I didnt really believe in using the pay sites, such as ancestry.com
until I tried it a few months ago. Almost immediately I found useful information including a photo of a relative in the US passport archives.
Also I like the feature of the family treemaker software that will search the net for possible hints on people in your tree.
Finally, I also found two distant relatives who were also researching the same ancestors and we were able to share information. One of them sent us letters from the late 19th century from her ggg grandmother to her son, as well as from one son to another. It really did offer a glimpse into a life (full of some hardships).
one really good site that I found, was the http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/