I love genealogy. I’m also fortunate enough that my family’s ancestry is (relatively) trackable. My Scottish ancestors (the Frasers) arrived in Canada in 1815, my Irish ancestors (the O’Shaughnessy family) I have back to 1837 in Nova Scotia, my English side (Cox) arrived in 1907, and my French Canadian side (the Menards) – well, I have once source citing their ancestors (Boucher) arriving in Quebec around 1619. You know, just hanging out with Champlain, waiting for some filles de roi. When people ask “what” I am? I’m Canadian, thank you very much.
My family currently shares a Canada Deluxe Membership at Ancestry.ca. It’s 119/yr and gives us access to Canadian Census data to 1916, Birth, Marriage & Death information, primarily from the 1800s and early 1900s (you’ll get lucky if you’ve got French Canadian heritage like me. Excellent record keepers), Immigration and Passenger Lists, other Canadian family trees and some newspaper data (I’ve used this mostly for obituary information.)
It currently suits our needs, but we have in many ways reached the end of our Canadian rope. To learn beyond arrivals in Canada, you really need the World Deluxe Membership, which is 299/yr – a bit steep for my budget, and even here it seems largely limited to Canada, US, UK & Ireland (Ancestry employees, correct me if I’m wrong), so if you’re not researching there, you may be out of luck beyond others’ family trees.
- Member Family Trees — This has been incredibly helpful in my own research. I’ve been able to connect with other researchers who are looking at the same family and get more detailed data, information, and in some cases, even photographs. One member recently shared with me photographs he’d found online of my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Deidemia (Church) Fraser (1831-1914).
- The little green leaf — This is their advertising hook and by golly they’ve hooked me. Enter a name into your family tree, and if you’re lucky a little green leaf will appear next to it. This means that in their system, they have someone with similar information either in one of their records, or in another member family tree. Sometimes it’s completely off base, and if you don’t have the right membership you won’t be able to see the information (devastating.) But sometimes it can lead to marriage records, attestation papers or census data that reveals information you didn’t know yet existed.
- Site functionality — It’s a relatively simple process to set up an account and begin making your family tree. I’ve experienced only a few hiccups in the system (when adding children to a relationship, be sure to connect them with both the existing mother and father – it doesn’t do this automatically!) I started using the program when it was MyFamily.com in the previous millenium. It was pretty easy to use then and is just as easy to use now.
- For young amateurs like myself the price can be pretty steep. If you’ve got all your information already and have no interest in using their resources, it’s free. But that little green leaf draws you in…
- I’d love to see them offer the program at reduced cost to students, teachers or members of historical organizations. I know that they have reduced prices for Canadian Legion Members, so why not extend it further?
- There are a number of ways they could make the site more accessible to educators, including classroom, school or board memberships with heightened security — and if these exist, they should be more obviously promoted online.
- Most glaringly: I understand that they are an American company, but their resources are very limited once you go beyond North American and the British Isles. I appreciate the difficulty in finding or accessing resources in many countries. As it stands, I would not use this program as an activity in my urban, multicultural Toronto school. It’s likely that I would be the only one able to find any records at all.
My recommendation? If you’re at all curious about your family history, start with the 14 day free trial. Just don’t blame me if you suddenly find you can’t live without it.