I, like so many others these days, started my genealogy research with a 30 day free trial on ancestry.com. I'm not sure why I picked it at the time, there were no adverts on tv yet. I'm guessing I had seen ads online and in magazines. However it happened, I typed it in and signed up.
I started an online family tree. I entered in my name, my parents and grandparents. I was thrilled that right out of the gate I found my Masiello family on three different year's census. I also found my Cassio family on one census. In less than an hour I found my paternal grandmother with her parents and eight siblings. Even though I grew up knowing my paternal grandfather and four of his sisters, I learned of another sister that I never knew of.
It was an amazing and intoxicating start. I was catching the bug. But I would soon learn that these breakthroughs were not always so easy or so straight forward. Names of spellings can change. Indexes of records can have transcription errors and omissions. Census enumerators made mistakes.
While I found my Masiello family on the 1910, 1920 and 1930 census, why couldn't I find them in 1900. I knew this because my two great aunts who I grew up near were born in 1898 and 1900. My Cassio family was more of a puzzle. I only found them on the 1910 census.
The moral of my story is that ancestry.com is a great launching pad. It is still one of my primary resources. I love the online family tree feature. I continue to use this feature as my primary place to document my research. Some people will have an experience like the tv advert show. Type in a few names and get the leaves (hints) and connect to the family trees of others and fill in large parts of your tree. But many other people won't have such luck. And it is not the fault of ancestry.com. This kind of history is not an exact science. I have used many different websites to do research. I hope to write about some of the resources which have been most helpful to me.