How Much Work Is Involved In Learning About Ancestry Online

How much work is involved in learning about your heritage online? Using her 26-year career on Ancestry.

Whether you’re genetically Irish or French, Swedish or Armenian, there is an endless amount of information available online about your ancestors. Some of this information is indeed accurate, but the two biggest factors we don’t know are how much you want to know and how much time you have to learn about your ancestors.

Can You Trust Your Ancestry Digital Library?

We’re all familiar with genealogy websites like Ancestry, Family Tree Maker, and Canadian Research Library. Each has free or paid offerings that offer an array of free searches. Because of their free content, Ancestry and other free online genealogy websites are one of the easiest sources of genealogy information available. This does come with a major caveat: the content has to be accurate!

How accurate is accurate? That depends on whether your family has ever provided any information to your ancestors, like marriage certificates or birth announcements, about who your ancestors are. Further, different free genealogy websites use different vetting processes for getting names. Ancestry requires that users ask one of their researchers to confirm that information that the researchers see is accurate.

“In our archives, we are made aware if someone is looking for a specific person,” says Corey Jamison, technology lead for “So when it’s found, we get feedback in writing to ensure that it’s actually him, with evidence.”

If you have only information you received from your mother or an old family photograph, there’s not much you can do with free online genealogy content.

When compared to paid online genealogy services, which often require their users to provide more information to find specific individuals, free content can have challenges coming up with accurate information.

Can you trust an online database? The answer may surprise you!

The sequencing and digital connection involved in making historical documents to come alive and create personal histories, no matter the form, can be prohibitive for the uninitiated. This is why sequencing your DNA and getting an ancestry family tree is still the fastest and easiest way to find your ancestors.

Using online databases, you may be able to spot things like dates of birth and death, but that’s about it. And while you may be able to reach back a great deal in time, you are limited to what information is available to you.

“Most of the ancestry sites are geared to general population who are already researching,” says Jamison. “We’re a little bit more focused on specific individuals. Even if you don’t have a specific family genealogy, you might want to explore the wider historical data to understand your ancestral background. Our genealogy archives include hundreds of millions of records from the 1800s.”

Ancestry has helped millions of people unlock the histories of their ancestors around the world and makes DNA analysis more accessible than ever. But choosing an accurate ancestry site is still a decision to be made on your own. Know your own research habits. If you aren’t quite sure what is acceptable to someone else, follow what your family and culture has always done, and be careful what you put on the internet. And know what you’re going to do with that information. Just take a moment to speak to a professional about it.

The Be Heard Institute

The Be Heard Institute, which has the University of San Diego as one of its partners, was one of the first companies in the genealogy and ancestry industry to put real-world research of DNA on public sites. They have helped facilitate dialogue about where you get your DNA from so that they can confirm the source is in the hundreds of thousands across the United States and hundreds of different countries. The biggest charge to consumers is the $100,000 initial DNA test kit, and then $99 each year. There are other subscriptions with larger initial tests costing more, and still others that have affordable tests that you can take yourself.

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