Ancestry.com is one of the most popular genealogy websites, and with good reason. It offers a plethora of records, is easy to use, and gives genealogists an easy way to create and add to their family trees. Even so, it is advisable that genealogists make copies of everything they post at Ancestry.com (or other online genealogy websites).
Many people presume that the things they post online, on blogs or websites that they do not own or have control over, will be there forever. For example, a person may share a family story on his or her Facebook page and believe that doing so ensures that the story will always be accessible to themselves, relatives and future generations.
In reality, that’s not how things work. A person could, one day, decide to quit Facebook. After that, the photos, stories, and other information they put on their Facebook page become inaccessible.
Ray Hanania wrote an article called “Ancestry.com and its historic faults” that is well worth reading. He makes many good points in his article. One very important point has to do with data access from Ancestry.com in a situation where your subscription has lapsed (or you decided to stop using the service entirely).
Genealogists who use Ancestry.com spend a lot of time and effort creating their family tree on the website. Ray Hanania points out that designating your family tree as “private” makes it harder for other people to view it. However, there is such a thing as “data mining”. There are people who know how to get around things in order to access data they aren’t supposed to see.
He also points out the difficulty of trying to download your family tree from Ancestry.com. In his article, Ray Hanania describes the problems he had when he tried using a software program called Family Tree that he purchased from Ancestry.com. In short, it doesn’t work as smoothly as he’d hoped. It appears that people who are not very tech-savvy will struggle with the software.
All of this brings up a larger issue that genealogists should be aware of, no matter which genealogy website they are putting their precious family information into. If you don’t own the website, there is always a chance that the family tree you created on it could disappear or become inaccessible (due to subscription lapse, server issues, or other problems).
In short, if you don’t own the website, you shouldn’t use it as the only copy of your genealogy research, family tree, or family photos. Keep digital copies of that information on your personal computer. Use a paper family tree template and copy the information that you put on Ancestry.com (or other genealogy websites). Take some notes that you can easily refer to – just in case.
Image by Shelah on Flickr.
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