If you've ever tried to build your family tree using online resources then chances are you have come across Ancestry.com. As the world's largest for-profit genealogy research company, Ancestry.com is an invaluable tool for helping you discover more about your roots and your family. This website compiles a vast treasure trove of records, including birth certificates, census data, newspaper stories, and immigration records--all of which can help you identify who your ancestors were and where they came from. However, because there is so much information on Ancestry.com, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. To help you in your search, here are just three useful tricks for getting the most out of Ancestry.com.
One of the problems with Ancestry.com is that if you're looking for an ancestor who has a common name (such as John Smith) then you're going to get a lot of results, not all of which are going to be helpful. Narrowing your search results is vital at this stage. Use the categories and databases that are listed on the side of your screen for a search that is more accurately geared towards your needs. For example, if you want to know when your ancestors first immigrated to the U.S. you can search exclusively for immigration records.
Wildcard searches are a useful tool for helping you find ancestors who may have used different spelling variations. Remember that prior to the modern era, people often spelt their names in a variety of ways. While Ancestry.com does automatically search for some common spelling variations, it can be useful to add your own. Adding an asterisk (*) to a word tells the search engine to treat that asterisk as representing zero or more characters. So searching for "Wil*" would tell the search engine to look for William, Willy, Wilton, and so on. A question mark, meanwhile, represents just one character, so a search for "Sm?th" would produce results for Smith and Smyth.
Use the message boards
Far too many people overlook just how valuable Ancestry.com's message boards can be. But the fact is that you're probably not the only person in your extended family who is looking for genealogical information. By searching the message boards, you could find information about relatives you didn't even know you had. If you decide to post to the message boards, be sure to use the last name of the family you are researching (usually your own) in the title. This will help get you more relevant responses. Also, don't just look for recent posts. Even posts dating back years can yield insights and new leads that you may never have thought of.
Building your family tree can reveal a lot about who you are and where you come from. With Ancestry.com you have an amazing tool to help you on your quest to get in touch with your roots. By utilizing the tips shown above, you will finally be able to get even more out of this powerful website.
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