Wednesday, November 14, 2007

To Subscribe or Not To Subscribe...

I've looked at several family history related pay sites for several weeks trying to decide if signing up for 'just one more subscription' was worth the investment. I've been a subscriber to Ancestry since the site was launched and also have subscriptions to other research sites. Did I want to subscribe to another one because I have a weakness for them or is there really some benefit to having multiple memberships?

The answer in my case is yes, it is worth having the multiple accounts. Especially since my two-year membership to World Vital Records only cost $39.95 as a special offer for users of Progeny Software. I added my super deal subscription to Ancestry that only cost me $16.95 when I purchased Family Tree Maker version 16 and decided, that "hey, this is letting me do a lot of research without the cost and hassle of traveling to a library".

A year subscription to the worldwide records on Ancestry and World Vital Records for less than $40 is good news isn't it? Well, let's see
how good the news really is. I live about 35 miles from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My vehicle gets around 30 MPG on the freeway, if the freeway isn't a parking lot and if I keep my lead foot flat on the floor rather than on the 'go' pedal. The price of gasoline at my nearby gas station was $2.99 a gallon this week. The round trip to the Family History Library is 70 miles or 2 and 1/3 gallons of gas which equates to $7.00 for fuel. Is that the real cost to visit the library?

The Federal Government tells us that it costs us 48.5 cents per mile to drive our car anywhere. This figure is supposed to cover all the costs associated with the vehicle; purchase price, maintenance, taxes, licensing, insurance, fuel, etc. Is that all it really costs me to drive a mile? In my case maybe it is because my vehicle is pretty old and was paid for the year that I purchased it, but when I have to purchase a new vehicle that figure certainly won't be true. It will cost a lot more to drive a mile regardless of what accountants at the IRS tell me. I pay the bills and know how much it costs.

Unfortunately we don't use my vehicle strictly for service to a charitable organization, because it only costs 14 cents a mile to drive those miles according to the IRS. Maybe the church will ask me to drive to work every day and around the area constantly, so my operational costs will go down.

If I calculate my driving costs using the IRS figure, the trip to the Family History Library is $33.95 for a round trip! Add parking and the inevitable lunch from the vending machines to the cost of the visit and I easily spend $40+ per visit.

Hmmm.... $40 per visit to Salt Lake or $40 for a year subscription to two huge resource sites. I think I made the right choice for my $40 expenditure.

You can't beat the resources available at the Family History Library, but then you can't do research in your PJ's eating popcorn there either.

I shopped around and got super deals on my subscriptions. Even at the full subscription prices, you don't have to make many trips to a library to offset the cost of an annual subscription. We are all going to spend our research bucks on trips to cemeteries, interviewing relatives, purchasing birth, marriage and death certificates and 'cool' family history software, but we all need to consider purchasing research site subscriptions first.

You'll have to decide what gives you the most bang for your research buck. You know you'll eventually visit the FHL or another local library, (we all visit Disneyland at least once), but for much of your daily research, a subscription to Ancestry, Footnote and World Vital Records provides a ton of records at your finger tips at home any time any day you have a few minutes free.