The Internet has greatly changed the genealogy scene since the late 1990s. Numerous archives both domestic and international have their holdings available for online searches. This is great for us. Research at your own leisure from your home. How can it get any better?
It does get better. For me, I have been using Ancestry.com for a little over a year now and I am very pleased with its record searches. I have found numerous records and expanded my tree greatly. The "hints" that ancestry provides are also very helpful. The access to all census records up to the recent release of the 1940 census is phenomenal. I am not an expert on Ancestry but it helps my research and I would recommend it to anyone. Unfortunately I do have one "beef" regarding Ancestry but it is not with the site itself. It is with some of its users. I will get into that later.
Just last week I signed up and paid for another genealogy subscription with the addition of My Heritage to my regular online search databases. I was hesitant to do this at first because I was already paying for Ancestry and My Heritage offers many of the same searches that Ancestry does; so I would be paying for the same thing twice. Hopefully they balance and complement each other.
So far I am very happy with My Heritage. I have not yet done any specific record searches on My Heritage but I am very impressed at the "Smart Matches" that My Heritage has found for me by comparing my uploaded GEDCOM tree to other subscriber's trees. Presently I have over 3900 individuals in my The Master Genealogist (TMG) database. After I imported a GEDCOM file of my tree into My Heritage, I came up with over 4700 matches/hits from over 900 subscribers trees. Obviously many of the matches are incorrect and I am "rejecting/ignoring" those hits. It will take me quite a while to go through all of these matches. I am trying to review a number of these each night.
What I am finding with these Smart Matches is that many of the subscribers who have posted their trees online are also direct descendants of my ancestors. Meaning we are cousins. Now part of the reason I believe that I am getting so many matches is because most of these hits are on my "Dutch" side. From what I gather, genealogy is very popular in the Netherlands. Also Dutch vital records are outstanding. Civil registration for births, marriages, and deaths began in 1811. Most of these civil records are searchable online directly from the appropriate provincial archives.
Now with these Smart Matches, I am able to review them and send a confirmation that my "individual" matches the corresponding person in another subscribers online tree. It is almost an instantaneously way to find others who are researching the same ancestors as you. Also, after you confirm an individual, the other subscriber can either reject or confirm your find. Everyday I have been getting almost 100 confirms from other researchers. I will have to check the sources for this new found data but it appears to be a very quick way to find distant cousins who are also genealogists.
Very soon I will be contacting these new found cousins of mine and hopefully I will not end up with the disappointment that I have had numerous times when I contacted other cousins who listed their trees on Ancestry. Perplexing I find it when someone posts their tree on Ancestry and when I contact them about "our" relative, especially with stories about these individuals, the other person does not respond to your query. Now these are not people who listed their trees a few years ago. They are very recent users who still access Ancestry on a regular basis, when I checked their profiles. They are also local to where I live. They must be half-hearted genealogists; not in with both feet.
As mentioned, I am happy so far with my little experience on My Heritage especially with the smart matches, I hope that my Dutch cousins will be interested in swapping data afterwards.