I recently bought the latest version of Family Tree Maker (Platinum Edition) at a bargain price of £29.99 at my local Currys/PC World outlet. What made it even more of a bargain was the fact that it had a 6 months trial for Ancestry.co.uk bundled with it. Even with my low funds I couldn’t pass on grabbing it. After making a double-take on the price I also had to check with a sales assistant to make sure they had not made a mistake. They hadn’t so out came my debit card!
Anyway, this stroke of luck has come weeks after I had tried the 14 day trials with the ‘big three’ in the genealogy internet sites. My first thought when I found out about the trials was how generous the amount of time they were prepared to give to potential subscribers. I could undertake a lot of research in 2 weeks and I did do in what turned out to be 6 weeks jumping from one to the other. I’ll say right out that Ancestry was the best experience. They allowed me to access ALL the UK resources and they were easy to find, even with my old, slow, crappy laptop. Find My Past wasn’t too bad when I got the hang of the navigation and I did find the BMD index really spot on with little errors. It was so easy to access BMD images of husband and wife entries. The main drawback was the limitation of access to the records. Find My Past only allows you to acces the all available census and the BMD index, but for what I wanted it was good enough. The advantage with Ancestry is that you can access those all important parish records and on a couple of assignments the images I could access really helped me bridge gaps in my research. Also on Find My Past you are only allowed to see 600 images, and if you reach this limit before the 2 weeks are up, that’s your lot. Without realising this I reached it in 4 days!
The last trial I tried was The Genealogist and they come a distant last because of two things in particular. I wasn’t happy with some of the images that they produce, especially with the census. They look like they are scans of photocopies to me. They look quite contrasty and the quality of the written content (the most important bits!) are less defined. When a photocopy gets copied again the image gets worse, and of course if that gets copied it gets even more worse. These on The Genealogist look as if they have been through a few photocopies. I can’t say if ALL their census records are like this because I didn’t see all of them. I have to say, though, that they have an impressive collection of non-conformist records and these have come in useful for me when I used to subscribe to them a few years ago. It’s quite useful if a person can’t be found through the church of England registers, just to check if they were Babtists or Methodists, as I have found with some of my family history.
Another thing I found quite alarming was that The Genealogist began processing the cost of a yearly subscription on the day I signed up for the free trial! So, £106 went missing from my bank account, suspended in cyberspace, and when I cancelled the free trial it took 10 days for it to return from whence it came! I thought it was really unappropriate for them to do such a thing, so before trying their trial I would suggest that you make sure you won’t go short on funds. To my knowledge both Ancestry and Find My Past do not do this sort of thing. In fact just to make sure I phoned Ancestry yesterday before I activated this 6 month trial, and they confirmed to me that they send a couple of e-mails to the subscriber to remind them that the free period is coming to the end. It would be a silly situation if they put over £100 of my money into cyberspace for 6 months now wouldn’t it?