May 26, 2005

Family Trees and Ancestry.Com

(Disclaimer: I have been a subscriber to for several years, and as a paying customer, feel that I can give an honest critique of the service.)

First, I believe that their charges are too high for a lot of researchers. I do not know what a membership permitting access to everything on the website would cost but, I have access to just a few records, including the census records, and pay over $200 a year. A SWAG is that access to everything would cost over $1000 a year. I have no idea what a fair price would be, but I suspect that it would be something less than a grand!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I find the family trees on Ancestry mostly useless. They all appear to be duplicates of each other, with no sources given. If a source is given, it is typically an FTW or GEDCOM file that someone else has already posted there. If a legitimate source is cited, it is often incorrect (I have seen the Social Security Death Index used as source for death date of someone who died in the 1700's!). I have often wondered why some researchers are so opposed to providing sources.

One thing I like about Ancestry is their census collection. For the most part, the indices to the census files are good, but I caution users to not use exact surname spellings. I most often use the soundex for searching, then narrow down large returns by including additional search parameters.

One good feature is the inclusion of other family members in some indices. For example, if I am searching for John Smith, and know that he had a wife named Marion, and a son named Frank, I can quickly look down the index search return for John Smiths, and look for the one with family members with those names.

I do not depend entirely on the indices prepared by Ancestry. Sometimes I know with certainty that a family is in a specific state and county, but the index cannot find them. Perhaps the person extracting information for the index just skipped them, or otherwise did not see them. It is in instances like this when I just have to page through the entire county, or township to find the family I am looking for. Ancestry does make provisions for reporting bad census information, but they don't make it easy to use. I am not sure what I do incorrectly, but the submission has failed each time I have attempted to send them corrected information.

One last thing: Their search engine, especially for old newspaper articles needs improvement (or, perhaps I'm using it incorrectly). But, when I enter a name like Francis Scott Key (extreme example), and get 50 hits for Francis Bacon, Scott Tissue, and Locksmiths, something is wrong.


  1. I am still new enough at genealogy to do more stumbling around, than what I would call research.

    I am recently disabled, interested in family and want to find my paternal family. Money is not the entire issue, but we do have to be more discerning than we have been.

    Both sides of my father's family were so secretive about who they were or where they came from. My grandmother went "home" to Kentucky to visit family for years, but always refused to tell exactly where she was going. All we knew was that she took a bus to West Liberty KY, then a taxi for 20 miles, walked for about three miles, where one of her brothers would meet her with a horse and buggy. I think this may have been true in the 40's when she started going back home, but doubt it was still that way the last time she made the trip in the early 80's.

    I knew her maiden name was Francis, but had no idea of who her mother was. An aunt found some sort of paper with Coffee written on it, that could have been a reference to her mother.

    I finally did pay the $200 for access to Ancestry's census files. For a novice, I believe they are easy to use and produce results. I did find my ggrandmother with their help. However, I will spend the most of my time for this year with those census reports, hoping to glean as much as possible. I have no intention of paying $200 again!

    Once I found her, then finding her sibs, grandparents, and possibly great grandparents was not terribly difficult as they all lived in Magoffin or Morgan County KY. MY grandmother's given name was something like Airemanthea, I have yet to find it spelled the same way twice.

    I have no idea if we are part of Coffee Cousins. I keep trying to find perhaps one of her sibs or father in here. Her father was Amos D. Coffee married to Nancy Jane Williams.

    If I have to buy Ancestry again, I will let you know.

  2. Hi Shari,

    Thanks for writing! I was sorry to hear that you are recently disabled, but good to hear that you are using your time to research family!

    Amos D. Coffee/y was indeed married to Nancy Jane Williams. They were, according to my files, married in Morgan Co., KY on Dec. 29, 1849. The Coffey Cousins' newsletter of Dec., 1998 has some information on them.

    Amos also have had a wife name Polly or Pollie Robertson, to whom he was married Sep. 13, 1885 in Morgan Co. There was also an Amos who had a wife named Nannie Adams who he married on Mar. 21, 1903 in Morgan Co.

    That info was also contained in the above referenced newsletter.

    I have no idea how much info that issue contained, but you can get details from Bonnie Culley, editor, at

    At first thought I believe that your line comes from Ambrose Coffee, who is not related, as far as we know today, to the Edward Coffey or Peter Coffee lines. Edward and Peter are apparently the two emigrants from whom most of the Coffee/ys in America descend from.

    Of course, you do not have to be descended from either of those to be a "Coffee/y Cousin."

    Be sure and contact Bonnie. She can probably give you more info on Ambrose, who was at Fort Boonesboro in the late 1700's.


    PS: If you will send me your e-mail address to, I will be able to send you any new info that I uncover.


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