due to military obligations I’m in New Mexico, but know most of my family came from the Missouri area. I never thought about trying the library back home, so when I’m there this summer I’m going to look. Thank you for your info!
A number of public libraries, as well as some universities and other organizations, have free use of Ancestry.com.
Maybe you don't need to wait til a summer trip home.
"Just a tool man trying to make things better."
 

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