Tutorial: How to Search AmericanAncestors.org
Learn how to use the New England Historic Genealogical Society's new website.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) was founded in 1845, but America's oldest and largest genealogical society is hardly stuck in the past. The latest evidence of NEHGS' 21st-century savvy is American Ancestors, a complete makeover of the society's website. Members ($75 a year) can search nearly 3,000 online databases, focused on -- but not exclusive to -- New England. You also can register as a guest user to try a free sample of databases, including Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850, New York Wills 1626-1836 and back issues of the society's New England Ancestors magazine (also recently retitled American Ancestors).

The site offers multiple ways to get started searching. You can find specific databases using the Database Catalog, then click on a database name to search just that resource. This approach also reveals search quirks of individual databases that you might not guess in a general search. For example, some databases have only a keyword field, where you can use quotation marks around names to narrow results ("John Smith") or a semicolon to search for names on the same page ("John Smith"; "Mary Jones"). Others are searchable only on last names.

You also can perform a global keyword search right from the home page. Or click the Advanced Search link above the search box to get a new form that lets you enter first and last name (with a surname Soundex option), a year range, country, province or state and city/town, as well as keywords. You can select a whole category of databases, such as military records, or an individual database or record type. Note that searching by record type, among 33 options such as birth records or deeds, hunts across all databases unless you specify otherwise.