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.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:
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.