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A Review of Ancestry.Com’s Free Trial

Free Trial

I have always been fascinated by history-history of the country, of my town, but especially that of my family. I’ve wandered through local cemeteries and have always pondered the lives that these people lived, but I’m always stopped when I come across a marker with my family name.

My family name is “Holmden” which I’ve come to discover isn’t incredibly common. I’ve heard stories that my ancestors were among the first to settle in the area that is still the family home some 160 years later, making me wonder how my family lived, what status they held in town, what their occupations were, and how they died.

Since my ancestors lived and died in the same five square miles that I live, tracking down their grave markers hasn’t been much of a chore, so I’ve collected names and vital dates for these people, but finding personal stories and facts has been difficult. Aside from some brief snippets from the library and town museum, I’ve been mostly unsuccessful in finding out anything.

Eventually, I was persuading by the Mecca of genealogical sources-ancestry.com-to try a free trial. I had a week away from school and class work and decided there was no better time. For those wondering, yes I spent my spring break in my living room finding the names of the dead. What could be better!

I’d wanted to try ancestry.com for some time but had never gotten the gumption. This was my chance. I signed up for a free trial and was immediately allowed to scour their tremendous collection of census details, directories, newspapers and legal documents. It was both impressive and overwhelming.

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I discovered a neat function for members that allowed for the creation of a family tree and decided to start with that. So, I entered my name, my parents and my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and so forth.

To my surprise, next to my great- grandfather’s name was a little green leaf. Very cute, seeing that I was making a tree. I clicked on the leaf and was prompted with some info. Ancestry.com had searched its census records and found some possible results for my great grandpa Cyrus. Examining this documentation, I was able to verify some info about my great-great grandpa. From him, I found more results, and from there, still more…

After several quick hours of clicking on green leaves, I had accumulated a beautiful set of names that represented a part of my pedigree. On my father’s side, I found records that related me to English knights from the mid 1300s, which I found to be very compelling. My mom’s side proved to be more difficult, because her family name is somewhat common. I was offered many green hint leaves, but most of them contained false information.

Signing up and canceling my free trial were both very easy. I was able to get out of my subscription before my billing period began and was able to accumulate some interesting bits of knowledge. That said, I was disappointed with the depth of a lot of the info. There is a banner ad for ancestry.com that lists the profession of an individual as “squirrel inspector,” and I was hoping to find something interesting like that. Unfortunately, the info I found was rather pedestrian. I learned the name of the boat that some of my ancestors sailed on and the year that they traveled. From this, I was able to infer when they settled in my part of Michigan, which was neat.

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Overall, I found ancestry.com to be a useful tool to find names and dates and to extend one’s family tree. Their “little green leaves” proved to be especially useful for this purpose. They have a large collection of census data and legal documents, but most of this info is available for free somewhere else.

I would recommend signing up for a free trial of ancestry.com, writing down as much information as you can, and canceling before you start paying for it. A family history took hundreds of years to form, and no website, store, book or photo can adequately tell the whole story. Genealogical research isn’t meant to be a one-stop shop.

Call living relatives, check out libraries and museums, search the internet for people with common interests and discover your family past through connections. I can guarantee that learning about your great grandparents from your Grandma Sue will be a lot more rewarding than learning about them from a census document.

Good luck on your searches. Maybe your great-uncle will turn out to be an inspector of those rambling rodents we call squirrels!

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