You've made an important point. If the anonymous poster of the question had talked to more family they would likely have gotten farther back in the tree and had more success with Ancestry.com.
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I'm not sure what the problem is with a subscription service. You should not take any source at face value, and that is true if you get it from a service or if you go hunt up the original document yourself. Ancestry has lots of copies of real documents, and I'm glad I did not have to hunt all over to get them. They also have less reliable data, like personal trees and stuff from books, but that does not mean the information is useless, it is just a lead to be examined. Part of being a genealogist is figuring out what sources are reliable and which ones aren't, and working with what you can get. A service like Ancestry can save a lot of work.
The question covers two things. Ancestry is both a genealogy database service and a genealogy program in the cloud. It is actually a pretty good database service, and the best single repository out there, but you have to get back to WW II for veterans or 1930 for people in the US to start getting good info. If you have younger grandparents you might ask to find out about their parents and search for them. This will be an issue whatever source you use, as 1930 is the most recent Census released.
As a cloud-based genealogy program Ancestry is just average, and not something you would normally use unless you want the service behind it.
I wonder about my tech friends when I see one has an aol address, but what concerned me more was when a tech friend sent out a message using his wife's email address. Having an aol address doesn't mean that you have dialup anymore, but using your wife's account when there are untold places to get free addresses of your own is completely baffling.