Top 10 hacks for using like a Pro

Karrie Drake

Karrie Drake

At Family Detective we use several different sites when researching for our clients. Each one has its benefits and its drawbacks, but if you can only afford to subscribe to one and you choose, here are some hacks to help you get the most out of your research:

  1. Find an online code for 2 week’s free access and make sure you start it when you have 14 days ahead of you with lots of free time. It’s amazing what you can achieve in just a fortnight of solid research. To help you out, here’s one: 14 Day Free Trial
  2. Start with what you know – find your own entry on the birth indexes and work back in time. The best way to learn how to search on a particular site is by doing lots and lots of searching.
  3. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try taking out information like place-names or dates. Sometimes we take out a surname altogether and find a child with their parents under a completely different name! This helps to sidestep transcription errors or inconsistencies from the documents themselves.
  4. Avoid starting your own online tree on Ancestry – it’s very difficult to remove errors if you make them and you can’t download the information very easily either, if you wanted to remove it and enter it into another program in the future. Never just copy information from other people’s trees – so often they are riddled with mistakes or guesswork. Contact the owner before adding information from their tree into your own research.
  5. We like Ancestry best for birth, marriage and death index searching and their London, Liverpool and Yorkshire parish records. Their biggest weakness is the 1851 census.
  6. Make sure you zoom in and out of the left hand side menus and try all the different categories – sometimes you will be surprised at what you find in an unexpected quarter!
  7. Make sure you look at the original documents when there is an image available. You can’t beat reading it for yourself and occasionally you will find a gem, like parents living next door to your ancestor or extra information about infirmities etc.
  8. Use the * symbol in your searching – it replaces one or more letters in a name and is very useful particularly if there are several variations of your name such as Florence, Florrie, Flora – just enter Flor* and Ancestry will check them all.
  9. See my blog post on Getting Organised. Start as you mean to go on!
  10. Be brave and creative – you won’t break Ancestry by trying lots and lots of different combinations of information. Enjoy the adventure!

Discussion: Do you have any tips for using Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • cathie allen

    i have found out my great nans parents from roots ireland,they re the only ones that have any info on them,but i can find nothing more about them,no census records of them or my g nans 2 sisters,how using griffins evaluation help in search as i dont know where they lived ,though i know they lived in cork for a period of time then waterford???