Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
Subscription Websites for Genealogy
The previous column about Ancestry.com received more comments than any I've written. All agreed with me (yeah!) yet Ancestry just doesn't hear us. So what are our alternatives? They are many and varied, but I will highlight the three major competing sites and attempt to explain some strengths and weaknesses of GenealogyBank.com, Footnote.com, and WorldVitalRecords.com.
GenealogyBank at $69.95 per year promotes itself as "a leading online genealogical resource from NewsBank, inc. featuring a wealth of exclusive material-including modern obituaries and historical newspapers, books, pamphlets, military records, government documents and more." As a subscriber I can't access weekly or monthly rates.
With over 4,200 historical newspapers now available and more being added continually, I feel it's well worth the cost. While writing this article I got sidetracked, and found newspaper articles for three ancestors in recently added databases. The downside is obituaries are indexed only since 1977. While the newspapers begin in 1804 earlier editions index only historical articles, not obits. But even so, you'd be surprised how much you can find to enrich knowledge of ancestors' daily lives.
Footnote advertises "unlimited access to all 64,134,518 premium historical images" for $79.95 per year or $11.95 per month. Footnote allows subscribers to upload documents so these images are not all from established databases. A 7 day free trial is also available if you register onsite.
Databases are divided into Historical Eras. For instance 1700-1815 includes a number of revolutionary databases, correspondence of George Washington, records of the Continental Congress, Constitutional Conventions, etc. Each era has records particular to its historical period.
Use of the search engine is free. If the name you enter returns a hit, you can view a tiny image of the record, so small it's impossible to determine whether it's your ancestor or just someone with the same name. I subscribed for a few months, but found searches returned to many irrelevant records.
U.S. Census records are being promoted "free for a limited time" but the records are very limited: 1860, 100% complete; 1900, 6% complete; 1910, 4% complete; 1920, 3% complete; and 1930, 98% complete. 1860 appears to be every name indexed but to view the images you must register and I declined.
World Vital Records US Collection Membership is $39.95 annually, or $5.95 per month. Unlimited access to all records from the "US, UK, Ireland, Canada and more" is $99.95 a year with a 30-day money back guarantee. The homepage has recently been updated, with fewer links to Ancestry.com.
It's difficult to assess this collection without a membership. Some of the databases can be found free on the Web via a Google search. One page is devoted to testimonials from happy users. I've never subscribed to this service but several friends who have cancelled due to lack of results.
I feel I should mention a slightly different option from those discussed above. The oldest genealogical society in the U.S., New England Historic Genealogical Society has an excellent website for members at NewEnglandAncestors.org. Membership costs $75 a year with access to millions of online records primarily for New England, New York and New Jersey. Membership also includes free use of the society library in Boston, a quarterly journal, and a quarterly magazine. I use this site as often as I use Ancestry.
The opinions expressed here are strictly my own. There are numerous other subscription sites for various areas of the world and multiple record types. To determine whether a subscription site will be useful to you, try it for the shortest term available and see if it enhances your research.
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15 April 2010
28 April 2010