(Note from Vicki – Remember that we have Ancestry.com Library Edition that you can use in the Beloit Public Library. I sure wish that I had time to take all of these classes that I post about 🙂
January 25, 2016 Article from Vanessa Wieland, Online Editor
Family Tree University
Genealogy can feel a lot like a trip to Wonderland. It starts out fairly straightforward; create a tree and do some searches. You just log in to Ancestry to check for one tiny little record or try to verify a new piece of information Uncle Lewis mentioned in passing. Suddenly, you see those little leaves shaking at you, and it’s too tempting: you have to click on it. Before you know it, your computer clock says it’s 2 am, and you have a bunch of new leads, but no concrete information. Worse, none of it has anything to do with Uncle Lewis’s tidbit. Yikes!
Because Ancestry.com is so packed with useful family history data, it’s easy to feel a little bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole. All the new information is disorienting and none of it fits together exactly as you expect it to, but oh, the glimpse into the possibilities is so intriguing!
So how do you get to your family tree’s roots without chasing your tail? Become an Ancestry.com power user, and you’ll discover the best ways to navigate around the site without getting lost.
Our four-week course, Become an Ancestry.com Power User, offers solutions by showing you how to maximize your subscription and find what you need faster. The five tips below provide just a taste of the valuable information in the course. Sign up today and power up your Ancestry.com research!
5 Steps to Becoming an Ancestry.com Power User
Course Details: Become an Ancestry.com Power User
Date: 02/01 – 02/26
Length: 4 weeks
Instructor: Lisa A. Alzo
Ancestry.com’s true value lies in a combination of items that make it handy to keep all your genealogy records together. From the tree itself, to multiple records collections and photos to search, to being able to attach them to the “story” and see a timeline of an individual’s life, Ancestry is a valuable tool for family historians.
Of course, you’ll also hear grumblings about Ancestry’s updates and changing layouts, and with so many aspects that come together, it can take some getting used to.
There’s no need to fear, though; anyone can become an Ancestry.com power user and make the most of all those valuable tools. Here are 5 steps to get you started:
1. Become a Master of the Search Engine
Ancestry has a lot of records available, and they’re adding more every day. However, there’s some tricks to searching effectively. For example, you can narrow your search or widen your search, and use “wildcards” to cast a wider net; helpful if, like so many of our ancestors, their names were spelled inconsistently across the board. Use a ? to stand in for a single letter, or an asterisk (*) to replace anywhere from 1-5 letters in a name. As long as you have at least 3 letters with those wildcards, you’ll get some surprising – and often helpful – results.
2. Narrow Your Search
There’s a time for wide searches with wildcards, and then there’s a time for narrowing your results. If you’re looking for a specific record, such as a census for a specific year, you can search only that collection. Plus, getting to know what individual collections are housed on Ancestry’s website can give you some new ideas to try.
3. Analyze All the Information
Just like getting to know the collections will give you new ideas, you’ll be surprised at what you can learn from a census record or a birth certificate, and there are pieces of information that can verify whether you’ve found the person you’re looking for or if you need to do another search. Use the timeline to see if dates seem to make sense and match up with information you know.
4. View the Original Record
Besides the cool factor of seeing someone’s handwriting (possibly your own ancestors’ depending on the record), the index and transcription might be an error. Many records on Ancestry have an image of the original source. Look closely at any available photos or scans and see if what it said matches what you’ve already verified.
5. Look Beyond Your Ancestors
Names can be misspelled, and people can lie about their ages on census records or other documents, so even if one piece of data isn’t matching up, don’t dismiss it immediately. There are creative ways to search around your ancestors; like checking the names of the people who lived nearby on census records. A person’s neighbors and community members might turn up a surprising find, like a cousin or other recognizable person. And that can lead to great discoveries in your own family tree. You can find a lot of info in the collections on Ancestry.
Give these tips a try, and then sign up for our 4-week course, Become an Ancestry.com Power User to learn even more steps! With 4 lessons and discussion boards that give you access to your instructor and other students, you’ll be building a network of techniques – and contacts – that will make your use of Ancestry a breeze.
Become an Ancestry.com Power User
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
• Essential and advanced search strategies for Ancestry.com
• In-depth information on available records, including images, transcriptions, databases, catalogs and collections
• Everything you need to know about Ancestry.com family trees, such as how to create one, strategies for analyzing matches and making corrections, using trees of other members and adding additional content
• How search, records and family trees can work in unison to make your Ancestry.com research more efficient and effective
• How to use Ancestry.com with family tree software