Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on February 2, 2009 in Website

There were some questions in the webinar that were search related that I didn’t have time to answer. This is the second set of questions. You can also view the first set

7. How can I obtain results for just one state?

This is a good question and there are multiple ways to go about it. I’ll show you a couple.

I’m going to pick Maryland as the state.

Method 1: State and Country Pages

If you go to the Maryland State Page. Over on the left you will find a box that looks like:

Maryland Search Box

Type in a given name and a surname, and press Search. The results here will match any result where a location is Maryland. It could be a residence, a birth location, death location, or marriage location.

Method 2: Exact “Lived In (Residence)

This one is available in the new search interface. Let’s say you are doing a search for John Smith. Under Lived In (Residence) type in Maryland, USA and choose exact. (You’ll need to be in advanced options.):

Maryland New Search Exact

This will limit your results to only records that show a John Smith with a residence of somewhere in Maryland. You can try the same for Birth or Marriage or any other location. I would recommend you not do all of these locations at once as exact, because it will only return results that exactly match those values. It is hard to find a record that shows a birth, marriage, death and residence all on the same document. So try them one at a time.

8. Is there a way to refine the search results so they are organized by date or location or some other category?

There are ways to limit the results to specific locations or specific dates, but not to organize them. See question 7 above, or question 6 in the previous post on tips on how to do this.

9. If looking for a birth is it best to put a last name in keyword?

I’ve never done this before, but I’m a big believer of trying everything you can think of. If you put a name or word into a keyword field it should try and match it anywhere in the data of the record. So if the surname is in some random unexpected data field, this could help locate it.

10. Can you search for records from the UK?

If you are on the site, there is a check box on their homepage that allows you to do that. You must be subscribed to the UK subscription.

If you are on the site, you can use the tips in question 7 to search for records that have the location UK in them. Or you can use the Collection Priority feature in the new search interface to prioritize UK records. On the you will see:

Prioritize for UK

Choose United Kingdom Collections and records that have been identified as being from the UK will be prioritized higher in a ranked search. You can reset this in the refine box as well:

Refine priority

I’ll continue to collect questions on how to do things and try and post answers on the blog from time to time.

Happy Searching.

Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at She is an active blogger on and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.


  1. Tony Cousins

    What happened to your other posting, it seems to have disappeared into thin air just like all the excuses that weren’t made about the appalling lack of service this past weekend.

    Was it a conscious decision to remove all the valid complaints from view? The link at the bottom of the previous posting (State and Country Pages) does not take you to “Questions from the search seminar” but to your postings page. I also can’t find the posting under the posting archive for January.

    If this posting has been mistakenly mislaid please let me know as I have all 140+ postings on file and would really like to assist Ancestry in this matter.

    Unless of course the posting was deliberately deleted because of the totally negative comments that you don’t want the subscribers to see.

    By the way, why was the site unavailable for so long worldwide?

    I also have a copy of this posting – if it too disappears believe me it will be posted again – and again – until we get the answer we deserve as paying customers.

    If I’m completely incorrect then please by all means reply to this with the link.


  2. Kay Davis

    I am trying to frantically input all the data I’ve collected for the last 25 years and now that I’m half-way through I read that someday my on-line tree may disappear into some other strange format. Just when is this nebulous deadline? My old fingers can only type so fast. Also, from all the negatives I’ve read I wonder if all the changes are really that necessary. It is true,of course, that us older folks can’t make changes as rapidly as the younger generations, plus the fact that our fingers and brains are slower and we weren’t “raised in the computer age”. Guess I’ll just keep on keeping on with Ancestry and use the Family Tree Maker as my back-up. Which brings to mind the old addage: More is NOT always better.
    Please let me know when the final switch is planned for. Thanks.

  3. Wow, do I have egg on my face – the ‘lost’ post was by David Graham and not Anne. The link that threw me was at the bottom of the post entitled “State and Country Pages” – that takes you to the Anne Mitchell main posting page not the next posting. My sincere apologies to Anne.

    Having said that there is still no explanation of the problems that happened over the weekend. Nobody from Ancestry has posted in that area.

    Anne – I have no problem with you removing my incorrect posting, and maybe you can get someone from Ancestry to answer the questions posed in



  4. Jade


    Your Q&A #7 sidesteps the irrelevancy quotient. As you know, in the first approach the so-called “Maryland” State listing contains much that is irrelevant to MD.

    Using your second approach, the search engine still returns the totally unrelated items:

    Ireland, Index to Griffith’s Valuation, 1848-1864
    British Phone Books, 1880-1984
    Nevada Marriage Index, 1956-2005
    Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934
    1851 United Kingdom Census Sample

    If the question were “Can I search strictly within one State?”, the answer is “No, not really.”

    At the end of the section for #7, you accurately describe one of the major flaws in the New Fuzzy Search Interface:

    “You can try the same for Birth or Marriage or any other location. I would recommend you not do all of these locations at once as exact, because it will only return results that exactly match those values. It is hard to find a record that shows a birth, marriage, death and residence all on the same document. So try them one at a time.”

    There should be something on the Search forms telling the would-be searcher that the search will not retrieve all data described as the user enters it: marriages AND births AND deaths AND court records. Instead, it will omit a birth record because it does not have the date of death in it, omit a death record that does not give date of marriage and spouse’s name, and so forth. That is, the fields result in *excluding* data rather than *including* data. This is a little inexplicable (and very frustrating for the unwary) since one cannot get the NFSUI to exclude results for before a birth date or after a death date.

    Your presentation of search tips is a good effort overall, but I would suggest a bit more emphasis on limitations of the NFSUI and the underlying Search Engine.

    Best wishes,

  5. Sherry

    I just wanted to say thank you for going back to the old format. Now when I click on a state, I get the records for that particular state. Thanks again,


  6. At My Canvas Webinar I received help from you as I could not see the prerecorded demo. I could not view it when you sent me a link to my email. I have been onto my ISP as it seems my broadband width was not wide enough.They have not been back to me.( Telstra in Australia) they seem to be to blame. Can I view it anywhere else?. Thanks Moira

  7. teresa

    How can I learn about my ancestry sister when i don’t know there name. I ask but no one know has told me so much thing it hard to one have a picture of them.all i know is i was born in Americaof the U.S that is someone was to tell me where I was born at I would be happy.I try to ask but didn’t get answer to my question.I just don’t know where to look.Could someone give me the answer where to look?

  8. David Clifford

    Hey, I’m new at this and could use a little help. How do I go about getting death certificates for family members that have passed away years ago?

  9. Martha Cieglo

    I have read most of the posting on the blogs. Yes, there are problems on ancestry but if you have been doing genealogical research for 40 years like I have, you would realize they are minor. A real problem is having to wait 3-4 weeks for one microfilm census record to come in, then spend hours viewing it at a library 2 hours from your house. Or drive 650 miles to view records only to find out the elderly lady that has the key to the cabinet they are in is in the hospital, so sorry, the records are not available. Or spend hours on the phone just getting a name and address to send a request to. Just having access to the census records is worth the cost of ancestry. I spent far more money on research 40 years ago. I’ll gladly toggle from one page to another and sift through unwanted data, it sure beats digging through boxes of unorganized. photocopied church records 800 miles from home.

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