Genealogy website Ancestry.com encompasses some 31,000 databases with more than 9 billion historical records. Where’s an overwhelmed genealogist to start? Here are six suggestions (half of them free) for family tree tasks you can do on the site.
1. Explore what’s available for free.
The site also offers a surprising number of free data collections. To find them, go to the Card Catalog, type free in the keyword blank and click Search. And remember that many libraries and FamilySearch Centers offer free access to almost all the site’s databases through Ancestry Library Edition.
2. Create or upload your family tree.
It’s free to put your own family tree files on Ancestry.com, a way to share information and organize your research. A subscription will allow you to view the site’s suggested matches in records, as well as see other members’ trees that overlap with yours.
3. Follow hints.
Once you’ve created a tree, the site will automatically search for record matches. A leaf icon in the corner of an ancestor’s box indicates there’s a “hint” for that person. Click the leaf to see the hint (you’ll need a subscription to see most hints). If you determine the suggested match really is your relative, you can attach the record to your tree.
4. Scour message boards.
The site’s vast array of message boards (identical to those on RootsWeb) is free to access. Check boards for all the surnames you’re researching, as well as places where your family has lived.
You’ll get the best results by clicking Show Advanced in the upper right portion of the home page and using the advanced search options. Sometimes you get better results by searching a category of records (such as immigration or census records) or a single database. To search a category, select it from the drop-down list under Search. Use the card catalog to find individual databases.
6. Search other trees.
See who else is researching your ancestors (and what they’re saying about them) by searching the site’s Member Trees. As with any online tree site, remember that the information isn’t independently verified and may contain errors. Examine any attached records and sources cited, contact the submitter for more details, and do your own research to verify the names, dates and relationships.
Ancestry.com Cheat Sheet
Keep this cheat sheet nearby whenever you’re searching Ancestry.com. It’ll keep you from getting lost in this huge genealogy website and help you maximize your subscription dollars.