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

Front Page News! New York Tribune Archive on Flickr

Women of President Taft’s New Official Family at Washington, New York Tribune, March 7, 1909. Cover, illustrated supplement. Library of Congress image, posted at Flickr. Click to visit webpage.

The Library of Congress has a Flickr album that’s front page news–literally! It’s a New York Tribune archive with newspaper covers dating back more than a century.

“This set of cover pages from the New York Tribune illustrated supplements begins with the year 1909,” explains the album. “The pages are derived from the Chronicling America newspaper resource at the Library of Congress. To read the small text letters, just click the persistent URL to reach a zoomable version of the page.”

“Daily newspapers began to feature pictorial sections in the late 1800s when they competed for readers by offering more investigative exposés, illustrations, and cartoons. In the 1890s, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer tapped into new photoengraving techniques to publish halftone photographs, and other newspapers soon adopted the practice. The heavily illustrated supplement sections became the most widely read sections of the papers and provided a great opportunity to attract new customers. The daily life, art, entertainment, politics, and world events displayed in their pages captured the imagination of a curious public.”

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

Available at http://genealogygems.com

We don’t often find our ancestors splashed across front-page news. But we can read over their shoulders, as it were, to see what was going on in their world and what others around them thought about these events. Newspaper articles and ads reveal fashions and fads, prices on everyday items, attitudes about social issues and more. Read all about using old newspapers for family history in How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke.

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