It’s entirely possible that I’m missing something when I look at the website.

This new genealogical site launched in July 2009, and while it is attracting a lot of hits, it remains pretty unknown among the most avid genealogists. (Quantcast estimates that they have over 900,000 viewers a day.) In offering complimentary 3-month access to members of the National Genealogical Society, admits that “Despite … [being one of the most visited genealogy websites], many people still don’t know about us!”

I took a look, and I have to say I’m not impressed.

For researchers with a copy of Ancestry’s Red Book and a Footnote account, and/or an Ancestry account, this site will seem duplicative and simplistic.  Through a partnership with Footnote, they provide many Footote images, but one needs to be a member of Footnote, or pay an additional fee (thankfully, on a per document basis, allowing for a quick, inexpensive easy retrieval if there are just an image or two you want). There is also a fair amount of information on the local resources, such as county courthouses, but this is not difficult to find information. Many vital records pages also link to VitalChek, a fee-for-service firm that will pull vital records from most (if not all) state governments. VitalChek’s fees are a little steep when one compares them to the cost of dealing with the government directly, and what they are really offering is a convenient way for you to get records when you know they are already there.

Many of these issues lead to a perception that the site simplifies genealogical research.

They claim 1.2 billion images, but my guess is that this number includes the Footnote images.

Their county records section is basically a pitch to allow them to pull records in various counties for you. The price is not terribly high: At $24.95 a search, it’s much cheaper than flying across the country. This has some similarities with Ancestry’s ExpertConnect, though has a cleaner, more inviting site, and it’s more oriented toward the simple pulling of records.

There are well written “how-to” articles on the site. Though there are not as many (and perhaps because there are not as many), they are easier to navigate to than are the ones on Footnote and Ancestry.

There are tools for researching living persons, including reverse phone number lookups.

Overall, I would say that if you are dabbling in genealogy and are looking for a place to get started, might be a reasonable place to start. It’s an easy to navigate website, and the articles will provide some guidance, as will the pointers to the county courthouses. However, it pales in comparison to the vast resources of (which has a wonderful genealogical wiki, by the way), Ancestry, and Footnote. You would do better to buy Ancestry’s Red Book and a Footnote account, however, unless and until delivers enough unique content to justify the expense. Promising, but not yet recommended.

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