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Learn how to make the most of the Ancestry.com records database with these three genealogy search tips.
1. Formulate a search strategy: Ancestry.com has a powerful search engine for its database of genealogy records, but you have to take a strategic approach. Typing your ancestor’s name, birthday and location is a start, but it won’t magically turn up records relevant to your family history. While you can cast a wide net by keeping the research parameters broad, or steadily narrow them down to exact spellings and dates, the system is imperfect and may not pull up records that have misspellings or transcription errors.
Try searching a few different spellings of your ancestor’s names, try both married and maiden names, and use wild cards such as asterisks and question marks in your searches.
2. Search the catalog: The best reason to search the Ancestry.com catalog is to get a feel for the types of collections available, see records have been added or updated recently, and to see the sheer scope of what’s already in the online database. Within the catalog, there are filters and searches to narrow your results, by collection type, region, dates, and language, or you can do a keyword search.
Another reason: knowing the types of records can inspire new leads and inspiration for when your genealogy research seem to be stagnating. You may find records that don’t come up using the search engine, or end up buried several pages back in the results.
3. Learn what the records tell you: It’s not enough to learn about the collections; you’ll want to learn what the records within each collection can tell you about your ancestors. For example, the largest group of US records in the Wills, Probates, Land, Tax and Criminal Records collections are the court, governmental and criminal records. Court records can include everything from wills and probate records to criminal lists and divorce records. Records vary from state to state, so reading the description of the records will tell you what details you can expect to find within those records – and what you can’t.
Take the California Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950 collection. Within those records, you can find not only names and crimes, but conviction dates, prison numbers, discharge dates, physical descriptions, and several other details that can prove useful to your research.
These three steps will help you start scratching the surface to get deeper into the collections on Ancestry.com. Learn how to maximize your Ancestry.com experience with our weeklong workshop.