4 Tips for Getting the Most out of Ancestry.com

When you invest your money in a genealogy website, you want to ensure that you’re getting the most value possible. Here we share tips for getting the most out of Ancestry.com.

how to get the most out of Ancestry

I noticed recently that Ancestry subscribers’ attitudes run the same gamut as attitudes of big-box retailer shoppers. Some people {heart} them unabashedly: they’ll spend hours strolling the aisles and share every great find on social media. Others dash in and grab just the items they can’t live without.

Whatever your stance toward the site, Ancestry is still the big-box retailer most genealogists need at some point. Take your cue from top big-box store shopping strategies for getting the most out of Ancestry.com:

1. Grab first what you can’t get anywhere else.

Learn what exactly you want from Ancestry versus other sites, the same way you’ve learned whose house brand of spaghetti sauce you like and who carries your favorite protein bars.

A few examples for U.S. researchers:

  • Ancestry has the most U.S. census non-population schedules online. (They’ve padded HeritageQuest Online with several of these but they didn’t give them everything.)
  • Ancestry’s collection of digitized U.S. city directories (over a BILLION) is second to none.
Norman Rockwell in the Berkshire City Directory

Beloved illustrator Norman Rockwell in a city directory. (Massachusetts Berkshire 1959 Berkshire, Massachusetts, City Directory, 1959)

2. Stock Up on Items that are Easy to Reach

While your subscription is active, stock up on easy to find items.

One way to do that is with Ancestry’s hints. Ancestry’s hinting system taps the most popular Ancestry collections (about the top 10% of the most popular collections). Watch your Ancestry tree for hints and check them all. When you first log in, note whether anyone new has taken an interest in your tree (if it’s public)–and see if they are relatives worth contacting.

 

3. Watch for New Products! 

We’ve written about Ancestry updates that have stopped us in our tracks, like the recent U.S. Wills and Probates and Social Security Applications and Claims databases and the AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool.

We also update you regularly on new records collections that go online throughout the genealogy world: Ancestry databases are often among them.

You can also sort by “Date Added” in Ancestry.com Card Catalog. This is a great way to see the collections most recently added. Look for the green “NEW” tag. 

New Records at Ancestry.com sorted by Date Added

4. Avoid the Parts of the Experience that are Frustrating

Those who hate battling lines avoid big stores on peak shopping days and during the after-work rush. I avoid returning things at certain stores because their customer service desk is not worth the hassle.

Similarly, if the way Ancestry handles photos, sources, or Life Story timelines drives you nuts, ignore as much as you can except for your direct ancestors and closest relatives.

Perhaps you simply download each record you find and work with photos and timelines on your family history software (Lisa recommends RootsMagic–click here to read why). Or use Evernote’s newly updated web clipper (you can even make notes on top of your screen captures!) and store all your sources there.

Resources

Want to learn more about how to get the most out of Ancestry? Here are two additional resources:

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 125: Using Ancestry Library Edition and other tips from a public library genealogist (available to Genealogy Gems Premium members only)

3 Things This Gems Follower Loves About the New Ancestry Site

Family History Episode 11 – Census Wrap-Up: Decade-by-Decade to 1790

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

Originally published 2009

Republished December 17, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 11: Census Wrap-Up: Decade-by-Decade to 1790

In our first segment we welcome back genealogy researcher, author and lecturer Lisa Alzo. The author of Three Slovak Women, Baba’s Kitchen and Finding Your Slovak Ancestors talks about discovering family traits and putting them in perspective.

Then in our second segment we wrap up our three-episode coverage of U.S. census records with a decade-by-decade overview of censuses from 1880 back to 1790. We talk about special schedules taken during one or more censuses: mortality, slave, social statistics and supplemental, agricultural, manufacturing and the DDD (Defective, Dependent and Delinquent) schedules.

 Updates and Links

For a list of online resources for U.S. federal census data, check out the show notes for Episode 9 at http://tinyurl.com/ShowNotesEp9. More links you’ll want for this episode include:

Family History Episode 27 – Find Your Family History in Newspapers, Part 1

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished April 15, 2014

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh27.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 27: Find Your Family History in Newspapers, Part 1

Newspapers offer such a unique perspective on history in general, and our ancestors specifically.  You can find everything from birth, marriage and death announcements, to school and club event, crime stories, land transactions, sports activities and just about any other activity that your ancestors were part of that made the news.  So let’s get started and “Read all about it!”

In this episode, you’ll hear from Jane Knowles Lindsey at the California Genealogical Society. She is currently the president there and often teaches on this subject. Our conversation on newspaper research continues in next week’s episode!

Here are some take-away thoughts from this episode, along with some updates:

  1. Determine which newspapers existed for your ancestor’s hometown and time period. Look for ethnic and neighborhood papers, too. The most comprehensive U.S. newspaper directory is at Chronicling America. This site does let you search by language, ethnic background, labor group and more.
  2. Look for these newspapers at digitized newspaper sites, starting with the free ones. In the U.S., this means starting with Chronicling America and state digital newspaper project sites (search on the state name and “digital newspapers”). These sites came out of the government digitizing program mentioned in the show.
  3. Digitized newspaper searching is done with OCR (optical character recognition), which doesn’t pick up everything in tough-to-read historical print. Try searching with different spellings, a first name in a particular timeframe, or other people or terms that may have been mentioned.
  4. Ancestry has put lots of newspapers on their website—but not everything, and for only limited time periods. Notice what time period is covered for a specific newspaper. Ancestry has since launched Newspapers.com.
  5. If you’ve found the name of a newspaper that probably covered your family, but you haven’t found it digitized, search the name of the newspaper in your favorite web browsers. Most newspapers are on microfilm somewhere and web directories will likely list holdings. Also, some newspapers have also been indexed on USGenWeb or other sites.
  6. State archives and libraries are often a great resource for newspapers. Local libraries may have unique clippings files or scrapbooks.
  7. Several websites and databases now focus on obituary content. You can target a search for these.
How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

Available at the Genealogy Gems Store

I loved this topic so much I ended up writing a book on it! How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers walks you through the process of finding and researching old newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions, worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources, websites worth paying for, location-based newspaper websites and a case study that shows you how it’s done.

6 Top Newspaper Research Resources

Some of the digital newspaper collections mentioned in the episode are available by library subscription, like The Early American Newspapers collection the and 19th century Newspaper Collection from The Gale Group. Check with your local library.

GenealogyBank

Godfrey Memorial Library

New England Historic Genealogical Society  (by subscription only)

Newspapers.com

Ancestry.com

British Newspaper Archive

Small Town Papers

USGenWeb

German Genealogy in the States in New and Updated Genealogical Records

Are you researching German genealogy in the States? If so, you will love what we’ve dug up. German death lists are just the start. Also in this week’s new and updated genealogical record collections, Irish Quaker records, UK pensioners records, and a new product support announcement for Family Tree Maker software.

German genealogy in the US

By Photos by Donna Hyatt (United States Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

German Genealogy in the States – Kentucky

You may not realize there was a large German population in Louisville, Kentucky, here in the United States. Our Book Club Guru, Sunny Morton, brought a new found website to our attention called German Genealogy Group. Among many other things, the German Genealogy Group has recently added newspaper death listings from the Louisville Anzeiger, a German newspaper from the Louisville, Kentucky area, to their website. The years covered are 1849-1865. Though only an index, the information provided will help you locate the newspaper itself.

Ireland – Quaker Birth Records

With over 302,000 new birth records from all over Ireland, you may finally find your Irish Quaker ancestors birth information. Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) births collection may help you uncover generations of your family tree. The amount of information listed on a birth record in this collection will vary, but most will include the child’s name, birth date, birth place, parish, and address. Most will also contain the parents’ names, addresses, and occupations.

Ireland – Quaker Marriage Records

Also at Findmypast, a collection titled Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) marriages has been updated. In fact, there have been over 20,000 new additions. These records will likely include data such as an occupation, parents’ names, and who attended the ceremony. As well as the names, address and marriage details of the newlyweds, parents’ names, an attendee list including names and dates of birth, and even details of the meeting may be found.

Ireland – Quaker Death & Congregational Records

By Holmes after Honthorst in 1654 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. George Fox, Quaker founder.

The Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) deaths record collection at Findmypast has over 24,000 new additions. This database contains death records that date back to the 1600s. Because of the large time span, information will vary. In most cases, you will find the deceased’s name, when they died, when they were buried, where they were buried, and the names of those they left behind. Some records will also reveal parents’ and/or spouse’s names. Additional notations may be also included in images of the original documents, such as “a young child” or “widow” or “an aged woman.”

Findmypast collection, Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) congregational records offers a wealth of knowledge about the role your ancestor might have played within the Quaker community. An additional 250,000 Irish congregational records have been added. Details of meetings and activities are just a sampling of what you will find. These records include a transcript as well as an image of the original handwritten record.

Ireland – Quaker School Records

Over 9,000 new records have been added to the Findmypast collection titled Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) school records. This collection covers six different schools and dates back as far as the 1700s. The records are compiled from various Quaker school registers and lists. Each entry includes both a transcript and an image of the original document. Details contained in each record will vary, but most will list the pupils name, age at last birthday, school and department, admission year, leaving year, parents’ names, and their occupations.

British Newspaper Archive Announcement

The British Newspaper Archive has recently announced a major new milestone in their project to digitize up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s vast collection of historic British & Irish newspapers. Following the addition of a newspaper for the country’s smallest county, Rutland, the Archive now covers at least one title from each of the country’s 48 counties and is now available to search and explore.

As part of this push to improve the British Newspaper Archive experience, a new “In Pictures” feature has also been added.

The British Newspaper Archive now contains over 18.7 million pages from 747 titles from England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland and spans nearly 300 (1709-2003) years.

United Kingdom – Chelsea – Pensioner Service Records

Fold3.com has a collection titled UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records. This collection includes those who would have been eligible to receive a pension from the British Army between 1760-1920.

Fold3 Image - Example of attestation

The collection contains records for British soldiers (not officers) who received a pension from the British Army. They typically do not include records for soldiers who died in service or who were discharged early and did not receive a pension.

Some records contain more information than others, and pension documents after 1883 typically have more details regarding the soldier such as, information about next of kin, details of marriage, and children. Common details may include age, birthplace, service details (including any decorations,) physical description, previous occupation on enlistment, and the reason for discharge to pension. Documents that are most common include:

On Fold3, the records in this collection are organized as such:

  • For the period 1760-1872, the documents are arranged alphabetically by name within regiment, including militia to 1854.
  • From 1873-1882, the documents are arranged alphabetically under cavalry, artillery, infantry and corps.
  • From 1883-1913, two alphabetical sequences for the entire army for discharge papers are arranged by range of surname and date 1883-1900 and 1900-1913.

United Kingdom – Leeds – Cemetery Burial Registers

Not everything is on the Genealogy Giants (meaning Ancestry, Findmypast, FamilySearch, or MyHeritage.) The Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index is free and available to search online. This database of transcriptions covers all entries in the burial registers of the Leeds General Cemetery and covers the years of 1835-1992. There are 97,146 entries in the index. Digital images of the registers are available to view alongside the transcribed data.

Search by surname of deceased or surname of the parents. Information found on the record will vary, but you are likely to find the name of the deceased, date of death, age at death, parents names, occupation, and cause of death. This is a great resource if you have been having trouble finding a civil death record.

United Kingdom – Sheffield

If you had ancestors who lived in the Sheffield area, you will find this next website a great help to your research. The Sheffield Indexers website provides full, online, searchable indexes to numerous collections, for free. These collections include, but are not limited to:

  • 1841 Sheffield Census
  • Cemetery records
  • Burial records
  • School records
  • Directories

Be sure to check out their extensive indexes!

Family Tree Maker Announcement

Last year, Ancestry.com announced the purchase of Family Tree Maker desktop software by Software MacKiev. Their goal has always been to maintain the capability to share your family tree data between files on your computer and your personal Ancestry online trees. They’ve been working on a new Ancestry gateway with Software MacKiev to use in their Family Tree Maker 2017, which will be available soon. 

What you should know (hat tip: Ancestry.com):

  • TreeSync will be replaced by Software MacKiev’s FamilySync™.  In the new FamilySync, Ancestry’s search, merge, and Ancestry hints will all work as they do now for users who sync with their Ancestry trees.
  • FamilySync will be available only in Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker 2017 edition, which will be released on March 31, 2017.
  • The upgrade is free for all users who purchased a copy of a MacKiev Family Tree Maker edition since March 1, 2016. Those with previous Ancestry editions, or who got a free copy of Family Tree Maker 2014.1 or Mac 3.1, are eligible for discounted upgrades. The pre-order upgrade is $29.95 for those who sign up for Software MacKiev’s mailing list before March 29 and the upgrade will continue to be a discounted price ($39.95) for a limited time after March 29.
  • Between Wednesday, March 29 and Friday, March 31, there will be a short period where syncing functionality may be interrupted as Software MacKiev rolls out their new syncing technology.  
  • As of March 29, 2017, Ancestry will no longer be supporting TreeSync, given the introduction of Software MacKiev’s FamilySync™. Software MacKiev will continue to handle all related customer questions for Family Tree Maker. Visit Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker Support Center at support.familytreemaker.com if you have questions.

More on German Genealogy in the States

German Newspapers in America is a virtual conference OnDemand video class by Jim Beidler. Stateside ethnic newspapers are a revealing resource for those searching their German ancestors. In this video you’ll learn:

  • How newspapers are helpful for your genealogy
  • The special role of German-language newspapers
  • Special concerns such as fonts
  • How to access German language newspapers

 

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