Saturday, February 11, 2012
Week 7 - Using Ancestry.com
I always tell people that “FREE” is my favorite price to pay. This week your task has multiple steps to it, and the first one is to find a place that offers you free access to Ancestry.com. You might try your public library. Many of them have access to various memberships for the public’s use. But sadly, many are slashing budgets just to keep the building open and have cut out their accounts to these places.
Another place to try is your local Family History Center. The one closest to you can be found by going to https://www.familysearch.org/locations and typing in your zip code. Most Family History Centers are located within the building of a local congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These good people welcome anyone who is researching their family, free of charge, no need to be a member of their faith. Simply walk in, sign in, take a tour if they offer one, and then settle down at a computer.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, I am affiliate with neither public libraries nor the LDS church. Like I said to start, “FREE” is my favorite price to pay, and a membership to Ancestry.com is nearly $300 per year for access to all of their documents world-wide.
Wherever you find access to Ancestry.com, be sure to bring a flash drive and your Pedigree Charts with you. You might want to print out and bring this along with you, because I am going to walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up your family tree since your task this week is to use Ancestry.com’s family tree builder to start tracking and researching your family tree online.
WARNING: Taking this step could prove to be disastrous – you, too may become a genealogy and family history addict!
Once you get signed in (you won’t be setting up your own account, but logging in as the place where you are using the program – don’t worry, someone there can tell you the name and password if you need it) you want to click on the FAMILY TREES tab and then in the drop-down menu click on START A NEW TREE. You will see something that looks like this:
I recommend that you check the box “I AM STARTING WITH MYSELF” and then do just that. Start with you. Enter your first and middle name in the first box and your last name in the second box. Use the names you were born with, not married names or nicknames. Married names will be added in later. Nicknames can be added like this: William Albert “Will” or William “Will” Albert. Choose the way that makes the most sense to you and stick with that. You are starting to create your own “style sheet” – the preferred way of entering and storing information for your family history research.
Click the appropriate box for gender and then enter your birthdate. This is another opportunity to continue working on your style sheet. How will you enter the dates from here on in? April 29, 1963 or 29 April 1963 or 4/29/1963 or 04291963? There is no right or wrong way. But there are ways that work better. The 29 April 1963 format is my personal choice because it is simply how I have been writing dates for years and years. You decide what style you want to use. There is no right or wrong way as long as the information is clear. You WILL want to use all four digits of the year, because quickly you will be moving to the 1800s, and then you start having multiple people with the same name, so keeping the dates accurate is very important!
While we are talking dates, let’s discuss situations when you don’t know the whole date or are unsure of the exact date or only know it was before or after this time. My advice to you is to include what you do know. “May 1778” is better than “1778”, but “1778” is a lot better than “before 1780”. However, “before 1780” still gives us more information than a big fat blank space. So as you work your way back in time and you find a grandparent or great grandparent with an iffy date, include what you know and see what turns up. You may need to change it in the future, but it’s the best you have for now.
Now move on to place of birth. Again, more stylistic choices for you – do you want to simply include states? City and state? Counties? Countries? I prefer the city, county, state format, so mine would look like this: Somerset, Somerset, PA. You will note that I don’t write “city” or “county” and I abbreviate the state. Mostly that’s because I am also lazy and with so many of my family from PA, I would be writing PENNSYLVANIA too many times! When it comes to countries other than the US I include the country name thus: Ballintoy, Connor, Antrim, Ireland. This tells me the parish, the diocese, the county, and the country. Or I might have a simpler location such as Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany or Fife, Scotland.
And just as I mentioned regarding dates, SOME information on place is better than none. If you know she was born in Russia, add “Russia” for the place. You can home in on the exact part of Russia later. You might even discover that what was “Russia” then is “Moldova” now. Same is true here for Virginia and West Virginia. Then you decide if you are writing the name of the place as THEY knew it or as YOU know it. I go with both – I write “Keyser, Virginia (present day West Virginia)”.
Click “CONTINUE” and you get this screen:
You will notice that your information is on the far right box and now you are adding your father’s information. Fill in the blanks and move on to do the same thing for your mother. Again, enter as much information as you have and use your mother’s maiden name.
Next you get this screen which asks you to name your family tree – your maiden name is always a good choice as in “The James Family Tree” but you can go with your name “Kate’s Family Tree” or whatever you want to call it!
You are also asked if you want to make your tree public. This is completely up to you. The advantages of making it public are that others can see what you are doing and contact you to ask questions, offer help, or introduce themselves as long-lost relatives. The downside is the same – people can see it and contact you. HOWEVER, information on living people is suppressed, so no worries about stalkers finding you or your kids. I think making the tress available to others is a good idea – sharing information and knowledge is helpful. And I discovered some McConahy cousins who have a quarterly newsletter by sharing my tree on Ancestry.com.
Once you make that decision you’ll get something like this:
TRY to ignore the shaking leaves in the corner of the boxes (assuming you get any) and move on to adding your parents’ parents. We will talk about those leaves next week and what to do with them (they are very useful) but for now, let’s focus on entering the information we have.
To add someone to the tree from here, click on the “ADD FATHER” or “ADD MOTHER” box. You’ll get this screen and you know what to do from here. Leave the “EMAIL” and “SHARE TREE WITH THIS PERSON” boxes blank for now. Again, we will talk about this topic another week.
Be sure to hit “SAVE” and then move on.
If you select the “+ADD RELATIVE” button (like the one under my name) you get this screen, which allows you to add your siblings, spouses, and children.
Continue from there until you have entered all of the family members you have on your Pedigree Charts. You might end up with something relatively small when you are finished, but fear not. We will keep on working until your family tree looks like this:
(Currently my family tree has 848 people in it – I tend to be very picky and only add people who I am 100% certain are related to me, so I don’t have a tree that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. It is more important to me to be right than to have the biggest and baddest tree out there!)
So enjoy putting your tree together. Be sure to save it to your flash drive before you leave, and remember, you can only access the information via the Ancestry.com program. So you’ll be making a lot of trips to the library or the Family History Center the next few weeks!
Next week we will talk about how to actually use the plethora of documents and records available to you on Ancestry.com.