Over the years, I've heard different "Ancestry.com stories" from Treasure Maps Genealogy Newsletter readers. There have been success stories, and negative stories.

Recently, I got feedback from my recent lesson called "Genealogy Search Sites - The Bait and Switch." Note that the developers of these bogus "genealogy search sites" are the problem, not Ancestry itself.

Typical responses, this time, were like this one:

  • "Personally I don't think ancestry is so hot. I used their 30-day trial period and found false positives to searches."

And, here's a smoking hot editorial that I received from L. Darrell Nelson, Jr. (reprinted with permission, of course):

"Your public warning about "Bait-n-Switch Genealogy Search Sites" was badly needed. I sincerely hope that every Treasure Maps reader understands it and benefits from it. However, you are much more forgiving than I could ever be, Robert.

Whomever owns/operates Ancestry.com, I believe, is the very person/company that started in the genealogy business with Family Tree Maker. They came out with a bare-bones genealogy program that "looked" wonderful and was very heavily advertised. And it "only" cost $49.95.

Then about every 3 or 4 months they "just happened" to come out with a fantastic new version with a new feature that you just HAD to have!! And, it only cost $19.95 more to upgrade. Then 3 or 4 months later, another $19.95 for the next feature, and so on.

Well, over a period of years and many, many more features, one at a time, most customers had invested several hundred dollars, on top of their original $49.95. As one person told me in the late 1990's, "I can't quit using Family Tree Maker, they've about "$19.95'd" me to death; I've got my life savings tied up in it!".

They then came up with the idea of graciously allowing their customers to share their research by uploading their GEDCOM files to a Family Tree Web site. And then without notice or asking permission, they put all that private research data onto CDs and proceeded to sell them, at only $19.95 each. Thus making even more profit, from the hard-won research done by their customers (suckers, as many began to call themselves, by that time).

When their customers finally realized how very greedy and uncaring Family Tree Maker was, they complained that the company should not be making huge profits off of data they had only agreed to share with other researchers for free. But, Family Tree Maker simply ignored them.

They then demanded that Family Tree Maker provide an index of the various GEDCOM files that would cross-reference them to the particular CDs they were on so people could know which CDs to buy. But Family Tree Maker said they were at random and they couldn't do that, essentially ignoring their pleas again.

So the angry customers proceeded to set up a free public Web site with a complete cross-referenced index of all CDs and GEDCOM files to encourage everyone to start a network for freely sharing all the data on all the CDs with the direct purpose of ending any further unethical profiteering by Family Tree Maker.

Not too long after, Ancestry.com came into existence with its (quite high priced and highly advertised) online subscription service. It has since infiltrated nearly every aspect of online genealogy with its beloved & ever-continuing greedy bait-n-switch tactics.

In a similar fashion by this very same company, I have been long-awaiting the destructive usurpation of the formerly truly-free RootsWeb.com and its many online genealogy files. That other shoe has yet to fall, but I fully expect it and will not be the least bit surprised. With Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.com, greed always rules.

RootsWeb.com was hard-won, too, by the worry, sweat and personal finances of long-over-worked volunteers. I still have, and proudly wear, my RootsWeb lapel pin, given in recognition of financial contributions to help keep the Web site free; not unlike the PBS radio and television stations.

Then along came good-hearted Family Tree Maker/Ancestry.com, with ABSOLUTELY NO ulterior motive whatsoever (Ha, ha!), and donated all the free online storage space that RootsWeb could ever hope to need. Suddenly, over-night, RootsWeb ceased to plead for donations from individuals and the many genealogical societies whose Web sites it attempted to host.

Being able to yet advertise RootsWeb.com as FREE, may well be a highly profitable bait-n-switch front for Family Tree Maker/Ancestry.com, so they may never totally usurp it.

It, too, has eventually gotten involved with the USGenWeb.com. Most, if not all, of the USGenWeb sites have links to Ancestry.com now.

To me, their products extract too dear a price, to meet their too greedy desires for me to do business with. I cannot let myself forgive them or trust them….period.

I hate to be bitter about things, but this is one company that has driven me severely in that direction." (L. Darrell Nelson, Jr.)

To be fair, let's give Ancestry.com, and what it offers to the online genealogy world, a chance. There are always two sides to the story, so let's hear from you.

  • Please share YOUR opinion. What are your experiences with Ancestry.com? Good or bad - do you have any success stories to share, or has this popular online genealogy service been a let down for you?