No genealogy website is better-known or more visited than Ancestry.com: More than 11 million people use Ancestry.com resources each month. Yet the number of descendants logging on to Ancestry.com is dwarfed by the billions of ancestors documented within the “world’s largest family history resource.”
Ancestry.com likely holds answers to at least some of your family tree questions. The key to finding those answers is learning how to sift through the massive amount of ancestor data on the subscription genealogy website. Whether you want to use your paid Ancestry.com subscription more effectively, make the most of a free trial subscription or eke out whatever information you can for free, the pointers in our free e-book 48 Ancestry.com Search Tips will help you.
What’s Inside Your Free E-book?
Download your copy of 48 Ancestry.com Search Tips for tricks, hints and hacks to unlock new family tree discoveries. This free e-book contains helpful guides to using the genealogy website, including an exclusive excerpt from the Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com by Nancy Hendrickson.
Jump-start your Ancestry.com access with this complete breakdown of the links and resources available from your home page. This Quick Guide, illustrated with screen shots, serves as your map for accessing Ancestry.com’s tools, records and searches. You’ll learn how to navigate the interface, customize elements, quickly access your family tree, survey recently viewed records, sort through your Shoebox and get started searching. Print out this guide and post near your computer for fast reference each time you visit Ancestry.com.
When you first delve into Ancestry.com, its enormity can be mind-boggling. The world’s largest genealogy website encompasses some 31,000 databases with more than 12 billion historical records. Ancestry.com subscribers can access all publicly available US census records, along with many Canadian, English and Welsh censuses. You’ll find military records including databases of soldiers from the Revolutionary War, Civil War and both world wars. Vital records cover many US states, Canada and the United Kingdom, and immigration records range from passenger lists for most American ports to border-crossing files. Plus, you’ll find more than 20,000 digitized family and local history books, along with city directories and yearbooks and scanned and searchable newspapers dating back to the 18th century. This guide provides 10 simple ways to use Ancestry.com to advance your family history, including some you don’t even need a paid subscription for. As you work your way through these ideas, we bet you’ll uncover even more ways Ancestry.com can help you branch out and document your family tree.
For many Ancestry.com users, searches result in too many hits to wade through. Sifting through pages of search results can feel much like that old adage: “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” How do you make your ancestors float to the top in Ancestry.com’s vast sea of genealogy data? One secret to success is shrinking that ocean into a smaller pool that’s easier to wade through: Limit your searches to the records most likely to mention your ancestors. You can do that using the Ancestry.com Card Catalog. This guide will show you how to filter your Ancestry.com searches in a way that’s impossible if you use only the global search.
BONUS Quick-Reference Guides
48 Ancestry.com Search Tips also features these helpful one-sheet references for using the genealogy website:
- Ancestry.com Vital Statistics: at-a-glance facts about the genealogy website’s content, collections and user community
- Public vs. Private Ancestry.com Family Trees: quick comparison of differences between Ancestry.com’s two options for your online family tree
- 5 Steps to Immigration Records: detailed example search showing how to locate an ancestor’s passenger list
Download your FREE Genealogy E-book on 48 Ancestry.com Search Tips: Free E-book on the Biggest Genealogy Website
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Hints for Ancestry.com’s “Slider” Search Feature
Ancestry.com regularly tweaks its search functions in an effort to help users find answers to their queries more quickly. One of the newest aspects of the Ancestry.com search is a “slider” feature that appears on search results pages. It looks like this:
The sliders let you broaden or narrow your search results without going back to the search screen — basically, allowing you to skip an extra step. You may find this option helpful in some searches, and you might prefer to refine via the search form in others. Here are some hints for using Ancestry.com search sliders:
1. Know what the sliders control.
You’ll see up to four types of sliders in your search results:
- First and last names of the person being searched
- Birth and death dates and places
- One “Any Event” fact (such as Lived in, Marriage or Military)
- One residence location
For example, the above picture illustrates how the sliders appeared in search results for an ancestor named Heinrich Seeger, born in Germany in 1852, and who was living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
If you don’t enter one of these terms, such as a birth, you won’t see a slider for that term.
2. Assess your initial search results.
Based on the number and type of hits you get, consider: Do I need to make my search more or less precise? If you have too many hits, you’ll want to narrow your search, and broaden if you get too few.
To broaden your search, drag the slider for a search parameter to the left. To narrow your search, move the slider to the right. In the rightmost position, the slider sets the associated search term to Exact.
As you drag the slider, a pop-up tells you how narrow that search term is. For example, if you drag the Birth date slider two spots to the right, a window will pop up to tell you the filter was set at +/-5 years (a range of 10 years) Go all the way right, and the pop-up will say “Exact.”
Simply click Update to apply the new filter.
3. Experiment with different slider settings.
Did applying a filter give you better or worse results? With the sliders, it’s easy to play around with making each parameter more or less precise to see what happens — that is, making adjustments on the fly. You might find that your results improve when you make a name more precise and a birth date broader, for example, or vice versa. Sliders let you experiment without going back to the search screen.
4. Further refine your search manually.
At some point, you might not get the results you’re looking for. In any search, you can click the Edit Search link to bring up the Advanced Search screen, where you can adjust your filters manually.
If the search sliders simply don’t appeal to you, ignore them and modify your search using the Advanced Search screen. (Hint: Press the R key as a shortcut to bring up the search window with your previous parameters already filled in.)
You’ll find many more hints like these and step-by-step guidance to make the most of this genealogy website in the free 48 Ancestry.com Search Tips e-book. Claim your copy today!
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