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Thursday, 12 January 2012

Paid Online Genealogy Tools - 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: 2

Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has begun a new series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.  Week 2   Paid Online Genealogy Tools: Which paid genealogy tool do you appreciate the most? What special features put it at the top of your list? How can it help others with their genealogy research?

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Four paid genealogy sites are on my signed up list, and the one I use most frequently is www.ancestry.co.uk. It is the most comprehensive site that meets many of my needs for both English and Scottish research.

Until very recently,  Ancestry was the only other site that featured Scottish Census Returns and I preferred its search boxes which allows you to put in birthplace, close relative etc.  to aid search results.  However all you get is a transcription and I had then to turn to http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ to download an image, but the targeted nature of Ancestry questions definitely aided my search.  My one major reservation about the census results  relates to some odd transcriptions and spelling of surnames, Christian names, place names  and occupations  

Apart from the standard material,  I have found very valuable the WWI Service Records - many of these were destroyed in a bombing raids in World War Two, but I have been lucky enough to find pages on my great uncle George Danson (1897-1916) and also my husband's great uncle Frederick Donaldson (1894-1916).  The records include personal descriptions, next of kin,  signatures on enlistment, medical history and notification of death. Ironically both men, from different sides of the country. died on the same day at the Battle of the Somme - perhaps not surprising given the huge loss of life.  

I had the basic subscription,  but recently upgraded this, so I could access newer records that have come online e.g. British Post Office Appointments  I found my two great uncles, but to be honest the record gives no more than their name and date of appointment.  My next task is to look at the Railway Employment Records for more of my family.

Like many other bloggers, I have screamed at some of the information in the Public Trees.  Periodically I search for my key names - Danson and Rawcliffe -  and there are some very odd entries,which do not link with my source-based findings.  I have (tactfully)  asked the contributor for their source and outlined my different findings - but I never get a reply. 

The New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957 provided the information on my American connection - Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe, who travelled  with six  children under 11 years old  and two pieces of baggage.  I took out the pay-as-you-view option to
http://www.ancestry.com/  and was delighted to find her family (with five more children!) in American census returns for New York and New Jersey. 

http://www.findmypast.co.uk/ I have used on occasions, e.g. for 1911 census, usually on a pay-as-you-view basis,  and recommend the Chelsea Pensioner Records from National Archives and Ancestors on Board databases. The site has recently started featuring Scottish Census Returns, so it will be interesting to see the quality of the transcriptions.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/ (a pay-as-you-view site)  is an absolute must if you have Scottish ancestors and it features images for all but the more recent records.  Don't ignore the hidden information under Research Tools which features fascinating titbits such as medical terms,unusual words,  over 1500 definitions of occupations, money converters and a tutorial on Scottish old handwriting.  A very comprehensive site, with  my only reservation that the search boxes for census entries could be more specific to help identify the right family and avoid expensive downloads.

www.genesreunited.co.uk -  An inexpensive paid site that it steadily increasing its databases - not something I use regularly, which means I have to begin again navigating my way round the site, especially the messages.  The "hot matches" facility irritates me,  as is is linked just on name and date of birth, but not place of birth which would refine the search results so much, and you can spend ages deleting  irrelevant  matches.    However I am very grateful to the site as it unearthed in my Danson family my third cousin (once removed),  -  the first major success I had with online sites, and we exchanged information and copies of memorabilia.   

So I might have some minor reservations, but where would we be without these sites which have helped revolutionise family history research?


  1. I paid for a six month subscription to GenesReunited and used the site intensively during that time, but I did not renew. The so-called 'hot matches' waste so much time! The odds are much better with LostCousins, which I featured in my '52 Weeks' post.

  2. Thanks, Judy. I particularly like the Lost Cousins newsletter, which is very informative and interesting. I have only just signed up to the site on a subscription basis, with their recent New Year offer.


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