The last time I looked (a minute ago), Ancestry.com said they had 15+ billion records. I thought “Wow! That’s a bunch!” Then my common sense took over, and I thought a little more, and I arrived at “Let’s have a little fun here!”
How many countries are there in the world? It looks like 196 from most accounts. So, 15 billion divided by 196 is 76.5 million. Now, more common sense tells us that many of these are small and have minimal records, so let’s figure the main research countries in Ancestry might have 100 million records each.
How many of the world’s countries were significant sources of American immigrants? I would guess not over 50. So, 50 times 100 million is 5 billion. And we have whacked Ancestry down by 2/3.
So looking over my research, I find that my immigrant ancestors have come from five foreign countries. And…we are down to one billion records. Continuing our process and judging where I do most of my research, I would figure that Ancestry has more American records than the other four combined, so let’s say I’m searching through 3 billion U.S. records. Still sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Of course, out of 50 American states, I have only found my folks in about 25, so we are down to 1.5 billion records. If we concentrate on direct ancestors and first cousins, we have cut out several more marginal states, so let’s round that figure off to 1 billion. See where we’re going here?
How many counties are there in this country? Wikipedia says 3,144, or an average of 60 or so per state. So the 20 or so states where I research have around 1200 counties. And that means that Ancestry may have about 833,000 records per county.
My experience has been that I only have relatives in an average of 5 counties per state. So my potential searchable records, 833,000 records times 5 counties times 20 states, is..ta da..83.3 million. Still with me?
We could go further. How many of these are unique to Ancestry? As in, why should I pay Ancestry for records I can get for free on FamilySearch or Find-A-Grave, or GenWeb? All the census records are free, most cemeteries are free, many military and vital records are free. Can we cut my total in half?
So I’m paying Ancestry over $150 annually for perhaps 40 million undiscovered records. And my 10-12 surnames might be 1/100 % of those. Whew! That 15+ billion number is really not very impressive at this point in the game. And even a lot of Ancestry is free to me at the local public library branch.
I might be better off just driving to those counties and visiting the genealogy library. Wow, what a revelation! Grandma might have been right all along!!
New records showing on Ancestry right now. The ones that apply to me? ZERO.