Australian Research and Ancestry.com.au

Posted: July 15, 2010 in What I do
Tags: , , , ,

I know that some people will not agree with what I’m about to write but the way I see it, if someone reading this learns from my experience then I’ve done my job.

I don’t like Ancestry.com.au

Why you ask? I have really not been a fan of the Australian content on Ancestry at all. From past experience I don’t think the information or indexes are that accurate and I do think that to do your family history in Australia (especially NSW) you have the resources you need at the local library, State Records and other places, not just Ancestry.

I used to use the site to view UK records but as only as ‘pay per view’ subscription but it seems that there is a lot of data that as a ‘pay per view’ subscriber I still cannot see.  I also don’t like the fact that a number of records I saved in my ‘Shoebox’ I can longer access as I don’t have a monthly subscription. I really don’t like the idea of having to pay for something I know I can get elsewhere for free. Take for instance the latest development from Ancestry, ‘Australian Vital Records on Ancestry’.  Though in saying that, there are some sites, that I’m more than happy to pay to view additional data.

I come from the old school of family history research.  I started my research in the late 1980’s.  With this I went to the library and sat in front of a microfiche, looked at microfilm and looked at books that had indexes to check the NSW BDM indexes, sands directories, electoral rolls and immigrant reels.  When I found a birth, marriage or death index that I wanted to get the certificate for, I would then have to order this directly from the NSW BDM Registry, by paper form and then send it via snail post. It cost a lot less than (I think about $8.00) but it would take anything up to 4 weeks to get the requested certificate. When I received it, I would then go back to the library to take another look at the microfiche to gain more details about my ancestor and the search continue. For those that began back then, you will understand. For others, who have only just started in the last few years, there are now plenty of databases and information now available online and it’s a lot easier and quicker to gain information. I think this is great but I find the ‘excitement’ about having these ‘Vital Records’ now online a little hard to take, due to the fact, that they already are on line for most of the Australian states, (except for SA and I think WA).  Yes, for Victoria, you have to pay to view the indexes but that to me is just a small price to pay.  The indexes are also available on CD, (for NSW, SA & Victoria, don’t know about the other states).  To me, I’d still rather take the trip to the library to have a look at the CD or look online and then purchase a transcription of the certificate I’m after than pay Ancestry to look at an image.

If Ancestry, really want people to subscribe to their site then I feel that the actual indexes need to show more data, such as the year, place or even parents’ names that helps a person to identify what they are seeing, so that people can say, “hey, I think that one is my ancestor, I want to see more information or I want to see the image and I’m happy to pay for that”.  Currently for someone who does not have a subscription, all you see for the Australian Vital Indexes, is the name of the person and that’s it.  No location, no year, so for me that it not an incentive to pay to look at an image, especially when I can look at the indexes at http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au and then make my decision to purchase a transcription of the certificate from an agent.

When it comes to paying for information online, especially for UK information, I’m more than happy to have a subscription, to FindMyPast. (though I only do the ‘pay per view’ as I don’t need a full subscription and I still get all of the information I need)

Yes, you need to register to view the site, but the indexes are free to look at and I just feel that for me FindMyPast is a better experience as there is more information in the index for you to make a choice as to which image you want to view.

Below is a list of just some of the repositories that I have used in my research and yes, some of them you have to subscribe and pay to view images:

Pay to view sites:

www.findmypast.co.uk – I note that they now have the UK Birth Indexes fully searchable. Refer to the blog for more information:  FindMyPastUK Blog

www.findmypast.com.au

www.ihr.com.au – Over 20,000 pages of online records for family history research in New South Wales, Australia. (cost per year $40)

Free Indexes or other sites:

http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/ (NSW Birth Death Marriages)

www.records.gov.au (NSW State Records Online Indexes) (I note also that digital copies of the Bounty Immigrants lists, 1838-96, are available for free on the site)

http://www.sydneyarchives.info/ – Newtown Project. Has the full Sands Directories between 1858 & 1932 on line.  If you know your ancestor lived in the Newtown area (like mine) than you have free access to a great source of information.

City of Sydney Archives –  Assessment Books 1845 – 1950 – compiled by the Council as a record of basic information about each building (later, each property) in the city which was liable to pay rates

And of course, my Favourite:

www.familysearch.org and Family Search Pilot site,where a lot more information is now becoming available.

So in summary:

Ancestry.com.au is not the only place to do your family history.  Look at all available records, take the time to do the work, find out what else is available and verify all information that you come across. Get out of your chair and away from your PC and take the time to learn about what other research mechanisms is out there. You never know, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Enjoy your night or day, where ever you are.

Comments
  1. Aillin says:

    This is a good post. I do have a subscription to Ancestry, mostly to access census records from the UK. I find the Australian Electoral Rolls useful aswell. I also have a pay-per-view account with findmypast.co.uk and findmypast.com.au which I also find very useful. I agree that the recently launched indexes on Ancestry can, for the most part, be accessed elsewhere on the Internet for free. I have also noticed that quite a few of the names on the new indexes on Ancestry are misspelled. However, I do like the ability to search across states at the same time.
    Additionally, I live in a rural area of Victoria and do not often get to visit Melbourne or libraries in larger regional cities, so I admit that I like the convenience of being able to access records through online services such as Ancestry and FindMyPast. There are so many useful sources available offline though and I love to access these when I can!!

    Happy researching!

    • Thank your comment, I agree the ability to search a person across different states in one hit is beneficial, and if living in remote areas having access to online databases is good. I’ve actually noticed on the Ancestry page that in relation to the Vital Indexes, it is just an index. I wonder if this index actual has the reference number considering the comments from the Ancestry page in that you still need to order a copy of the record from the appropriate registry (copied & pasted below). If not, then people will still need to go to the appropriate online indexes (eg: http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/ NSW Birth Death Marriages) to obtain the reference number so that you can then order the actual certificate.
      “These records are indexes; they do not include images of actual birth records.” “With the information from the indexes, you can order a copy of the record from the appropriate registry office” http://search.ancestry.com.au/search/db.aspx?dbid=1778 .
      I also think that eventually to be able to look at the electoral rolls (especially for NSW) in one hit, would be great but then again, I did many years ago go through each & every ER microfiche for my ancestors (only for the area I knew the lived in) and have recorded that in a spreadsheet.

  2. Judy says:

    I totally agree with your comments about Ancestry, as you will gather from my two posts on 24 July at http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com/. A Brisbane City Council library card gives me free access to Ancestry’s indexes and images, but I do not enjoy using the site. My big gripe, though, is that their indexing is woefully inaccurate. At the Australasian Congress in NZ I met someone who regularly sends Ancestry big batches of corrections.

    I do not use online databases much (my speciality is research ‘on the spot’ at Qld State Archives), but I think http://www.findmypast.com.au, with lots of indexes from QFHS, is a good option. Their electoral roll databases are likely to be much more accurate than Ancestry’s.

  3. edgar (DARBY ) munro says:

    I am pleased to arrive at your site as I have been a researcher and Life Member of Forbes FHG for a similar time and have lately been getting really pixz#*+ off.

    Your comments are a breeze of fresh air to me . thank you

    edgardarbmunro@bigpond.com

  4. Betty Stone says:

    I agree with your comments. I have tried to enter my information, and it has been entered in the wrong boxes and their information is incorrect.

  5. Helen Gilltrap says:

    I use Ancestry.com.au quite a bit but as you say their accuracy is appalling. I have submitted many corrections. My gripe is that their extensive advertising in the media has led to the belief that finding the ‘ancestors’ is really, really easy. It does not encourage new researchers to use primary source documents and lets them take the easy way. Many times I have logged into Ancestry to be told that someone has one of my ‘family’ in their family tree. I invariably find that these familiy trees have the wrong information. Most of those I have contacted do not want to know they have the wrong person because if their ancestor was named Joe Bloggs then the Joe Bloggs Ancestry recommended must be correct. I think it is because some researchers feel that they have paid Ancestry so then they don’t need to purchase certificates/transcriptions. Ancestry would do better to start really stressing the need for checking everything and I guess they then also need to have better checks and balances for accuracy in their indices. I do think Ancestry should try to stress more to newbies to join a family history society where they will learn all the tips and tricks of accurate research.

  6. Lorraine Hudson says:

    I agree fully with all the above comments. A am constantly frustrated by Ancestry the number of amateur researchers who post incorrect data because they have applied a name and not followed it up with certificates. Despite my best efforts to advise these people that I have the certificates the date gets perpetuated online. I also find it unethical that some amateurs who do not have any idea of ethical research, print photo’s and details of people that they have come by through accident without first verifying whether that information is upsetting to living relatives. Ancestry needs to be more vigilant of the people who print data online because as it currently stands the site does not encourage ethical researsh and perpetuates misinformation.

  7. I do have to agree with your (and the others who’ve commented) about the inaccuracies in Ancestry’s indexes. I’ve had some classic examples while researching my own family. I do have a subscription to Ancestry, and do use it, but I don’t use ONLY Ancestry. I always try to verify it if the information is available elsewhere.

  8. janice chapman says:

    I use Ancestry, and have found a number of family trees have information, that is relating to my husband’s grandfather, with incorrect entries. One has his grandfather and my husband’s ancestors listed as same. He is incorrect as they were both born in different places in Victoria, I have sent him a message, but he chooses not to answer, I have sent for his marriage certificate and they are two different people. Others I have contacted has thanked me for the correct information and amended their family trees.

  9. Thank you for your words of advice. I have just been to the local library at Tamworth, where I inquired about how to start researching my family history. This I may find difficult as I am a First Generation Australian. I was told to go on Ancestry.com. I have no idea where to start as I have very little to go on. I have heard that there is a Genealogical Society here, so I think I might start there. thank you again for your words of warning.

    • corry kerle says:

      It’s good to read comments from people with the same frustrations as I have experienced. I am desperately trying to tap into the Victoria side of my family tree, after being spoilt by the genelogy sa website. The public search allowed me to check and cross check what I suspect are my relatives, Ihave refs available to check further and all I need is the same options for Victoria…. So I bit the bullet, joined ancestry.com after checking the public sections nd searching the net I felt obligated to try ancestry dot com because every site seemed to have an affiliation with it. Well when I got access I was appalled. T he spelling of names, the links to trees that make no sense, the inability of the site to successfully filter the data despite the parameters you place on a search and there is just no info from births deaths marriages Victoria that I can even check after many hours of being told my family names did not exist I rang up and cancelled, when I told them why and mentioned I could not even find myself they told me they only place deceased persons on the site, I laughed and said well I know my other relatives are dead are the are not there either!!! Welcome suggestions on cracking Victoria to check and cross check before ordering the certificates