Ancestry Blog » Site Features The official blog of Ancestry Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:38:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Do You Have a Search Strategy? Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:06:01 +0000 Juliana Smith Read more]]> 20140708-search-downloadAs I write this, I’m getting ready for a trip to Utah. As a fairly frequent traveler, I know that to make the trip less stressful, I need lists. Lists are what keep me from wandering around the house searching for nothing in particular, grasping randomly for things I might need, and missing items I definitely need.

With a little forethought and a checklist, I do a much better job packing and spend less time running around my house like a crazy person.

When I’m searching for my ancestors, I like to take this strategic approach as well. A good research plan with a clear goal will allow you to choose the best path for your search.

There are a lot of different ways to search for your ancestors on, and different strategies will work best in different situations. For example, if you’re just starting to research a family member, you might start with a global search of all the collections on so you can grab the low-hanging fruit that will come up with just a few basic facts like a name, year of birth, and a place where the person lived. But if you have a specific goal, like finding him or her in the 1920 U.S. census, it doesn’t make sense to wade through all 14 billion records; going directly to 1920 will have you working with a much smaller and more manageable subset of the collections.

You could also search on a category level or in one of the many special collections that Ancestry has created for specific record types or ethnic research.

To help you navigate the different types of searches and what situations each one is best suited for, this month we’ve kicked off a series of free downloads on the various ways to search In coming months we’ll take a closer look at the various types of search and include tips that will have you searching like a pro in no time. Download our Search Strategies guide.

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Ask Ancestry Anne Search Tip #5: Start Small, Go Big — Using Sliders in Search Thu, 13 Mar 2014 15:29:50 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more]]> has over 12 billion records and finding the ones you care about is easier when you have a few tricks at your disposal.

One of the best? Filters.  Name, Location and Date. And to make those filters just a bit easier to use, we’ve added the new Sliders feature. Do you have 5 minutes? Watch this video and I’ll walk you through it.

image01Happy Searching!



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A Fond Farewell to “Old Search” Mon, 10 Mar 2014 18:00:15 +0000 Katharine Nester Read more]]> Last week we said a fond farewell to the “Old Search” functionality on the site. Over the years, we have been maintaining two separate search experiences – “Old Search” and “Primary Search.” 

Old Archive With Drawers

With offering two search experiences, it has limited the resources we could use to make improvements, and also increased the complexity of every improvement we tried to make on the site.

Specifically, the technology powering the “Old Search” functionality is fragile, as much of it is no longer supported, and it can no longer scale to meet the needs of the growing use of Ancestry across mobile devices, operating systems and browsers.

So we’ve consolidated the two systems in order to address customer requests faster and allow us to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting transcriptions on existing collections. Additionally, this consolidated search brings forward and improves the best features of both search experiences.

Many of the features enjoyed in the “Old Search” functionality are now available in the primary search experience, such as searching exact, searching only historical records and more. This Knowledge Base article explains how to get at these features in the primary experience.

Other features included in the consolidated search experience now include:

  • A category + exact mode to make it quicker to do exact searches and see results by category. Learn more about this feature in this Knowledge Base article
  • Tightening up of the spacing in the category view to make it easier to see more of the results
  • A research summary view for searches started from a person in your tree to show you quickly which records you have already attached to your person
  • Smart filtering to which let you hide results from collections where you’ve already found an ancestor’s record
  • Sliding controls to quickly broaden or narrow your search results

That’s just the beginning. We will be continuing to improve our search over this year and have improvements planned in our location data, relevancy, results filtering and more.

We understand some of you may not agree with the decision, but we hope you will come to find as much use as you did from the familiarity of “Old Search” in our consolidated search experience as we continue to improve and invest in it and our data.

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Coming Soon to Search—More Control Over Your Results! Mon, 24 Feb 2014 22:20:21 +0000 Read more]]> A new sliding control is coming to the Ancestry search function over the next couple of weeks. Located in the upper-left corner of the search results page, it will make it easy to quickly broaden or narrow your search results.  Don’t see the search results you were expecting? Simply drag one or more sliders from left to right to quickly modify your results.  The slider position shows how closely your search terms should be matched.  With all the sliders to the left, your results are matched at the broadest level, and moving one or more sliders to the right will display more exact matches.


When you move the slider, a tip box will show how closely your search term will be matched.  Once you’ve set the sliders to the levels you want, tap or click the Update button to see your results with the new settings.


In this first update, you’ll be able to use slider controls on these fields:

  • First and last name of the person being searched
  • Birth and Death facts
  • One “Any event” fact
  • One residence location

Other criteria in your search will still be available to edit using the “Edit Search” link and will be noted in the “Other” section just above the “Edit search” link.

You’ll start seeing the sliding controls gradually over the next few weeks, so look for them soon on your search results page.


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Using the Card Catalog [VIDEO] Sat, 16 Nov 2013 00:39:21 +0000 Pam Velazquez Read more]]>

Why Use the Card Catalog?

The Card Catalog is your resource for answering a lot of your questions quickly and easily. One of the most asked questions is “What records are available on” – the Card Catalog can answer those questions and once you have learned to use it you can browse through all of our databases to find what we have available.

REMEMBER: To get to the Card Catalog, hover over ‘Search’ in the top navigation bar and it will be the last link.


Searching the Card Catalog currently has over 31,000 databases available to members. That’s a lot of databases to search – meaning that when you do a global search, we are trying to match your criteria with records from all of those databases. Using the Card Catalog, you can narrow down your search and only search through the collections you know may have the record you are looking for.

When you arrive at the Card Catalog, you can browse through all of our databases. Without searching or filtering you can flip through page by page and see every record collection we have available. The collections can be ordered in a few different ways, which will be helpful if you are just exploring or searching for something specific. You can select the drop down menu labeled ‘Sort by’ and select a few different options. Popularity is what is selected automatically which means that the list is sorted by which collections are searched for the most. You can also sort by Title, Record Count, Date Added and Date Updated – also remember that if you hover over a collection, you will see a small dialog box pop up with a description, date added and date updated.


Searching by Title or Keyword

You can search through the card catalog by either title or keyword. If you know the title of the collection that you are looking for, put that into the title search and you should be able to find what you are looking for. For example, if you are trying to get to the 1910 Census, if you type ‘1910’ you’ll see that collection at the top of the list.

If you aren’t sure what named the particular collection that you are looking for but have an idea, type in keywords into the ‘Keywords’ search box. This will not only search the titles of the databases but will also search the descriptions of each of the databases for the keywords.


Using Filters

The filters to the left are what will help you answer those “Are there records available for _____?” questions. Here you can filter by a few different criteria to find if there is a collection that fits what you are looking for.Card Catalog - Left Nav

There are 3 ways you can filter:

By Collection – You can filter by record type, which means you can look at Birth, Marriage & Death, or Census & Voter Lists, Military, Immigration & Travel, etc. And search by what type of record you are trying to find. This is a great way to explore record collections because many of these record types don’t come up in a regular global search. For example, Maps, Atlases & Gazetteers often do not show up in global search because they are not indexed by name. If, for example, you have a relative that lived in a place or town that changed its name or no longer exists, these maps might help you find where that is or what it was later called. Although that might not be a record that you were looking for, it will help you in finding it.

By Location – Here you can filter by location and see what we have available for a particular state or country. You can also get very specific down to the county. This is really helpful if, for example, you have a membership to search all U.S. collections and you find that you may be expanding your research to include some international locations, but first want to see what is available in the countries you are thinking your research may lead you.

By Time Period – Although it might not be useful to just search by century or decade, this is a great field to combine with the location and collection filters. If you want to see if records are available for North Carolina Births in the 1890s, you can use the time field to see if any of our Birth, Baptism & Christening records match that time and location.

It’s important to note that although the categories are great, they are not finite. Some collections might not be as specific or may not be considered primary sources – like a collection may be included in the Birth, Baptism & Christening records, because it has birth information about individuals but it might not be a birth record per se. So remember to keep that in mind when filtering and browsing collections.


Quick Example

An example of when using the Card Catalog is really helpful is let’s say you are looking for your Great Grandparents’ marriage record. You suspect they were married around 1863 since their oldest child was born in 1864, and you know that they were living in Carroll County, Arkansas. You would go into the Card Catalog and either use the filters or Search by Title for Arkansas to narrow down a location. Then, narrow that down to just Birth, Death & Marriage and then further down to just Marriage & Divorce. Now narrow down the time period, click on the decade ‘1860’. Now after adding all of those filters there are 5 databases to choose from. Rather than try and search through all of these databases, read through the database description – often you’ll find that the description tells you which counties are included and which particular time period. In this particular case, we find out in the description that marriage records weren’t kept for that particular county until 1869, unfortunately. However, if you search the last name of the family and search in that particular county by choosing ‘Exact’ in the location field, there are 16 people, who although are not the great grandparents you are looking for, could be relatives.


Advice for the Card Catalog

Don’t Be Afraid to Explore

Although it might not be the most intuitive thing to do, sometimes just browsing through the Card Catalog and clicking around is the best way to find collections that are great interesting finds, or that might help your research. As we mentioned, many of these collections are not indexed by first name and wouldn’t appear in a global search so they are only accessible through the Card Catalog. They may not be the record you are looking for but can help you get there.

Read Database Descriptions Before Searching

The descriptions for the databases can be extremely helpful. They have valuable information relating to what records are included according to county and years, and has historical context according to the record type and location. Reading these descriptions can save you a lot of time searching through databases that don’t have the records you’re looking for.

Bookmark Databases to Refer to Later

Either bookmark databases in your web browser or you can use the ‘Quick Links’ widget on your homepage to save databases that you I know you will be working with often.


The Card Catalog can be one of the most powerful tools available to you on – hopefully with that short explanation of some of the basics, you can use the Card Catalog to get the most out of our databases.



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Exciting Ancestry Site Updates! Fri, 23 Aug 2013 17:10:55 +0000 Pam Velazquez Read more]]> Today, we’re letting a couple of our product managers tell you about some exciting website updates that will make your family history research a bit easier, and – we hope – a bit more fun! Without further ado, here they are.

New in Interactive Viewer – Related Content Panel

We’re really excited to offer this update to the interactive image viewer. You’ve spoken up that the new viewer has been suffering for the lack of Member Connect and suggested records, and we’re happy to announce that these features are now part of the interactive viewer. Previously known as the Member Connect panel, this is currently the most requested feature through the image viewer’s feedback link, and is a fantastic way to discover new content.  The Related Content panel includes Suggested Records and also Related Trees.



Give it a try and see how you like it! You can look forward to more of your suggestions being implemented in the interactive viewer as we continue to align this feature with your needs.



New in Search Results: Research summary and smart filtering

Do you search from your tree?  If so, you’ll soon see some enhancements to your search results.  Records that you’ve attached to your tree are now grouped at the top of the results list, organized in alpha-numeric order to help you quickly see what you’ve saved and where you might have research gaps.  The research summary section can be collapsed to give more room to the search results list, or expanded to compare your search results to records you’ve already saved.



We’re also introducing smart filtering, which lets you hide results from collections where you’ve already found an ancestor’s record.  Many collections like census or death records are likely to contain one record for a person.  When you search from your tree, this new feature filters out results from collections where you’ve already saved a record, making it easier to discover new records.  For example, if you’ve saved a 1920 census entry for someone in your tree, smart filtering will hide other 1920 census entries when you search from that person’s page.   Smart filtering can be easily turned on or off from the results page to show the full or filtered results list.



Learn more about the Research summary and smart filtering in the knowledge base.


We’re releasing these new features gradually over the next two weeks, so expect to see these changes soon. Once you’ve tried them, we’d love your feedback on what you think and how they can be improved.  Look for the “Send feedback” link at the top of the research summary section.

Best regards,



There are always improvements underway, and we value your feedback on everything current, new, and upcoming. Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoy!

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New England Family History Comes Alive with 220 Million New Records! Thu, 18 Jul 2013 20:58:53 +0000 Pam Velazquez Read more]]> We are very excited to announce we have added more than 220 million historical New England records to our existing database creating the most comprehensive collection of New England records available online!

Included in the new collections are birth, marriage and death records for hundreds of millions of residents in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as images, diaries and articles from Colonial times to the 1980s.


Over the past few months, we have spent more than 10,000 hours digitizing and indexing historical records from the region in order to make them easily accessible online.  The new records reveal countless facts of people from the region, from population to job growth, while also bringing insights into the life of notable New Englanders.


While the new records will help people discover their family’s New England history, they also shed light on what life was like for the typical New Englander in various periods of the region’s history.


Notable New Englanders

The new collections are not only a treasure trove of information for those trying to learn more about their family origins, but also those interested in learning more about notable New Englanders throughout history. Norman Rockwell’s indexed death record and Benjamin Franklin’s birth record are included in the new collections, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s obituary and even a record of Dr. Seuss’ birth (Theodor Geisel). The new collections also contain unique subject matter such as original letters regarding the Salem Witch trials.


The Name Legacy of a Founding Father

The new collections also reveal that the nation’s Founding Fathers left a lasting impression in many New England families. From 1850-1940 more than 500 people were named after John Adams, compared to 37 named after George Washington.

From July 18-21st, will make all of these impactful records from the New England Historic Genealogical Society – along with several other New England record sets – available free of charge for the public to search at This will enable beginner and expert family historians alike to explore curiosities and research their New England heritage.


Explore this fascinating new collection of records and explore what life was like in New England in the era of your ancestors! Learn more about New England by checking out our infographic!

New England In The 1900s

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Introducing Shoebox From – A Scanner in Your Pocket Mon, 15 Jul 2013 17:44:00 +0000 mkatchen Read more]]> As you probably know, we acquired 1000memories – maker of the popular Shoebox photo-scanning app – in late 2012. Since then we’ve integrated our teams and today we’re taking a big step towards integrating our products.


We’re excited to introduce Shoebox from – a brand new version of the Shoebox mobile scanner that allows you to upload photos directly to your family tree on There has never been a simpler, faster, and more beautiful way to scan your old photos.

Shoebox puts a powerful photo-scanner in your pocket. Just take a picture of an old paper photo with your iPhone or Android camera, and our edge detection and perspective-correction technology will make sure that your scans turn out beautifully.


What You’ll Find on ShoeBox 3.0 login

You can now use your credentials to log into Shoebox. You can also sign up for a free account through the app.

Tag family members

Our face detection tells you when it spots a person so you can tag them in your photo. Tag people in your family trees and your photos will automatically upload to

Simpler, faster, and more beautiful

We’ve totally overhauled our design to make it cleaner and more intuitive. We’ve made your photos larger and faster than ever.


The completely redesigned Shoebox app is available for download on iTunes and the Android Market. You can scan an unlimited amount of photos and it’s totally free.

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Take Your Tree with You This Summer Mon, 01 Jul 2013 16:46:16 +0000 Juliana Smith Read more]]> Summer is prime time for research trips, cemetery visits, and family reunions. For family historians, these trips used to take extra planning. Along with the sunscreen, bug spray, and potato salad, family reunions required choosing which books, papers, and photos to bring along for research or sharing—and the inevitability of forgetting something important. With the App and an Android, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch mobile device, you don’t have to leave anything behind. Your research is always with you and as current as your online tree.

Here are five ways you can take advantage of the App this summer.

1. Cemetery visits.
Use your mobile device to take photographs of ancestral gravesites and tombstones. To add the photo to your tree, select a person, click Gallery at the bottom of the panel, select Add Photo at the top, and then choose the photo from your photo albums. You can also edit that person’s information and add any new details you found on the spot.

2. Family reunions.
Not only can you show off all of the records and stories you’ve uncovered, you can also update the details for your living family right there on the spot. That story Uncle Fred’s sharing with you? Type it in the notes as he’s telling it. No more trying to remember the details after the fact.

3. Taking pictures of family heirlooms.
Even if Aunt Edna won’t give you her grandmother’s Bible, she’d probably let you take a picture of it and the pages documenting the family history.  Same with the gallery of ancestral photographs that line her walls. Digital photos of them in their frames will do until you can convince her to have copies made.

4. Trips to courthouses, libraries, and archives.
When precious onsite research time is of the essence, the camera on your mobile device can save the day. Take a picture of records that you can attach to your tree right then.

5. Researching in the great outdoors.
If you’ve got Internet access, you can be researching. Take your device to a park or the beach.  A nice day to sit in the yard is also a nice day to research in the yard.

If that’s not enough inspiration to load the app and start updating your online tree, how’s this? Your online tree (and Family Tree Maker 2012 as well, if you have it), will auto-sync with your mobile tree so your new details will be waiting for you at home when you get there. No more having to catch up on data entry after the trip. The App lets you enjoy your family history vacation even after you get home.

Learn more about the App

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New Search Results Page On Ancestry.com Fri, 17 May 2013 00:13:26 +0000 Crista Cowan Read more]]> Have you logged on to today and done any record searching? Then you probably noticed that we made some changes overnight to the search results page. This is part of our continued effort to improve performance on the site and the load time required for key pages. This also allows us to work towards better scalability of results and visibility of key features. The new look for these pages uses more modern techniques for styling that require less things to be downloaded to your computer and should load the page faster. (More pages on the site will be using these techniques over the coming months.)

Here is a side by side comparison of the changes we made:

Search Results Categories

The new design allows you to view and filter to categories with a single click.


Search Results Toggle Between Records and Categories

The new design makes the toggle between the record view and the category view of your search results more prominent – and it functions with only a single click.


Search Results Cleaner Design

Database titles are now in bold, making it easier to skim through your search results looking for specific records.

If you have specific feedback about the new design – what do you like, what don’t you like – please let us know by taking the survey available at the top of your search results page.


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