Review: Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook – A How-to Manual for Tracing Your Family Tree on the #1 Genealogy Website
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Hendrickson, Nancy. Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook – A How-to Manual for Tracing Your Family Tree on the #1 Genealogy Website, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2017, 192 pages.
As genealogists, many of us seem to have a “love-hate relationship” with the #1 genealogy website, Ancestry.com. I’ve been an Ancestry subscriber for many years and as a genealogy educator I know for certain the cause of such angst: lack of education on how to effectively use the Ancestry website. This is why the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook by Nancy Hendrickson should be required reading for all Ancestry users.
Mastering Ancestry.com’s Search Function
In my opinion the best chapter in Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook is the first chapter and it covers all the aspects of Ancestry’s search functions. I know how important it is for Ancestry users to master all the features of General Search. Too many times have I heard exasperated users complain that they can’t find anything on their ancestors, mainly due to improper searching.
And hurray for the author covering in detail the Ancestry Card Catalog! As an experienced researcher, I know that the best way to find anything on Ancestry is to go directly to a record set. The Card Catalog is often neglected as a search resource by users and the author deftly explains how to unlock its powerful features.
Useful Exercises for Skill Building
Another great feature of Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook is the exercises listed after each chapter. Example: the Finding a Photo exercise challenges the reader to start using these Ancestry Search skills to locate photos.
Teaching This Old Dog New Tricks
How do you know what you don’t know? Especially when it comes to being more productive at the Ancestry.com website . . . that is why the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook is useful, even for an “experienced” user like me.
For example: Ancestry Quick Links. How did I not know about this? Quick Links are like bookmarks or favorites for Ancestry. You can build a quick “research toolbox” by using this powerful feature. And who knew that Ancestry had shortcut keys? Well the author does and she wants to make sure you take advantage of them!
Records and More at Ancestry.com
Hendrickson does a great job at covering other aspects of the Ancestry.com website including US Federal Census Records, Birth/Marriage/Death Records, Military Records, Immigration Records, as well as Social History and Ancestry DNA. However, there are some useful Ancestry.com features that are NOT covered in this workbook and I’m not certain why they’ve been omitted: the Ancestry Message Boards, as well as the Trees posted by Ancestry.com members.
There are several appendices at the end of the workbook, the most useful being a series of worksheets and templates:
- Ancestry.com Search Worksheet
- Five-Generation Ancestor Chart
- Family Group Sheet
- Research Checklist for US Ancestors (as well as Canadian and UK Ancestors)
- Records Checklist – Birth Information
- Records Checklist – Marriage Information
- Records Checklist – Death Information
- Census Abstract Forms for each US Federal Census
The Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook features:
- Introductions on how to use the seven most important record groups on Ancestry.com, plus how to navigate AncestryDNA and use test results in your research
- Detailed step-by-step case studies showing how to use Ancestry.com to find ancestors and solve research problems
- Fillable worksheets and forms that let you apply the book’s techniques to your own research
Excerpt: Sample Tips
Here are some tips you’ll find in the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook[i]:
- Identify specific record collections that you want to search. With more than a billion records organized into tens of thousands of collections, Ancestry.com can be overwhelming to navigate, and using the general search form can sometimes give you too many results to sort through. Use the Card Catalog to find specific collections that cover the appropriate time and place (as well as the kind of record you’re looking for) to give yourself the best chance of finding a specific record.
- Play with search options. Ancestry.com’s search forms and Card Catalog have a number of filters you can use to narrow down your results. Different combinations of titles, keywords, record types and date ranges will yield different results. Learn what each option does, and make careful use of them in your search.
- Prioritize close DNA matches. DNA testing is an amazing new research technique, but it can provide you with an overwhelming amount of data. When reviewing your DNA matches, begin by searching only those who are projected to be third cousins or closer, as estimates or more distant relationships tend to be less accurate (and thus studying them is probably a less efficient use of your research time).
Even if you consider yourself a pretty savvy Ancestry.com user, you will find many ways to improve your productivity on the site and get the most out of your Ancestry subscription. Hendrickson has put together an extremely useful manual for the most popular genealogy website and I’m certain that I’ll be referring to the workbook quite often. I highly recommend any genealogist, from beginner to expert, to add the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook to their library.
About The Author: Nancy Hendrickson
Nancy Hendrickson is a genealogy author, blogger and instructor at Ancestor News, a site dedicated to finding and preserving family stories. A contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine, Nancy writes almost exclusively about Internet genealogy, research and American history. She’s a member of Western Writers of America and a long-time photography buff. Nancy is active on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.
[i] Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook product description, Shop Family Tree (http://www.shopfamilytree.com/unofficial-ancestry-workbook, accessed 15 January 2017), used by permission of F&W Media.