Back in May, at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Charleston, South Carolina, the people at the Archives.com booth generously gave out cards that would enable holders to use a six-month demo account at Archives.com.
I picked up one of the cards, and for the first couple of months I made a few forays onto the site to see what was there, but I did not try out all of the features. Several press releases came out about Archives.com hiring some well-known members of the genealogy community and about the addition of new material, so for the past couple of weeks I have been trying to check the site out a little more thoroughly.
It appears that the overall concept is to add and develop databases that are specific to Archives.com and to supplement this still-in-the early-stages-of-development resource by drawing on existing databases, both free (SSDI) and for-pay (some of the search results lead to Footnote.com, where you need a paid subscription to be able to access most of the document images). This is combined with the capability for building/adding your own family tree (Ancestry.com and many other sites have this), a for-fee service which you can use to request onsite county document searches by members of the Archives.com network, interaction with other members on the Archives.com message forums, and access to instructional materials under the “Learn” tab.
First, I did some searches using some of my own ancestors and some of my husband’s ancestors who had less common names. Here are the results:
I noticed that I got different results from alternate spellings of one of the family names: D’Arco and Darco. This has the potential to be useful; on Ancestry.com, one spelling brings up hits for both spellings.
When I clicked to see the results under the category for immigration records, all the links took me to Footnote, where I have an account.
A search for Brinlees on Military Records pulled up mid-twentieth century enlistment records, but they were transcriptions/extracts, not actual images. Still, it was neat to see some information on my uncles’ and distant cousins’ military service.
The main “value-added” item for me seems to be that Archives.com has some newspapers that Genealogy Bank does not have (= I could not find them on Genealogy Bank when I checked their list of newspapers). The site claims to have images of 100 million pages from newspapers.
The hits under “Cemetery Listings” are not actual hits for an ancestor’s name in a specific cemetery. Instead, the results give the SSDI information on the location where the last Social Security benefits were received, and uses that information to produce a list of cemeteries in that area.
Several times searches or clicking on a result produced an “Oops! An error has occurred” message, but trying again usually (not always) got me through to the database/information.
Other things I checked out:
Message forums: there are a lot of posts, but not many replies. I did a search for a family name, but mostly pulled up error messages.
The “On-Site County Court Records Search” tab has the following description: “Request an on-site county search for any court, criminal, or civil record in the United States. Simply fill in the information below to have someone from our network of court-runners do the job for you - saving you hundreds of dollars and countless hours.” This could be useful, but there was no information on how extensive this network is, that is, whether or not they have all the counties and states covered, and what the level of expertise of their “court-runners” is.
My favorite feature was the “Learn” tab. I read several of the articles and will be checking out the videos. There were some familiar names of people whose expertise I respect, and I hope that the quality of offerings in this area is indicative of where Archives.com will be headed in the future.
Another thing I liked was the ability to set up “Ancestor Alerts” on the site.
I believe Archives.com has brought some people on board who can take Archives.com in the right directions, but right now that seems to be on paper only. At this point it is not worth it to me to pay for this service, as it does not do a significant amount more than the Ancestry-Footnote-Genealogy Bank combination does for me. But I will be keeping an eye on it.