Ancestry Blog The official blog of Ancestry Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:42:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ask Ancestry Anne: How Do I Find Trees? Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:40:40 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more]]> Question: Are there any plans to update searching for specific public trees? —Phyllis

searchformAnswer: Last month I answered a question about using and trusting other trees you find on Ancestry, which led to a lively debate to say the least!   And I’d like to suggest another article that might shed some more light on the subject: Perils of Being a Source Snob, by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL.

But how do you find trees that have your people in them?  While there are no plans to update tree searching at this time, with a few simple techniques, you can manage your results and find trees you want to examine further.

You’ll want to start with Public Member Trees (you can find a link in the Card Catalog).  Before you start searching any data collection you want to examine the search page and see what is on the search form.

To search trees effectively you need the name of the person you are searching for, at least one location, a date, and a spouse and/or parents.  If you don’t have all of those details, try with what you do have.  But in this case, the more information you have, the better.

Let’s try searching for a reasonably common name: James Donald.  If I type just James Donald into the form, I get over 200,000 results.  Way too many.


I’m going to add in wife’s name and birth date and birth location.  Now I have a little over 35,000 results.  Still too many to look at, but because I’ve supplied more info, I can start scanning the first page or two.



And by updating my filters I can reduce the results even more.  For first name, I select: sounds like, similar, and initials; for last name, sounds like and similar; for birth year, +/- 5 years; and exact for the birth state.  Note: I recommend starting with exact at the state level and only moving to county if you get too many results.  A lot of people know only the state.

Now I have 69 results, and that is probably a list I can examine.  If you want fewer, tighten up your filters. If you want more or aren’t getting results, make them broader.


And just because someone has a lot of sources doesn’t mean they are right, and not having any doesn’t make them wrong.  Always look at the tree and evaluate the sources and information for yourself.  You may just find the clue you need to break down your brick wall.

If you are looking for more search tips to help you get the most out of Ancestry, check out my latest class at Ancestry Academy: Seek and Ye Shall Find: Become an Ancestry Search Expert. It’s free for anyone to view; all you need is to be a registered quest or subscriber on Ancestry.

Do you have a question that you would like to see answered?  We can’t get to all of them, but yours might be selected! Send your question to Ask Ancestry Anne, and you might be featured in an upcoming column.

Happy searching!




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Join Us at The Angel Island Immigration Station Family History Day (2015) Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:03:48 +0000 Kristie Wells Read more]]> From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island (in the San Francisco Bay) was the site of an Immigration Station that functioned as the West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island. Records note about one million people went through the Angel Island Immigration Station (AIISF) and a majority of the immigrants were from Asian countries, such as China, Japan, Russia, and South Asia.

If you have never had a chance to visit the AIISF, now is the time! They are hosting a family history and reunion day on Saturday July 11, 2015 that will feature historians, journalists and volunteers sharing their immigrant stories as well as provide you an opportunity to search their records to help you find your own story.

We spoke with Grant Din, Community Relations Director, about the event and what you can expect if you attend. Watch the video below:

For more details about the Angel Island Immigration Station Family History and Reunion day, please visit their website. Come explore the former U.S. Immigration Station, a National Historic Landmark at Angel Island State Park. It is an incredible community of people to be connected to, and the views from the island are not half bad either.

Ancestry is proud to join the AIISF in helping you unlock your past and we’ll have more on that news in the coming months. For now, we hope you will be able to join us for the Family History and Reunion day and share in this incredible cultural event. If you cannot make this in person, we’ll be onsite sharing live photos and updates, so watch our Twitter channel and our Instagram account.


Did your family come through the AIISF? We want to hear from you! Please share your story in the comments below as we would love to hear from you.


The AIISF could use your help! There is much work to be done to finish the restoration of the Immigration Station. Become a volunteer, support them financially or help spread the word about their efforts. Every bit helps, and counts. Thank you.



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Quick Guide Available: New Facts Page Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:22:39 +0000 Ancestry Team Read more]]> The updated Facts view lets you add facts, family members, sources, and more. To get you started, take a look at these common tasks and how you can perform them with the new site.

Guide to Facts View

(1) Find a person in your tree—While this feature works the same, you’ll find it on the top-left side of the page. Click the person/search icon to open the search field.

(2) Use the Tools menu.

- View in Tree—Opens the family tree with this individual as the focus.
- View Notes—Lets you view notes you’ve entered for a person. For more information on this feature click here.
- View Comments—Lets you view comments you’ve made (or others have made). For more information on this feature click here.
- Merge with Duplicate—Lets you merge the person with someone else in your tree. For more information on this feature click here.

(3) Use the Edit menu.

- Save to Tree—Lets you save the person to another family tree.
- Edit Relationships—Lets you change relationship types. For example, you can change a child from biological to adopted or vice versa. For more information on this feature click here.
- Delete Person—Lets you delete an individual from your tree permanently.

(4) Add a fact—You can add a fact for a person using the Add drop-down above the Facts list. For more information on this feature click here.

(5) View your relationship to the individual—Relationships are calculated automatically in the new Ancestry. Click the relationship link to view. For more information on this feature click here.

(6) View the number of available hints—At the top of the page you’ll see the current number of hints for a person next to the Hints tab.

(7) Add a source—It’s easier than ever to add a new source, simply click the Add drop-down above the Sources list.

(8) Add a family member—Like the classic site, you can add a family member using the Add drop-down on the right side of the page.

(9) See how sources and facts are connected together—Click a fact to see connecting lines indicating which sources support the fact; click a source to see which facts it supports.

(10) View and add web links—At the bottom of the sources list, you can view, add and edit your web links.


The instructions in this article pertain to our New Ancestry experience. If you are not yet using this experience and would like to switch, please click here for instructions.

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Two sisters kept and two brothers given away. Heart breaking stories on tonight’s Long Lost Family. Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:04:12 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> 1llf

It’s the penultimate episode of Long Lost Family tonight and it promises to be an emotional one. The Long Lost Family team feature the stories of two sisters who were kept while their brothers were given up for adoption, a family split by the decision to give up a child fifty years ago, and a sister searching for the brother who was kept a secret from her as a child.

Elizabeth Wells and her daughter Janice are searching for Elizabeth’s son Brian. Fifty-five years ago Elizabeth made an agonising decision to keep Janice while giving away Brian.

‘I’ve missed him from the day I agreed to go through with it and I regret it, I sincerely regret it’ says Elizabeth.

When she was just sixteen years old Elizabeth became pregnant by her first boyfriend. He was married but he promised that he would leave his wife. She gave birth to Janice and her parents helped to take care of the baby. Believing that it would work out she continued to see her boyfriend and seven months later she fell pregnant again. By the time she gave birth to her baby boy Brian, her boyfriend had decided to cut all contact and remained with his wife. Unable to cope she reluctantly gave Brian up for adoption.  

Tracey Collins is desperate to find her missing brother. As a child Tracey had always complained to her parents that she didn’t want to be an only child. When she was seventeen her mother told her that she had an older brother who they had given up for adoption before Tracey was born. Despite Tracey’s questions her mother would tell her nothing else about her brother.

Without her mother’s knowledge, Tracey’s father told her that they had given up their son because they had no money or work and were struggling to survive living in one room. Tracey’s mother passed away in 2008 and since then, she and her husband have been trying to find her brother.


Long Lost Family airs tonight at 9pm on ITV. Join us on Twitter to let us know your thoughts on tonight’s episode.




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ABC’s of Commonly Used Nicknames Guide (A-Z) Mon, 29 Jun 2015 18:10:24 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> Over the last few months, we ran a series of blog posts that highlighted nicknames or alternate first names your ancestors may have used. Ribbon Alphabet And Colorful Font.set Of Capital Letter A To Z

Whether you’re just beginning or a veteran in your family history research, we’ve all come across at least one ancestor referred to by a nickname in a public record. Before you give up on the ancestor who has been eluding you, consider that he or she may have been using a nickname or spelling reflective of their homeland, rather than the first name you’re expecting to find.

With the help of our community, we’ve added variants for names they’ve found in their family trees to our initial list, which may help you overcome your research hurdles.

You can download the ABC’s of Commonly Used Nicknames Guide (A-Z) here.

And a big ‘thank you’ to each of you who left comments with your nickname suggestions!


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True Tennis Royalty! Eugenie Bouchard’s Real-Life Regal Connections Revealed Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:55:35 +0000 Lesley Anderson Read more]]> Canada’s tennis sweetheart Eugenie “Genie” Bouchard, who is looking to match her incredible run from Wimbledon 2014 at this year’s tournament, is named after Britain’s Princess Eugenie and – as we have found – has real life royal family connections.

Genie’s  Bouchard – whose mother is known to be a royal fan who named each of her children after princes and princesses – is a half-cousin of Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall through her father’s Quebec roots. Records can paint a picture of the lives your ancestors lived and they could prove that you are connected to real-life royalty, just like Genie Bouchard.

When you are researching French Canadian ancestors you should definitely look at Reverend Cyprien Tanguay’s monumental and comprehensive genealogy compilation – Genealogical Dictionary of Canadian Families (Tanguay Collection), 1608-1890.

Tanguay devoted much of this life to researching archive and parochial records throughout Quebec, the Maritime Provinces, Ontario, the old French settlements in the United States, and France. Through his original research, he successfully traced the ancestors of many early French-Canadian colonists back to Normandy and other parts of France. Entries detail family pedigrees, with baptism, marriage, and burial dates and places for husbands, wives, and children. Although the dictionary does contain some errors and occasional speculation, it has proven to be a fundamental reference work and one of the most comprehensive resources for French-Canadian genealogy.

Another great resource is the online database from The University of Montreal which expanded on this work to create an online subscription based database “PRDH (Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique du Québec).” The project relies on exhaustive gathering of data from the parish registers of old Quebec and biographies were established through family reconstructions connecting baptisms, marriage, and burial certificates. Also included is the research on the family origins of emigrants from “Fichier Originer” and the list of the King’s daughters or “Filles du Roi” who were single or widowed female immigrants, that came to Canada between 1663 and 1673.

Use these records with our online databases:

Ancestry has used these resources to research other celebrities and politicians and Vezina hockey player.

See example of the Tanguay collection below.  Genie Bouchard can trace her French Ancestor’s back to Jean Guyon who was one of the original settlers of Quebec.  By 1800 he had 9,674 descendants!

Jean Guyon Children

Bouchard - Bowles Family Tree

Roman numerals represent the generation distant a person is from the family’s original immigrant ancestor. Names in italics are children.  Entries also include the following abbreviations:

  • b = baptism or christening date
  • m = marriage date
  • s = burial date
  • III, IV (etc.) = generations away from immigrant ancestor
  • superscript numbers = these represent a place within the family record; for example if a superscript 3 follows Quebec at the beginning of the record, whenever a superscript 3 appears in that record, it means the event took place in Quebec. Note that this is only applicable within the particular family record and not throughout the book. In another family record, a superscript 3 might stand for another place.

Let us know what you are able to find about your own French Canadian lines!



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Understanding Your Privacy Settings Fri, 26 Jun 2015 14:30:34 +0000 Ancestry Team Read more]]> At Ancestry, we value and respect our customers’ privacy and we have standards in place to protect the integrity of the data our customers entrust to us. So, we want to be clear about a policy change we are making.

As of today, we are updating our privacy statement to clarify what information we may use and share in an effort to further research in fields such as human evolution and migration, population genetics, health, ethnographic diversity and genealogy. We feel we can contribute to discoveries about the intersection of family history, health and genetics that could benefit our members and society at large.

Please visit our updated privacy statement here.

What this means to you:

We will not share information with third parties for research unless the information has been anonymized or aggregated so that individuals cannot be reasonably identified. Personal information such as names and addresses are kept confidential.

We will not share information from private trees for research purposes unless you have agreed to participate by signing our informed consent.

Your Privacy Settings:

While the majority of our customers choose to keep their trees public for the benefit of discovering, sharing and collaborating with the Ancestry community, you do have the option to make your tree private.

New customers are prompted at registration to mark trees as ‘public’ or ‘private’.

Existing customers can log-in and follow the directions here to make their family tree private.

If you have any questions or concerns, please visit our privacy center here.

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Getting Started with AncestryDNA: Tree Setup and Tools Available Wed, 24 Jun 2015 14:30:36 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more]]> You have taken the AncestryDNA test, your results are online, and now you want to do something with them? We can help.

The first thing we recommend is that you link your DNA results to your family to a tree
AncestryDNA will reveal cousin matches whether you have attached your test results to a tree or not. However, in order to understand more about those cousin matches and encourage them to work with you to uncover your common ancestors, it’s important to have a tree on Ancestry with your AncestryDNA results attached to it. Check to make sure your test is attached to the correct person in your family tree by clicking on the Settings button on your DNA homepage. For step-by-step instructions on how to do that, click here.

Have multiple trees?
I strongly encourage you to have a tree that starts with you. If you have two trees, one that starts with Dad and one with Mom, you will have to choose which tree you want to link to. When you do that, you miss out on the opportunities for connections on the other side of the family. Considering merging the trees and creating one that starts with you. To get step-by-step instruction on how to do this, click here.  (Note that you’ll need Family Tree Maker or another software program to do this.)

You can always build a basic tree from scratch that starts at you, then add your direct-line ancestors (your biological parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to get started).

Have a private tree?
Consider making it public. If you aren’t comfortable with that, an alternative would be to create a version of your tree that includes names and birth places, but leaves out information you aren’t confident about. If you don’t want to include pictures, that’s not an issue. Call this your DNA tree and link your DNA results to it. That way, if I am one of your DNA matches, I can see some information and know where to start the conversation about how we could potentially be related. If you don’t have a tree linked to your test, or it’s private, your cousin matches won’t know where to start and we’ve found people will often skip those matches.

Adoption in the family?
Put that in your tree. Include any info you have and note that it is an adoption.

Next Steps
Now that your results are linked to a tree, we will do the searching for you to discover:

  • DNA Circles
  • Shared Ancestor Hints
  • Shared Surnames and Birth Locations

DNA CirclesTM

circle and known ancestor


DNA Circles re-imagines what DNA matching can do. Circles goes beyond finding a common ancestor with your DNA matches to link you to additional AncestryDNA members with the same common ancestor, thus creating a “circle” of people who are all related.

Each DNA Circle is based on a shared ancestor. Built around each shared ancestor is a network of people who (1) share this same common ancestor and (2) share DNA with multiple people in the Circle. This tool makes it easier to share information and do more with your new-found cousins.

Plus, having a DNA Circle for a common ancestor gives you more confidence that you and others share DNA because you inherited it from this ancestor. Dive deeper into your DNA Circles with this guide.




Shared Ancestor Hintssearch by hint filter

Use the Hint feature to see cousins with whom you have an identified shared ancestor. This is a powerful tool for finding a connection. Review your tree and theirs to ensure that the research is solid. I have found these hints extremely helpful for sharing family pictures and stories.


Shared Surnames and Birth Locations  

When the shared ancestor between you and your matches isn’t super obvious, or perhaps you don’t have the ancestor in your tree, what can you do? Use the search by surname or locations functions and look for patterns. Once you’ve identified a match or two with the same common ancestor, spend a little time researching that family. Use the location filter when a possible surname has changed.

search by surname

Remember that all these tools are only available within the AncestryDNA experience if you have linked your DNA results to a family tree. Link your tree and get started today. Good Luck!


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From Liverpool to Johannesburg tonight on Long Lost Family. (UK) Wed, 24 Jun 2015 14:10:33 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> 1llf

Last week we witnessed emotional scenes as the Long Lost Family team took on the task of searching for a missing sibling and this week is no different. Christine Chesham is desperately searching for her sister in the hope of discovering the truth behind a family tragedy. Christine had always known that she was adopted, but it was not until she was 15 that she found out anything about her background. Having been brought up in an affluent area of Liverpool, Christine discovers that her mother came from a working class area, only a few miles away from her adoptive home.

When she got older, Christine decided she wanted to find her mother and hired a private investigator to track her down. Christine was devastated to discover that her mother had died in a tragic accident ten years before she had started to look for her. She also learned that she had a half-sister called Pamela. Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall take on the task of tracking down Pamela. Christine is desperate to meet her, not only to finally meet her sister, but to learn more about the life and death of her mother.

Next we meet fifty-three year old Vicki Haskell. Growing up, Vicki always felt that she was different from her adoptive family and always wondered about her birth mother. When she was eighteen-years-old Vicki began to search for clues about her background. She found her adoption file in her father’s desk, containing information on her birth mother.

‘She is interested in classical music, her height is 5 ft. 6”, normal weight and she is fair with blue eyes’.

For the first time in her life Vicki could see aspects of herself in another person. Her birth mother obviously shared looks and even an interest in music with her daughter. When Long Lost Family took on the search, Vicki had been searching for over 30 years to no avail. Nicky Campbell travels to South Africa to find Vicki’s mother, but will she want to meet her long lost daughter? Find out tonight at 9pm on ITV.

Long Lost Family airs tonight at 9pm on ITV. Join us on Twitter to let us know your thoughts on tonight’s episode.

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AncestryDNA – The Viking in the room Tue, 23 Jun 2015 09:11:34 +0000 Mike Mulligan Read more]]> At genealogy conferences I’ve spoken about AncestryDNA genetic ethnicity estimates. When the topic of Scandinavian ethnicity comes up, there tends to be an elephant in the room, or more accurately a Viking. At some point I invariably get asked by someone if having Scandinavian genetic ethnicity in their estimate means they are descended from Vikings. With this in mind, it seems like a good time to have a closer look at Scandinavian Ethnicity across the UK & Ireland.

Scandinavian Genetic Ethnicity across Great Britain & Ireland



The map above shows average Scandinavian ethnicity estimates across Great Britain and Ireland. It is based on the AncestryDNA test alone and does not use any historical migration data.

Across Great Britain there is a clear pattern with higher Scandinavian genetic ethnicity in the north east of England decreasing as you get further from that region. From a high of 11.1% in the Northeast of England the average drops to a low of 6.5% in Southern Scotland.

In Ireland we see even lower average Scandinavian ethnicity ranging from 5.3% in Ulster to 2.0% in Munster. At this point, we do not have averages calculated at county level in Ireland. A county level average ethnicity may possibly reveal more subtle variations in the averages.


 Average Scandinavian genetic ethnicity estimate across UK & Ireland


A Matter of Interpretation

Knowing the average amounts of a given genetic ethnicity across Britain can be useful. For example, if you have a high amount of Scandinavian in your estimate, then perhaps you might look towards the north east for your roots. But what about the original question we started with – if you have Scandinavian ethnicity can you say you are descended from Vikings?

The answer I normally give people is to consider it like any other genealogical research. Start with what you know. Any interpretation beyond this should at a minimum be consistent with the facts. In relation to Scandinavian genetic ethnicity estimate we can say the following.

    • If you have Scandinavian ethnicity as part of your estimate, then your DNA is similar to a group of modern day people in our AncestryDNA Reference Panel with deep roots in Scandinavia. That modern distinction is important, the test does not compare your DNA to any ancient group of people. In other words, the test does not compare your DNA to any “Viking DNA” (if this even could be defined).
    • Across the AncestryDNA database, higher amounts of average Scandinavian genetic ethnicity estimates are found in the north east of England than in other parts of Britain or Ireland.

Those are the only facts here. Anything beyond that is interpretation and storytelling. As with any interpretation ask yourself; is this consistent with what I know? Is this a plausible explanation of the facts? Am I pushing the facts to fit an explanation I want to believe?

There is a strong desire in all of us to find simple explanations, simple histories. But it is good to remember that the peopling of Europe is a complicated web of historical events, migrations and stories along many different timelines. The migration of Norse Vikings to Britain and their control of the Danelaw is one such event. But there are others. For example, from the 5th century there was also the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain. The Anglo-Saxon migration is relevant because some of the Germanic tribes involved in that migration (such as the Jutes and Angles) have their origins in what we refer to today as Denmark, a part of Scandinavia.

How you choose to interpret the facts is ultimately up to you. At the end of the day, this is your DNA, this is your story. There is no one better placed to tell it. Tell it wisely, tell it well.


The Danelaw

Danish Vikings began to invade northern and eastern England in 876 and eventually came to control a third of the country, defeating several smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The rulers of the Danelaw, as the Viking area became known, struggled for nearly 80 years with the remaining English kings over the region.

Anglo-Saxon Migration

As the Romans left Britain from 400 A.D., tribes from northern Germany and Denmark seized the opportunity to step in. The Angles (green) and Saxons (purple) soon controlled much of the territory that had been under Roman rule, while the Jutes (orange) occupied some smaller areas in the south.

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