Tips for Using Ancestry: Library Edition

Liz Pidgeon

28 December, 2023

Ancestry® is the world's leading resource for online family history and genealogy research.

Whether you are a beginner or long-time researcher, Ancestry has records from all over the world which can connect you to your ancestors. You can access this and other Family History and Research resources at any time on any PC or library Wi-Fi connected laptop or device while you are in the library. Try these tips to make the most of your experience using Ancestry Library Edition.

1. Come to the library with a clear research goal. It is easy to get distracted or go down a rabbit hole, so try and use your time at the library wisely.

2. Bring your laptop or device with your family history information or software program so you can easily check on name spellings, dates, and places.

3. If you are just starting, download an ancestral chart and family group sheet from the Charts and Forms tab and record all the information you know and share with others who might.

4. Access Ancestry from the website and choose Digital Library – Family History & Research and follow the links.

5. While you can start searching straight away from the home page, another option is to choose the “Search” tab – then “Card Catalog”. A list of record collection will appear. You can immediately filter by location to view what collections are available. You can filter further by various dates and categories including “Birth, Marriage & Death”.

6. In the Card Catalog you can sort collections by “Date added”, “Date Updated” or “Record Count”. New Collections or Updated Collections are highlighted.

7. Looking for Channel Islands, England, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales? They are listed under Location - Europe - United Kingdom.

8. Become familiar with the collection you want to search in. Scroll past the search facility to read the About section which includes information about the source of the collection, its context, and dates and places covered.

9. Related data collections are indicated on the right-hand side of search results, so consider these.

10. If you are a new researcher look for yourself or your parents in the Australia. Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 collection.

11. Search broadly. There is no need to fill every search box to start with. Start with a name and birth or death date. From the results page, you can review the accuracy of your search and then “edit search” as required.

12. Be flexible with your name forms and spellings (and dates where possible). People can be known by their middle names, nick names, birth names and married names in the case of women. Records sometimes have initials, and some records may have been incorrectly interpreted by the indexer.

13. Be mindful that some record collections will be in a language you may not be familiar with.

14. Use Wildcard symbols to cover spelling variations. Use “?” to get spelling variations for one letter in the name. For example, search "Lind?n" to get Linden, Lindon, Lindyn, etc. Use “*” to get spelling variations for more than one letter after the 3rd letter in the name. With this technique, "Lind*" could become Lindon, Lindenfield, Linde, etc.

15. Your ancestor may have travelled more wider than you think so if you cannot find them, expand your research to other places.

16. Verify records found in Public Member Trees. Family trees are built by subscribers to the website and are not verified. Use trees as clues to your research.

17. Search the message boards of over 25 million posts including surnames and explore the Learning Center for Research aids.

18. Be persistent in your research. New collections are released regularly so plan to re-visit on a regular basis. YPRL also provides access to Find My Past, British Newspapers Archive and Gale Primary Sources. These and other free resources can further your research.

19. Search the library’s collection for items that may explain or expand or indeed inspire your research knowledge.

20.  Stuck?  Book a Family History Help tutor for one-on-one assistance.

Good  luck with your research.  Feel free to let us know how Ancestry has helped you with your family history research.

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