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

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. This week: Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, the U.S. and Australia.

AUSTRALIA LAND. Land grant deeds for Tasmania, Australia (1804-1935) are now searchable on Ancestry.com. The format and content varies: sometimes you’ll find the name, location, description, date, payment amount and witnesses. These records come from the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

AUSTRALIA NEWSPAPERS. Over 700 newspapers digitized by the National Library of Australia (NLA) are now searchable at MyHeritage.com. This collection is also searchable at Trove, the digital newspaper library for the NLA. The benefit to having this collection at MyHeritage.com is that the site uses its Record Match technology to automatically search the newspapers for individuals on your tree, matching on several parameters to improve search results.

AUSTRALIA WWII. A new index to Australia World War II military service records (1939-1945) is available on Ancestry.com. It covers the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. Records “commonly contain biographical information supplied on enlistment, as well as important details on a person’s service.” See info on ordering the original records from the National Archives of Australia in the Ancestry.com collection description.

GREAT BRITAIN – DIRECTORIES, ALMANACS. Ninety new volumes of directories and atlases (late 1800s and early 1900s) have been added to Findmypast’s online collection, “Great Britain, Directories & Almanacs.” According to the collection description, “Inside you will find the names of prominent people, tradesmen, people who held office, business owners and local civil servants. Discover your ancestor’s address and occupation or explore the history of your home address. The almanacs and directories stretch across three centuries.”

IRELAND – HISTORICAL. A new historical collection relating to the Easter Island uprising is available on Findmypast.com. This collection is free to search until April 27, 2016. According to a company rep, the database draws on “75,000 records that tell the story of one of the most difficult periods in 20th century Irish history. These records, once classified, include eye witness accounts, interviews with civilians and reports of the trials of the leaders of the Rising and their sentences of execution. The release also includes 25,000 search and raid records, giving detailed insights into how the Irish people of the period lived under martial law.”

SWEDEN EMIGRATION. Ancestry.com has posted a new database with over 1.3 million entries of emigrants listed in church books, 1783-1991. That represents about 75% of emigrants, of people leaving the country, during that time span. The records and index are in Swedish. This database was previously available in CD format under the name “Emibas.”

U.S. WILLS. Ancestry.com’s enormous collection of U.S. wills and probate records has been updated for the following states: Ohio, Alabama, New York, New Jersey, Arkansas and Georgia.

new genealogy recordsThank you for sharing this list with every genealogist you know who might be interested! We love sharing good news about new genealogy records online.

Episode 70 – Getting Started Using Evernote for Genealogy

Doing genealogy research generates a wide variety of research notes: typed and handwritten, audio, photos, video, and screenshots of information on websites. If you want one tool to pull together your current research projects, Evernote might just be the answer. In this video and article you’ll learn the role that Evernote can play, what it is and how to set it up, and your options for using for free or as a subscriber. 

evernote for genealogy tutorial

Evernote for Genealogy Video Tutorial

In this video and article Lisa Louise Cooke will discuss:

  • What Evernote is and the role Evernote can play in your genealogy research
  • How to get started with Evernote
  • Using it for free or as a subscriber
  • Best Practices for tagging, notebooks and more. 

Click here to get started with Evernote.

Use it for free or upgrade to get all the bells and whistles like OCR and use on all your devices. (We will be compensated if you use our affiliate link. Thank you for supporting this free show.)

 

Show Notes 

In my recent videos on how to avoid research rabbit holes that keep you from your genealogy goals, I mentioned that I use Evernote to capture BSOs or bright shiny objects that are interesting but not what I’m working on at the moment. So in this video I’m going to explain what Evernote is, and how to get started using it.

Give Evernote a try with our link

https://evernote.grsm.io/genealogy
(Using our link helps support the free show. Thanks!)

What is Evernote?

Evernote puts all your notes in one place and offers an incredibly fast and easy way to retrieve them.

Evernote is a:

  • website
  • software program for your computer (Win & Mac) that you download for free from their website
  • mobile app (iOS & Android): search for Evernote in your device’s app store
  • a web clipper for your computer’s web browser

Benefits

Genealogy can get a big messy. Information can be gathered from countless sources and in a variety of forms. You could funnel things through a cloud service like Dropbox. However, because Evernote is a note taking app, it offers unique and super helpful features:

  • Create all types of notes
  • From all of your devices. Thanks to Cloud synchronization you can take a note on any device and always have access to the most current version. (Free mobile app)
  • Web clipping – It allows you to clip items from the Internet (rather than saving entire bulky web pages),
  • OCR technology makes notes (such as newspaper articles) keyword searchable (subscription)
  • Data like URLs and the date you created the note is automatically included
  • No total storage limit, just monthly upload
  • You can use it for free, and upgrade for all the bells and whistles.

Getting Started with Evernote

  • Sign in for a free account at https://evernote.grsm.io/genealogy
  • Install the software on your desktop computer (Windows & Mac)
  • Download the web clipper to your browser (app store or Google it)
  • Download the free Evernote app to your mobile devices from the iTunes App Store or Google Play

Features & Costs

(Subject to change. Visit evernote.com/compare-plans)

evernote pricing plans comparison 2021

Evernote pricing plans comparison Sept. 2021 – See the website for the most current offer.

 

Software Home Layout

Evernote’s Home view gives you a summary of what you’ve got going on in Evernote. If Home is new to you and you don’t see it, simply head to the left Navigation menu and click Home.

Home gives you a place to sort of summarize what you’ve got going on in Evernote. It also allows you to add more personalization.

A fun way to personalize Evernote is by adding a background image. Click Customize in the upper right corner, and then click the Change Background button. Here you can add a preset image or add your own.

By default, Home comes with widgets such as:

  • Notes (highlighting your most recent notes, and Suggested notes based on your activity)
  • A Scratch Pad
  • Recently Captured items by type (web clips, images, documents, audio and emails)

While you’re in Customize mode, you’ll see additional available widgets like:

  • Calendar (allowing you to sync your Google calendar with Evernote)
  • Filtered Notes
  • Notebooks
  • Pinned Notes
  • An additional Scratch Pad
  • Shortcuts
  • Tags
  • Tasks

We’ll explore some of these further in a moment. But first, let’s create our first note!

All Notes View – Snippet View:

  • Left column = your files and organization
  • Center column = search for notes
  • Right column = the note you are currently working on

Change the layout by clicking the View Options icon (in Snippet View it appears at the top of the search column). This will give you a variety of layout options.

Change what appears or is hidden from view, and whether the view is dark or light by clicking View in the menu.

Notetaking 101

Create a note by clicking the New Note (+) button at the top of the screen.

Creating a new note is as simple as starting to type. Evernote saves your work instantly and without any extra effort on your part. Notes are saved in “the Cloud” on Evernote’s servers. This means all of your notes are automatically backed up. In addition, all of your notes will sync across all of your various computing devices. And Evernote facilitates sharing notes with others for research collaboration.

Click the Info icon at the top of the note to see the meta-data for that note. You can add and edit this information.

Types of Notes:

  • Typed
  • Sketched
  • Photos
  • Attachments
  • Video
  • Audio

Note Info has changed and can now be found by pressing Control + Shift + I on your keyboard, or clicking the More Actions (3 dots icon) in the upper right corner of the note and selecting Note Info.

Tagging is the Key to Organization

Add a tag based on important keywords associated with the note.

Examples of tags for genealogy:

  • Surnames (Cooke, Moore)
  • Record types (birth, census, land)
  • Locations (Indiana, Germany)
  • Time frames (1900-1909, 1910-1919)
  • Tasks (pending, add to database, follow up, etc.)

To tag a note, click Add Tag at the top of the note and select a tag from your list or add a new tag. Tags will appear in the left column. Click any tag in the left column to retrieve all notes with that tag.

Evernote Tasks

In June of 2021 Evernote added a Tasks feature. It operates just  a little differently than how I’ve been using tasks. Evernote tasks are:

  • To Do Items
  • Note Specific (versus a tag which can retrieve all notes with that task)
  • Often Deadline Driven
  • Assignable to Others
  • Searchable

Where is the Trash?

You will find Evernote’s Trash bin at the bottom of the Navigation bar on the left.

Notebooks

Notebooks take organization a step further. I create notebooks sparingly. I use them to divide Evernote up into workspaces: Genealogy, Personal, Business, etc. I also use them for long-term and collaborative research projects that I may want to share with others.  You can drag and drop notebooks on top of each other to create Stacks, although Evernote only allows one level of stacking.

How to create a new notebook:

  1. In the menu select: File > New Notebook
  2. Name the new notebook in the pop-up window
  3. Select notebook type – usually you would set it up to synchronize, but you do have the option to have the notebook reside only on the computer it was created by selecting Local

The Cloud and Synchronization

Notes are saved on your computer and in the Cloud on Evernote’s servers. This means all of your notes are automatically backed up, and also accessible from your account on their website. Your notes will sync across all of your computing devices that have Evernote installed. There’s no need to manually sync with the new version. It happens automatically whenever you’re connected to the internet.

Web Clipping

As you visit webpages, you can clip just the portion of the page that you want to remember and keep rather than printing the page or bookmarking it. You can type the source citation directly into the note. Clippings appear as images in the note.

How to clip a screenshot using the computer software:

  1. Right-click on the Evernote icon in your computer task bar.
  2. Select Clip Screenshot.
  3. Use the cross-hairs to draw a box around the desired content.
  4. Release you mouse and you will see a quick flash on the screen indicating the content has been saved as a note in Evernote.
  5. In Evernote click on the note to type additional information if desired.

How to download the free Evernote web clipper for your web browser:

  1. Go to: evernote.com/webclipper
  2. The download page will detect the browser that you are using and offer the correct web clipper. Click the download button.
  3. The Evernote web clipper will install in your web browser (look in the upper right corner of your browser for the elephant icon.)
  4. Sign into your Evernote account in the clipper.

Using the Browser Web Clipper:

When you visit a web page and find something that you want to clip, click the Evernote Web Clipper (elephant) icon in your web browser. The browser web clipper can save:

  • a full page (even the parts out of view)
  • an article
  • a simplified article (removing unwanted graphics and text not pertaining to the article)
  • a screenshot (where you precision clip with cross hairs)
  • a bookmark

As you clip you can select which notebook to file the note in and add any desired tags. It will also include the URL in the note header.

Search and Retrieval

Type a keyword into the search box and Evernote will locate and display notes that contain the keyword in the center column. This includes typed text from a website clipping or image, as in the example above. With a subscription, OCR technology makes it possible for you to search for words in Evernote to retrieve notes that include those words, both on the clipped image and in printed handwritten text.

Resources

Genealogy Gems Premium Videos including:

  • Organize Your Research with Evernote
  • Making Evernote Effortless
  • Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan
  • Evernote: 10 Projects You Can Do
  • Collaborative Genealogy with Evernote

Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF
Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHow great to see these new genealogy records online! Those with German roots will especially want to check out new resources on Ancestry.com.

ENGLAND CHURCH. Findmypast.com has updated its collections of church baptismal and marriage records for Dorset, England. Those collections now together number about a million records.

GERMANY – MILITARY. Over 400,000 records are part of a new Ancestry.com collection of Bremen military lists (1712-1914). According to the collection description, “The core of the collection are the muster rolls created by recruiting commmissions including actual musters from 1894-1917 for men born between 1874 and 1899. These records are arranged in chronological-alphabetical order and contain detailed information about male military personnel in the city.”

GERMANY – CHURCH. An enormous collection of Lutheran baptisms, marriages and burials is now searchable on Ancestry.com. You’ll find over 24 million records from “parish registers from numerous Protestant communities in Baden, today part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg…[and]some communities to the north, such as Wiesbaden in adjacent Hessen.” Another new Ancestry.com collection contains over a million birth, marriage and death records taken from weekly church reports in Dresden, Germany for 1685-1879.

GERMANY – IMMIGRATION TO U.S. A new database on Ancestry.com  catalogs German immigrants to the U.S., 1712-1933.

IRELAND NEWSPAPERS. Over half a million new Irish newspaper articles have been added at Findmypast.com. According to a company press release, “Significant updates have also been made to seven existing titles” and a new title from Northern Ireland for 1891-1896 is a “must-read for anyone with ancestors from that part of the country.”

U.S. – NEVADA DEATHS. Just over a quarter million records are part of a new Ancestry.com collection of Nevada death records for 1911-1965. The indexed images are state death certificates.

custom_classifieds_12091Got German roots? Click here to read an article on German newspapers in the U.S.

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