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Genealogy: Ancestry

How do I access Ancestry.com?

You can access Ancestry for free from any public access computer or by using your own device at any public library within the North Country Library System. By using this subscription, however, you are not able to save information like you would to a personal account. 

Check with a staff member to obtain the correct web address for Ancestry. If you're using Ancestry at Flower Library, visit flowerlibrary.org and:

  1. Find the menu on the left side of the page
  2. Click on Genealogy
  3. Click on Online Genealogy Resources
  4. Click on the Ancestry link at the top of the list

I've made it to the home page. Now what do I do?

The best way to learn about Ancestry and how to access the vast number of resources provided is to just start searching and exploring! You learn so much through trial and error. The types of records that you can find are:

  • Birth, marriage, and death records (these are also known as vital statistics)
  • Census records
  • Immigration and travel records
  • Military records
  • School, directories, and church histories
  • Tax, criminal, land, and wills
  • Reference, dictionaries, and almanacs
  • Stories and publications
  • Photos and maps

There are a number of different ways to approach a search. If you know exactly what type of record you are looking for, you can start that specific search right from the home page. You can also click on the Search button (found along the top of the page) and click on the specific category. Otherwise, choose All Categories to get started.

What do I put in my first search?

Here's where the fun begins! This is the time where you really start to play with the search terms and get a feel for what works and what doesn't. Because the original records were handwritten and then transferred into a computer, there was a lot of room for human error. This means that names weren't always spelled correctly and that names weren't always spelled the same (last names in particular!). With this in mind, here are a few tips and tricks to make your search as smooth as possible:

  • When researching your family, start with your father's side. It is much easier because male names didn't change as much and, as you travel back through time, records of women's names weren't always well kept. 
  • Never ignore last names that are close but sound the same as the name you are searching for. Examples include Brown / Browne, Bru / Brew, Libby / Libbey.
  • When searching with a middle name, try switching between the first initial of the middle name and the full version. It may change your results depending on how the information was originally put into the database.
  • Consider the possibility that the person may have moved out of the area. Even if the chance that the person moved is tiny, try taking the location out of your search. It may open up a world of possibilities with your results!

Make sure you try each of these possibilities for each person you search. It's important to keep trying because records vary so much from person to person, even within the same family unit.

What about family trees?

If you happen to come upon a family tree, take the information provided with a grain of salt. They can be an absolute treasure trove of information (and photos!), but they are created by everyday users. Unfortunately you can't be sure of the quality of research - therefore they provide a fantastic starting point for you! Just be sure to do your own research as well.

Need a little more advice? Check out these resources.

I'm stuck and I cannot seem to find what I need. Where do I turn?

When researching your family history, it's easy to hit a roadblock and get stuck. You have a few places to turn when this happens. Remember that there are a couple of places you can turn within Ancestry that are available along the top of the site:

  • The Message Boards: try searching for your topic and see if others have found a solution that helps you as well. 
  • The Learning Center: Ancestry has built several research aids that might give you some tips and tricks to try that you haven't thought of yet.

Contact the Genealogy Department at Flower Library. The volunteers and staff have navigated tough research situations before and might have some advice for you! You can call 315-785-7711 or send an email to wat-genealogy@ncls.org

If all of this fails, it might be time to take a break from this particular ancestor. The Ancestry database is constantly growing and changing. This means that if you come back to your search in a month or two, you might find new documents and leads!