For the past few weeks weâ€™ve been reviewing search techniques at Ancestry (see the links at the bottom of this article if you missed past columns). This week weâ€™re going to focus on â€œrich contentâ€–that is, images, video, maps, and other content that adds depth to our family history.
A while back Ancestry split some of the searches off into different tabs, or â€œbucketsâ€ as they like to call them at the home office. If you look at the search on the homepage, youâ€™ll notice that there are four tabs: Historical Records, Family Trees, Stories & Publications, and Photos & Maps. Since you probably wouldnâ€™t search for photos or maps in the same way as you would a family tree or a historical record, this allowed them to create a search portal geared toward each record type. Much of the rich content weâ€™ll be exploring today resides in the Stories & Publications tab and the Photos & Maps tab.
Searching for People
A few years ago, when I would talk about searching photograph collections at Ancestry, I would probably have mentioned that chances may be slim for finding actual photographs of your ancestors, but the odds are steadily improving. There are currently 2,711,737 photographs available on member trees that are searchable. In addition, the U.S. School Yearbook Collection; African American Photo Collection, 1850-2000; Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000; U.S. Family Photo Collection, c. 1850-2000; and U.S. Civil War Photos, 1860-1865 could contain a photograph of one of your family members. So my advice today is by all means, search these image collections using an ancestorâ€™s name. High profile figures (e.g., military officers, politicians, etc.) may have a slight edge, but with more and more people adding photos to trees, you never know when a cousin may load that elusive photo of great-grandpa. All of these databases and several others can be searched through the Photos & Maps tab, and if you donâ€™t find an ancestor in there this week, check back later.
Searching for Historical Context
If youâ€™re still unable to locate a photograph of an ancestor, donâ€™t worry, thereâ€™s a ton of historical background material available that can really help you flesh out your family tree. For example, try a search for a military unit in which a family member served. I did a sample search for the â€œIrish Brigade,â€ a military unit, which during the Civil War was comprised largely of Irish-Americans from New York. Continue reading