My mom has been a big fan of tracking her ancestry. She stumbled upon some information from a distant relative that knew her lineage back 5 generations. She
shared her knowledge of her branch of the family with the person she met. When Ancestry.com came along, I looked at it with a skeptical eye. I knew that I needed to
keep my information on a medium that I wouldn't lose. I was concerned that a company with a database might go out of business and then my information would go with it.
I took the plunge anyway. Ancestry had great tools for researching census documents that digitized and transcribed. At this point, I think Ancestry is here to stay and
they have a policy that you can still edit your family tree and view it for free.
When I first signed up for an account, I researched my dad's side of the family tree. I had a lot of information and a leg up since I'm the fourth Frank
in the family. I quickly found census records on every Frank DeCaire that lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (My grandparents lived in Escanaba and then moved to
Gladstone sometime in the 70's). My dad attended a family reunion in the 90's that included a lot of people on his mom's side of the family. Apparently, she came from a
family of 8 sisters (yikes!). My dad gave me a copy of the booklet they handed out that included all the family members of those sisters, their siblings and so on. It's
a huge book of information and I typed it into my Ancestry account.
On my mother's side of the family, I have a distant cousin who is also active in Ancestry.com. She had pictures in her photo album and I have pictures that I have been
collecting from my aunts and uncles. Apparently, there were pictures of my mom from the 1940's when she was a kid. They're really good quality too. There was also a
photo of 4 generations of my mom's family, where her was in her 20's and her oldest sister was a baby. Ah fun stuff.
I've used some of the photos to track down the actual location of the houses in the pictures. Of course, I already knew the approximate location, but Google street view
helped a lot. Finding records in the Ancestry database is a lot like playing detective. Many census records were hand written and the person who transcribed them made
errors. I have submitted many corrections to Ancestry (the have a form to fill out and submit), and I was able to deduce which records were my family. Some of the
spelling or transcription errors included things like "Delaire", where the "C" looked like an "L" to the transcriber. The Ancestry search engine is intelligent about
finding words that are off by one or two characters. This makes it possible to find the records that might be transcribed incorrectly.
I've never actually gone to any government office to look up physical census data. Ancestry made that task obsolete, at least for me. They have already scanned in all
the census records from locations where my family lived (like Escanaba Michigan) and they are constantly adding to their database. Eventually, they'll have all the physical
census records in their system. I've also used their international record search for a short time. That's a more difficult trail to follow since Europe has been involved
in two world wars and many upheavals around the time my ancestors came to the United States and Canada. It's still a lot of fun to see what I can find about my family history.