Posted by on October 14, 2009 in Webinars

Hi Everyone,

I’d like to remind everybody that we will be running a free webinar on the best Strategies for Searching this evening at 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

This webinar is designed for beginning to intermediate members of To attend the webinar, please register here.

We’re delighted that we already have more than 10,000 registrants – and look forward to have you all join us this evening.



  1. Donna Zilska

    why is it i cannot access michigan family marriages or divorces through this site
    I pay an exzuberent amount to belong to this site I would think that I culd access any marriage license I needed from any of my ancestors not the case you need some serious updating (a 2 year veteran) Donna

  2. Mary Beth Marchant

    I would suspect that many states such as Michigan restrict access to marriage, death, divorce, birth records, etc. either because of privacy concerns and/or because the state gains revenue from selling copies of those records. However, checking out another free web site, I see that Michigan births, deaths and marriages are available there form some years. Births 1867-1902, deaths 1867-1897 and marriages 1868-1925. I see that marriage records are not marriage licenses but are hand written records. If you e mail me at I will give you the link to the site.

  3. Teri-Sue Thompson

    I have been finding so much helpful information about immigrating Italian family in the late 1800’s, very early 1900’s. I have recently discovered a family wherein the members apparently traveled back & forth to Italy, “Birds of Passage.” (I’ve been doing my homework.) It would be so helpful if I could find people DEPARTING from US in addition to arriving. Is this available?

  4. Andy Hatchett

    HUGE Error in Search Seminar

    Did anyone else catch this..
    on more than one occasion it mentioned “saving the records to your shoebox” !!

    As the Drouin incident clearly showed- this is not the case- it is only links that are saved to the shoebox- NOT THE RECORD ITSELF!

    If they can’t get this simple fact straight how on earth can they expect to make a successful search engine.

    I answered the last question of the post seminar survey and hope they take note. I said…

    My major dislike was when people were told they could save records to their shoeboxes; as the Drouin incident clearly demonstrated, it is only *links* to records that are saved to shoeboxes.

    It is this type of inattentivness to detail that perfectly illustrates Ancestry’s sloppy attitude when it comes to customer service and designing new features.

  5. Jerry Bryan

    Good Webinar. It really was, even though I disagree with much of the advice. As Ann says, there are lots of ways to search.

    The most striking thing for me in the Webinar was the discussion about searching from a tree or from personal profile. I know such a capability exists but I tend to forget about it because I never use it.

    When you search that way, you almost have to use ranked search rather than exact search. That’s because when you search from a tree or from a personal profile, the system automatically fills in all the data for the person. And when all the data is filled in, an exact search is almost bound to fail. That kind of forces you into a ranked search scenario, which I think is a very suboptimal way to search. (Possible caveat: I played around a little bit with searching from a tree when New Search first came out, and I can’t remember of you can blank out some of the fields before you search that that are filled in for you such as death date.)

    Filling in all the data and then doing an exact search also begs the question of what an “exact search” should mean. There are several possible answers to that question. For example, suppose you search exact for John Smith born in 1923 died in 1989, and there is a 1930 census entry for John Smith age 7. I tend to think the search engine should return a match, but there isn’t a match because the 1930 census doesn’t contain the death date of 1989. (And of course, I would usually put a +- on the birth date of 1923 in an exact search.)

    As Ann suggests, because of the way the search engine works it’s usually unwise in an exact search to include a death date unless death records are what you are looking for. But searching from trees or personal profiles includes the death date in the search. Including the death date in the search leads you into suboptimal ranked search rather than the much better exact search, and my message has circled back to where it started. So I will stop.

  6. David F. Klein

    I tried several times to access the webinar tonight and was not able. Everything was downloaded, system tested out just fine, but no show. I’ve given up on webinars. Put the presentation on YouTube and then it can be accessed with no problems.

  7. Andy Hatchett

    David Re: #6

    I was surprised the whole thing didn’t crash- they had 10,700+ people on the webinar.

    Sorry you didn’t make it but it will be available later… and, to be frank, you didn’t miss a whole lot.

  8. Donna Hodach-Price

    Although I found this evenings webinar was geared mainly toward beginners, I did pick up a few things. I find it very interesting that the comments here have been rather negative.

    I have been a subscriber for almost 8 years now and have found the records available at Ancestry to be quite comprehensive. I definitely have my own ‘brick walls’ but had it not been for the wide array of records available online at Ancestry, my husband would not know who his gggg-grandfather was nor would I have known that my ggg-grandfather worked in Vaudeville.

    I remember the “old days” when these records only existed in the locality they were created in. Writing letters to county agencies or going through old books and boxes of records stored in courthouse basements is almost a thing of the past as is traveling all over the country (or world in some cases) in search of that one elusive record. Time is money for me so for such a rewarding hobby, this is money well spent.

    I’ll be looking forward to the next webinar. Keep up the good work!

  9. Carol A. H.

    To Jerry #5 and Andy #4:

    I use the “Search for Historical Records” feature for a person (tree or profile view) in my tree frequently and find it very good. BUT there are many times the search engine just doesn’t pick up ALL the records so I still have to search separate databases. And I use old search all the time. New search is not better.

    Of course as Andy in #4 pointed out, when you save a record(s), it doesn’t save the actual record, it saves the address of the record. So if Ancestry moves or changes this addy, you better have a paper copy or something else for your document proof.

    I do double work by keeping my database on my computer at home and make multiple back-ups. Gets tedious at times, but safer. Ancestry is frequently going down for one reason or another. I trust myself more than them.

    They did say the webinar was for beginners and intermediate users and they were right. I’m more than an intermediate user but not expert. I won’t bother to see it again. I didn’t pick up anything new at all.

  10. John Morrison

    I would liked to have viewed the webinar, but have no idea when 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time is/was.
    Can Anvetry please convert to GMT on the blog announcing items, so that those thoudsands of us who don’t live in the USA will know when things are happening.

  11. Deb H

    I’m a long-time Ancestry user who attended the webinar to see if New Search could be explained any better. Unfortunately, I think it just reinforced my opinion that it’s more complicated than it has to be. A question at the end from a gentleman was the kicker. He asked if he searched “Virginia, USA” with “exact” checked, would he just get records for Virginia, USA. The answer (I think it was from Anne) was “yes”. But when he asked about searching “Rockbridge, Virginia” with “exact” checked, after a rather lengthy (and I felt confusing) explanation, it appeared the answer was “no” because his search was “more specific” or something to that effect. I’m willing to concede that I may have misunderstood the answer, and I also had 5 mins. of “technical difficulty” near the beginning of the session, so maybe the whole “exact” thing was succinctly explained during my “outage”). But if it wasn’t, and I didn’t misunderstand, why would one set of search criteia with “exact” checked work one way and another one differently? In my mind, “exact means exact” (I know, it’s been blogged ad nauseum). I still feel Ancestry is trying to direct my search, rather than letting me do it. The mere fact that over 10,000 people signed up for a seminar on how to search (of which a large proportion were Ancestry users of at least 2 years) is an indication that something is wrong. If a Webinar was offered on how to use “Old Search” there would not have been anywhere near that number who signed up…after all, it’s simple, intuitive and returns results. I’ll be sticking with “Old Search”. And Andy, #4 – yes I caught the Shoebox tip as well and was amazed that advice was given.

  12. Vivian Boulos

    I could not access the Webinar last night. I checked eveything in advance and it was okay. Two problems: I believed 8 pm Eastern time was 5 pm on West Coast. Was that correct? 2nd problem. I use Netscape as my browser and Firefox but this is for searching and is not connected to my e-mail. Thank you for the replay this morning. It tries to work, but nada, zip, zero comes thru. I will log onto Ancestry thru Firefox now and see if I can paste in the link, altho as long time user, webinar may not be so useful to me. I love the census and appreciate the corrections that have been made.

  13. Belva

    re #4 – Andy

    I don’t know anything about the Drouin incident but I’ve been saving data (census records, marriage, immigration, etc.)to my shoebox and have never had a problem. When I’m ready, I go back to My Shoebox, locate the document I want and print.

  14. Lee Higgins

    Instead of repeating the entire webinar, it would be nice if the slides could be posted. I didn’t bother writing down the shortcuts since I was under the impression that the information was going to be available. Other than the shortcuts, I got very little out of the webinar – I wish I had seen it 5 years ago when I first started.
    I think the site should explain when you ask for records from New York and other places that these states or cities do not release the records to the public. I left Ancestry and searched New York through Google and found out that was why I was not finding any information.

  15. Andy Hatchett

    Belva Re:#14

    In a nutshell the Drouin incident was when Ancestry pulled the entire Drouin database offline due to a legal dispute. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people use this database as it is the premier North American database for those tracing their French ancestors.

    Suddenly all those “documents’ that they had “saved” to their shoeboxes disappeared.

    The reason is because when you save something to your shoebox you are *not* saving the actual image to your shoebox. You are merely saving the URL to the image on Ancestry’s servers. If the actual document were being saved then Ancestry’s servers would have multiple images for every “saved” document” in every shoebox.

    When the actual image on Ancestry’s servers is pulled offline then all those saved links go away also.

    Ancestry is misleading people when they claim you are actually saving a document to your shoebox- you aren’t.

    None of this shows up until the actual image on Ancestry’s servers gets pulled offline.

    There is a thread on the blog about the whole incident.

    Bottom line is if you want a copy of a document the only safe way to be sure you have it is to save it to your computer’s hard drive.

    The only thing in your shoebox is a link- not a document.

  16. Martha Greene

    I love to watch the webnars and appreciate that they are free.
    I can not believe all the negative comments.
    If they do not feel they are helpful don’t watch them.
    I have had FTM and Ancestry for many years and I learn something all the time.
    Yes there are things that get confusing but with all that is offered I can’t believe how well it works. I’d sure hate to go back to the notebooks and courthouse days. (even though I still do that just for the thrill of the research.
    Keep up the great work and thanks for all those little green leaves.

  17. Ric

    I listened to the webinar and enjoyed both the slides and the interaction. It would be nice to call this webinar Search 101 and do another webinar called Search Advanced.

    Most of the folks on-line had more than 2 years experience with Ancestry. Therefore it would be nice to go to the next level in Search techniques on a subsequent webinar.

  18. Andy Hatchett

    Martha Re: #17

    You can’t know if they are helpful until you watch them.

    I don’t consider it negative to point out gross errors in the presentation.

    To me it seemed that the overall message of the webinar was…

    “All we can really suggest is to keep searching in different ways until you find what you need/want”

    Well- DUH!

    We do that now don’t we?

  19. Jim Gill

    Following the webinar I went back to to try out what I had seen. I found no pages that looked like what were demonstrated. I found no type-ahead fields. I watched the first part of the webinar again to see if I had missed something on how to get to those pages, but found nothing. I sent an email to support but since I didn’t get an answer to my last email, confidence is not high I will get an answer this time.

  20. Dave Nuttall

    Some issues with search that were “tickled” by the webinar:

    Member connection overstates the number of events – it should not include common events (i.e. “5 possible records” should not include records that are already attached to the person. It should mean that there are 5 “new” records to investigate).

    When searching from a person profile the “ignored” information can block the search. Often clearing out “greyed out” fields will permit the search to return records.

    Wild card rules too restrictive – e.g. “R*” is better than blank but is disallowed (three preceding characters rule). It must be less load on your system for me to specify “R*” than for me to leave the field blank and then page through hundreds or thousands of records to get the those beginning with R.

    Search results should be ordered using date information – A typical UK Census search from a person profile returns the “matches” ordered by birth year, with no attenion paid to the birth year in the profile. You may have to wade through several pages of “matches” where the birth year pre-dates the profile birth year. A better ordering would be by ABS(profile birth year – record birth year).

    When you change a search initiated forom a person profile the link to save the result to the person goes away – If you change any field in a search generated from a person
    profile you loose the one step save ability. Note that I often change the birth year to exact +/- 5 to reduce the number of trash records I have to wade through because of the search ordering problem above.

    Place authority in UK should list Place, County, Country – not Place, Country, UK – as county information is critical for searches, and there are many places that have the same
    names that can only be identified within a county. The UK designation is worthless – the country names are England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and these are unique without the addition of “United Kingdom”. Note that FTM 2010 is unable to resolve place names of the form Place, Country, UK.

  21. Carol A. H.

    Andy, good posts. You do an excellent job of simplifying the real truth of things that people assume. I think in some cases it comes from lack of knowledge of how the internet and computers work. Are you a teacher?

  22. Carol A. H.

    Lee #15: Five years ago, “new search” didn’t exist and neither did all the problems associated with it. Your five years of using Ancestry are worth far more than the recent webinar. You now know much more than the webinar showed.

    Google is very valuable to me and I use it all the time.

    Another excellent source for New England research is the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. Membership is $75 a year and in the first month of my membership, I got more than my money’s worth of vital records, compared to what I would have spent by ordering films at the Family History Center. If you need to do research in that area, it is a bargain!

  23. Andy Hatchett

    Carol Re: #22


    Thanks for the compliment , but no, no teacher here; just someone who believes that correct information should be presented in an as clear, concise, and detailed manner as possible with no spin or hype. This is, of course, anathema to most organizations and their spokespersons.

  24. roger


    #21. I have made your points about UK and Counties many times on the message boards and it has always been ignored by anyone at Ancestry.

    It would seen that Ancestry aim the product mainly at the US market and don’t really care too much about the rest of the world. I could give lots of examples, but just look at the start time of the Webinar – peak time in the US – middle of the night in Europe.

    The meaningless Place, Country, UK, appears to be used because it fits in with the Ancestry database design for the US. Consequently the rest of the world has been stuck with it.

    It all seems to come from the fact that a County in the US is a sub-division of a State. Whoever initally set up the database failed to realise that the UK County is the equivilent of a US State and seems to think that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are will do instead.

    When it comes to Ireland many of the databases fail to recognise the difference between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (and independent Country). Dublin is not in the UK, as many searches would have it, rather it is in the ROI. While Belfast is in Northern Ireland and is part of the UK (but not of Great Britain).

    Come on Ancestry, at least someone could ackowledge that this is a problem. It may not be easy to sort out the database now that it has been so heavily populated with data but the least you can do is accept that there is a problem to be looked at.

  25. Jade

    Roger, #25 and Dave #21, this problem is not limited to UK. Place-name specifity has many obstacles for searching in the US as well.

    In addition to the Search Engine’s inability to distinguish between a State and another location by the same name, there are countless instances where the database indexes give wrong/nonexistent place names.

    And retaining the gedcom-platform model fails to distinguish between, say, Mannington Magisterial District and Mannington, a village within the afsd. District.

    These problems are compounded using New Fuzzy Search User Interface, when millions of purported search results are not helpfully sortable.

    Only Anne Mitchell had the gumption, close to 2 years ago now, to ask about the significance of distinguishing between place names such as Beats, Magisterial Districts, Hundreds, and so forth.

    Overall there have been many user comments on this general problem. And no perceptible Ancestry Solutions.

  26. I thought that the slides and conversation of the webinar would be posted, instead of having to view it all again. So I didn’t take much in the way of notes. It would be helpful if the main points were posted at least; if they have been, I can’t find them. I am at least computer-literate enough to slog my way thru the website trying out various combinations of things to find what I am looking for, but my 86 year old partner is not. This leads to a lot of frustration when they try to ‘try’ to find things using different methods and can’t get back to something they found earlier. Any way you could post the slides as part of the help or learning center????

  27. Barb

    Thanks for the Webinar class. I have to agree with some of the people that thhose of us that have been using this site for over 5 years have learned by experience. Finding state information, because of privacy laws is difficult, especially if you are looking for current information. You almost have to go directly to the State depts. The Webinar was a good overview for me and I did find some helpful hints that I have not used. Thanks and look forward to maybe a “Searching for Advanced” people.

  28. Bob Hittinger

    I have been able to trace most of my relatives coming into the United States, but can’t find any info on passenger lists going out of the US.

    Is there any sites out there that provide this info?

  29. Andy Hatchett

    To the best of my knowledge there was no requirement to keep track of those leaving the country – only thohse entering it.

    Outgoing passenger manifests were kept by the individual shipping companies but I know of none that are online.

  30. Mary Beth Marchant

    To Sherry-#31-and others. Even though I do not research Michigan, I am glad to hear that their vital records are available through the Library of Michigan. I wish other states would follow those examples. It would make research so much easier for those of us who wish to find those vital records. Some other states records are available as well-such as Missouri. I am not aware of too many. Hopefully, others will point those out too.

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