Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ancestry.com advertising paints heartwarming portrait, no black sheep

I noticed a CNN ad for Ancestry.com last evening, part of a new advertising push detailed in this press release. It describes a series of "heartwarming" stories found by Ancestry subscribers:

  • A New Yorker Finds Answers about His Father - Alton Woodman (White Plains, N.Y.) never knew much about his dad, who passed away when Alton was just 14 years old. Turning to Ancestry.com, Alton found his father in a 1920 census record as a 14-year-old himself, and discovered that he was attending an orphanage. To help connect the dots, Alton got in touch with a representative from the orphanage and received a package that offered a more complete picture of his father's childhood.
  • One Man Discovers His Great Grandfather was a War Hero - Cary Christopher (Pittsburgh and San Diego) always wondered about his German great grandfather, who disappeared after a short-lived marriage to Cary's great grandmother ended in divorce. After 40 years of futile searching, Cary discovered his great grandfather in a World War I draft registration card on Ancestry.com. It turned out his great grandfather had immigrated to the United States before World War I, became a U.S. citizen and rose to the rank of Captain in the U.S. Merchant Marines, where he was killed by a torpedo fired by a German submarine during World War II.
  • South Florida Man Connects Father to His Own Mother - Jim Lane's (Key Biscayne, Fla.) father never knew his mother, who died when he was an infant. Through historical records and member connection services on Ancestry.com, Jim discovered relatives who sent him pictures of his grandmother, and for the first time, Jim's father was able to see a photograph of his mother.
  • Chicago Cook Meets Like-Minded Cousin - When caterer Peggy McDowell (Chicago) began researching the cooking talent in her family tree, she had no idea she would end up going into business with a long-lost cousin. Through searching records on Ancestry.com, she connected with her cousin, who also shares her passion for cooking. Together, they're opening a soul food restaurant in Chicago's Hyde Park.
  • Washington Woman Confirms Father's Passing - Cathryn Darling (Olympia, Wash.) had many unanswered questions about her father, who had disappeared when she was eight years old after her parent's divorce. After searching obituary records on Ancestry.com, Cathryn learned her father died as a fisherman while at sea in Oregon in 1970, and she recently held a memorial service in his honor.
While the ads portray a rosy picture, Ancestry can't guarantee the stories you find will be heartwarming. What's the truth for an average subscriber? Some stories you turn up may be skeletons that would have better been left where they rested. Should Ancestry and other subscriptions come with a warning label?


Persephone said...

So far, I'm relatively unscarred by my family history discoveries (and I've made some scorchers!) No horse thieves yet, but it's just a matter of time. The people I have to be careful about are relatives who know I'm researching, and while they're hoping I can support various glamourous family legends (faint hope of that; I've mainly been discounting them), they have squirmed quite a bit when I firm up what have been, ahem, hazy dates. For example, my sister-in-law and my husband's cousin are so clearly uncomfortable with one of my recent discoveries, that I've left certain dates and events off on-line trees, even though the protagonists are long dead.

Family history means having a fairly thick skin oneself, while never forgetting the thin skin of others.

Doc said...

Quite honestly, I'm looking for a connection to the somewhat infamous Capt. or Col. Thomas Blood who made off with some of the English crown jewels from the tower of London. The fact that my name is Thomas Blood has nothing to do with this, of course.