(Disclaimer: this is not an ad nor endorsement for Ancestry.com. However, if they should decide to slip me a few bucks, I probably would not turn it down.)
Since I have had access to the internet I have been trying to find info. on my grandfather and his ancestors since I knew next to nothing other than we have the same name. My father was 43 yrs. older than me and by the time I wanted to explore our family, he was gone. I soon found that free information was a rare thing whereas most searches led me to commercial sites. After months of resistance I finally bit the bullet and signed up with Ancestry. com.
I did find a lot of details on several generations on my father's side including the names and burial sites of my great & great-great grandfathers. I also found that my great-great grandfather, Stephen Carlton, was a CSA soldier who was sent to the infamous Andersonville prison as a guard and died within a few months of measles and jaundice. He left a wife and several children behind. I think it is very ironic in that he did not enter the army until 1864 and was probably never in a shooting battle.
So, I guess the few dollars we have to spend on these sites is a good investment after all.