Are you having issues with Ancestry’s DNA portal? About a week ago I received an email with a notice stating that I have three new matches. However, when I try to access them, I keep getting the above message. Hmmm….sure hoping it resolves soon. I’m trying to be patient!
Friday night I continued my search for the Stanwood surname on the Library of Congress’ web site, Chronicling America. What an awesome site! My great-great grandparents, Albert and Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, appeared several times in the Princeton Journal – typically when visiting their daughter Georgianna (Stanwood) Cravens. Here are some of my finds:
The year was 1994, and I remember the day like it was yesterday. That sound…that beautiful sound of a dial-up modem, connecting to the internet. My husband was by my side, showing me what the “world wide web” was like. I was mesmerized and astounded. I don’t recall what I said, but I’m sure “WOW!” was in there somewhere. Not that there was a ton of genealogy sites online in 1994, but my immediate thought was how this “www” thing was going to revolutionize genealogy.
Well, here we are, more than a decade (almost two!) later. My dial-up modem has been replaced with wireless internet service and WiFi in my home. The internet has grown, and we have a lot of free genealogical stuff available to us online. Find-a-Grave and FamilySearch are a couple of my oft-visited sites and bookmarked for easy use. I have subscriptions to several pay sites, but by far Ancestry.com is the one I simply can’t live without.
Therefore, it came as quite a shock and a surprise to hear a genealogist recently state he had canceled his membership to Ancestry.com due to the price.
I recognize that times are hard and some people may not be able to afford Ancestry.com. That is certainly understandable, and fortunately Ancestry.com is available for free to users in many libraries and Family History Centers, so even those who aren’t able to have a personal subscription may still take advantage of their many great databases.
However, the person relating this decision was not financially strapped. This person simply felt that Ancestry.com’s prices were out of line, and chose to cancel the subscription to “make a point.” Unfortunately, he’s not the first one I’ve heard with the same beef.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people expect to get something for nothing, or at least something for next to nothing. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t have a problem paying for services I use, and allowing the company who provides me those services to pay their employees who process and index the records, pay for the technology that publishes those records so I can download them on my home PC, and even make a couple of bucks.
I consider my Ancestry.com membership to be quite a bargain. While FamilySearch.org is spectacular (and FREE- hooray!), it is only one site. Most people will concur that Ancestry.com is by far the leader of the large, subscription-based family history research sites. The number of databases, constantly growing, is astounding. The types of records I’ve been able to download is incredible. I’m particularly grateful for Ancestry.com’s Maine databases, providing a strong framework for researching my Maine roots with birth, marriage and death records. FamilySearch.org complements my research with excellent Massachusetts and other records.
Could I obtain those records by other means? Certainly. With one little caveat – I have to know WHERE to look in order to find those documents. Oh yes – I would also have to invest my time in scrolling through those rolls of microfilm, and then print, scan or photograph any items I found that I’d like to save for my own records. Even with the many pay (and free!) web sites, I still spend a considerable amount of time in front of the microfilm reader at my local FHC to look at the many documents (okay, MOST documents) that aren’t yet available online. Online research gives me a huge advantage as I can find out where my ancestors were, and what additional records I need to find either through research trips or on microfilm.
I guess it all comes down to priorities. For me, time is my most valuable commodity, and Ancestry.com is worth every penny I pay. I can search, find my family, click a button and download the image right onto my hard drive. In exchange for $299 per year (I have the “world” membership, but could downgrade to $149 for a U.S. subscription), I can view records from around the world in the comfort of my own home. Ancestry.com gives me the head start so I know what films to order, where to fly off to for my research trips, and allows me to develop my family history at a much more rapid pace than would otherwise be possible.
Instead of looking at how much I pay for my membership, I’m inclined instead to think about how much I’ve saved…saved in time not wasted, money not spent on incorrect microfilms, and trips not taken to locations where my efforts will prove unfruitful.
Perhaps it all comes down to perspective. You know….is that glass half empty or is it full? Ancestry.com keeps mine pretty darn full these days. What about you? Do you get your money’s worth from your Ancestry.com subscription?
I’ve gotten used to the snickers of my coworkers, who are amused by my use of technology. Hey, my goal is to be efficient, and technology is the best way to get there. One of the things I learned long ago is whenever possible, only touch a paper once. Then either file it, toss it, distribute it….don’t save it for later. Well, often that’s not possible. Especially in genealogical research, we need to spend time truly analyzing and “digesting” or mentally “processing” a document. I find when I’m in the middle of a research project, I don’t have time to finish all that I want to accomplish. I may have worked on a family line all weekend long, but alas, Monday morning comes and off to work I go. I don’t want to forget where I’m at in the project, so I’ll “ToodleDo” it – that is, add it to my online, cloud-based task management system, so I can pick back up where I left off on the upcoming weekend. Other times I find I get bored working on one family line, and just need a break. However, again, I don’t want to forget about ideas I had for research, or overlook data entry of documents gleaned at repository.
Last Spring I was working furiously on my Bursley family, preparing for our New England trip. Well, I was also researching several other lines while at the same repositories, and consequently, brought back a considerable amount of data that needs to be reviewed, analyzed, and where appropriate, entered in my database. The items above are some of the “to do” items for my Bradstreet and Bursley families.
ToodleDo also allows you to include notes for each item.
I like to include notes in my list of tasks – may be links to other sites, information I need to review, or details on where I’ve filed the data requiring attention.
I used to use the task list in my genealogy software, but it doesn’t provide the same versality that ToodleDo offers:
- Sort by surname
- Sort by priority
- Detailed notes for each task
- Online and in the cloud for reference regardless of your location
Like my other favorite application (read about my love affair with Evernote), ToodleDo is FREE!
My favorite ancestor is Betsy (Wasgatt) Stanwood. She was one tough lady. She was five months pregnant when she married my 4th great grandfather, Benjamin Stanwood, in 1808. Not exactly politically correct in the early 19th century. When Benjamin died, she managed the family farm, and was listed as head of house on nearly all subsequent censuses. When her grown children and spouses moved to Minnesota, she went along for the ride, but came back to her home – Eden (now Bar Harbor), Maine. She apparently made this trip alone, although she was nearly 80 years old at the time. I love Bar Harbor – I understand why she came home.
I’ve dabbled in my Wasgatt genealogy throughout the years, but was again inspired to pick it back up when I saw the Wasgatt family Bible in Bar Harbor last summer. Armed with this info, and starting from scratch, I’ve been going through generation after generation, adding appropriate sources that I either lacked in my beginning days, or were dropped when moving from one genealogy program to the next.
One really cool thing about retracing your steps after so many years is that there are a lot more resources available online to assist. Not that I’ve ignored offline and primary resources, mind you. I’ve armed myself with copies of the Bar Harbor Town Records, filmed by Picton Press. Thomas F. Vining’s Cemeteries of Cranberry Isles and the Towns of Mount Desert Island. Oh yes, Maine Genealogical Society’s “Vital Records of Mount Desert Island Maine and Nearby Islands: 1776-1820,” and host of other resources.
The difference, however, is that genealogists can now avail themselves of bigger and better tools. If you haven’t found Google eBooks, for example, you are really missing out. (You can filter the book selection to see only those that are free – typically that’s where you’ll find the out of print history books.) This goldmine has given me the history behind the towns where my ancestors lived, and new places to seek for records. It’s a heck of lot easier to find what you’re looking for when you know what that is! (See Ancestry Insider’s post – Tree Decorators and Tree Growers.) After spending the last couple of weeks downloading and reading Google Books’ digitized version of out-of-print histories, exploring Betsy’s grandfather Thomas’ roots in Porsmouth and Rochester, NH, Berwick, Penobscot, Hampden, Trenton and Bar Harbor, ME, I’ve been able to glean a considerable amount of new information from the various county web sites. (See my earlier post on Maine’s digitized deeds.) For the rest, I’ve been able to contact historical societies and the county registries of probate and deeds, and copies of original records should be in my mail box this week.
However, there’s still a wealth of information we can access online that we didn’t have available twenty years ago. (Heck, a lot of it wasn’t even there five years ago!) Take, for example, Find A Grave. We all know about the wonderful death and burial info we can access with this great resource. However, what I’ve found even more beneficial is the ability to connect with cousins through this site. The photo of Hannah (Higgins) Higgins above, posted by the wife of a distant cousin, was one that I discovered at 1:30 a.m. this morning, surfing Find A Grave . (Hey, sleep is overrated!) Next time you visit Find A Grave, take a few extra minutes and email the poster. (Always appropriate before downloading their images, but especially important if they have additional photos and other info on your subject and they might be related.) This evening I’m very thankful for the internet – with it, the world is indeed a much smaller place!
Growing up, my grandmother, Goldie (Simpson) Edwards, played a pivotal role in my life. Living next door to her, I spent much of my time at her home. Later, when she moved across town, Mom would drop me off at “Grammer’s” house before school, and the bus would take me there after school. Grammer was the kind of grandmother most kids would want – prepared with cookies and milk when I’d get off the school bus, and always ready to help with home work. At Christmas time she could never keep a secret from me. I don’t recall a year she didn’t tell me what gift she’d have for me under the tree (and sometimes she’d even let me see it!), but always warned me to “pretend to be really surprised!” As a grew up, I began paying closer attention to when she’d tell stories about how family. She always spoke with great pride when she’d talk about her mother being a Stanwood. She’d saved old letters and photographs that would later provide my first clues when I began researching our family history.
Like most genealogists, my first efforts began at the National Archives. I’d spend hours scanning the censuses, and would come home and look for more clues, searching for something I’d missed. Eventually I was able to locate cousins who were also tracing our heritage, and through them obtained more hints to solve family puzzles. After my grandmother died, my mother took a keen interest in genealogy; one of my best memories of my mother was our 2004 research trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we visited home of many Maine Stanwoods, descendants of our ancestor Job Stanwood. My mom passed away just two years later, and I will forever be grateful for the hobby we shared together in her last years.
With the passage of time genealogy has certainly evolved; so much information is now available online. Even without a subscription to genealogy databases, one can find clues by “Googling” their surname. While I’ve had many web sites through the years, this is my first effort at posting my family history online. Extending it through a blog to reach out to other cousins is also new – time to catch up with the 21st century!