In the holiday classic movie It's a Wonderful Life George gets to see how his community would have developed had he never lived. Imagine genealogy today without Ancestry.com and its companion websites.
In Canada name indexes to several censuses are only available online due to the efforts of Ancestry. It's the only source for indexed Ontario civil registration records online, for the Drouin collection online and the complete available incoming passenger lists. In the UK they were the first company to make available the fully indexed civil registration indexes, and have provide records from the London Metropolitan Archives.
It may be that without Ancestry other organizations would have eventually digitized these. I doubt that without the competition from Ancestry other companies would have been motivated to go so far, so fast.
Now we come to the but ...
While you likely have additional databases you'd like to see added there are also things the company could do to add value to the existing records.
Improving the quality of indexes is a continuing issue, one that everyone recognizes, and also one where the magnitude of the challenge is appreciated by anyone who has participated in indexing projects.
Leaving indexing quality aside, what else?
I've mentioned before the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations),1861-1941. It's the most useful database from the UK Ancestry added in 2010, and hopefully they will extend the record and fill in the gaps.
It would be helpful to make these records full text searchable. Only the name of the deceased is indexed at present. There is always one more name in each record, of the executor, and often more. Full text could be achieved through OCR where the text is of good quality, often the case.
For the Canadian records my greatest aggravation is with geography. This was brought home to me again in doing the research for the recent A, H. Fitzsimmons article.
It was relatively easy to find the death registration for Harriet Fitzsimmons
Searching for other Fitzsimmons deaths in Carleton County I found this was not possible as the county is not recognized. Searching on Ottawa, Ontario, provided many hits if I didn't specify the location to be exact, including many outside Carleton County; and when an exact search was specified no hits were found. This seems to be a general problem with Canadian county searches.
What's your experience? How can Ancestry improve the value you get from their existing databases?