Many thanks to Laurie Mackellar for much of the information on this guide. You can see her original work here.
Please note that you must be either on campus or using the VPN off campus to access this resource.
You can also go to the Library Databases list from the library home page.
Click on the orange Search button. The image below shows the results of this search. (Be forewarned; Ancestry has an odd relevance-sorting system. You will not see the exact same results each time you repeat a search.)
Clicking on this entry will pull up the following:
The researcher knows that the relative's wife was named Harriet. The date of birth is plausible - the person was an old man in the 1970s. (A birth year of 1870 or 1945 would indicate a false hit. Keep your common sense hat on when doing genealogy.)
So now the researcher knows the DOB, POB, DOD and POD. In addition she knows the place of burial, the wife's maiden name AND the likely names of the decedent's parents.
As you work with Ancestry and pull up different kinds of records you will want to learn about those records? Who created them? What country, state or county generated them? Who wrote down the information? What events did they describe? What information do the records provide?
Find-a-Grave, as noted above, is a database that depends on the work of volunteers. Field workers take photos of headstones and transcribe the information from the headstones. In many cases they attempt to establish relationships between individuals buried near each other. Be careful. In genealogy, things are sometimes not what they seem. Find-A-Grave volunteers try to be accurate, and they will make changes if mistakes are communicated.
The researcher will go back now to the Search Results. She knows that someone named Lyle Alexander MacKellar married someone named Harriet Gillesby. She saw an entry for a marriage record but ignored it because the marriage took place in Indiana. She wasn't wearing her common sense hat - marriages often take place away from the place of residence. Indiana and Michigan are close. So she clicks on the marriage record in the Search Results
This record verifies the names of the groom's parents. Excellent. However, it provides transcription information only. Often you can view the actual record in a separate screen. This entry displays a grey image with the words No Image Text Only Collection.
If one really wants to see the record one could Google Indiana Marriage Index. The Indiana State Library website displays a list of links. If you click on Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007 you will be redirected to the Family Search website. FamilySearch is a very good genealogy database and it is free. It is an excellent supplement to Ancestry. It is free but you will need to sign up for an account. Remember your user ID and password.
Sometimes you may have to access a state's Office of Vital Statistics website and request a record. Be careful - READ the instructions. Pay attention to date ranges and information concerning who can request what types of records.
Click on Show More Options when you are at the initial search screen, The following screen will display:
You can click on the box next to Match All Items Exactly. When you see search results with names, places, dates, etc that do not match your initial search you may be tempted to use the Exact Matching option.
Ancestry lists results that do not necessarily match. This can be a good thing
When you are searching you will always see the option to limit by record category.
You can click on any of these links to limit to a record category. If you click on Census and Voter Lists only U.S. and state census records and voter lists will display. If you choose this category you will see a list of decades. Click on a decade to limit results to records created during that decade.
At this point you should be able to follow the researcher's example and try some searches on your own. Be prepared to experience some frustration. Be prepared to study records, look for clues, read, think, guess, and search again. Read the information provided by Ancestry's Learning Center and look at the links provided on this guide, under the How to Do Genealogy tab.