Five Genealogy DOs and one DON’T on

By Allison Dolan

For folks who are newer or less-frequent users on, we’re sharing some genealogy DOs and a DON’T for searching for ancestors on the site. They come from Family Tree University’s Master Workshop next week, Aug. 15-18. is a genealogy staple, but because it’s so large and contains so much information, it’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for. As the site evolves, certain views and features change, too, which can add to your confusion. If you want to take advantage of the full complement of’s databases (which number more than 30,000 and range in size from 2 million-plus names all the way down to one name), there are some essential steps you should add to your to-do list:

  • Do search specific collections. It’s easy to head straight for the global search on the home page, but the other, smaller collections listed in the Card Catalog may turn up hidden gems.
  • Do create a game plan for your search. It’s tempting—and it can be useful—to just type in a name and hit Search, but you end up with a lot of results to wade through. Once you get past the relevant results on the first couple of pages, try a different approach: Set a specific goal for the type of information you want to find and the kind of record that would contain this information. Adjusting your search terms accordingly (and using filters when you view your matches) will bring more-accurate results.
  • Do familiarize yourself with everything has to offer—from trees and shaky leaf hints (yes, these can be very helpful when used with care)—to historical records, message boards (which are free for anyone to use), and AncestryDNA.
  • Do try for free during a free-access weekend (usually around holidays such as the Fourth of July or Veterans Day), at a FamilySearch Center, or at a library that offers Ancestry Library Edition. This way, you can get comfortable with the site before you subscribe (or decide not to).
  • Do revisit your searches every so often, as databases are frequently added and updated. New results may show up.

And we’ll add one don’t: