Monday, January 5, 2009

January E-Resource: Ancestry Library

Resolve to learn more about your family and ancestral tree? ANCESTRY LIBRARY EDITION provides unprecedented access to family history via documents that record the lineage of over 5 billion individuals. Whether you are a professional genealogist or hobbyist, expert or novice, you'll find it easy to access the more than 4,000 databases of family information. User-friendly search tools and comprehensive indexing make it easy to start discovering the story of you.

Ancestry Library, which is available within any of the Fauquier County Public Library branches, includes census records (US and other countries); birth, marriage and death records for the US and the UK; US military records; immigration, emigration and naturalization records; court, land and probate records. You can also access local newspapers and periodicals, diaries of local communities and those that lived in them, and photos and maps, ranging from postcards and panoramas to family photos and headstones.

If you aren't familiar with Ancestry Library, be sure to ask a reference librarian to get you started. You may also find the tips below helpful as you dig in to your family history.

General Tips
  • When you search from the Ancestry Library home page or the Search page, you're actually searching all 3,800+ collections. This is not apparent, as you think you're just searching the Historical Records, since that's the tab that's highlighted. However, even though you will get results for newspaper articles, they won't be as relevant/ranked as high, so if you know you want a map, for example, it's best to click on the Photos & Maps tab and start your search there.

  • In the Historical Records contents, some collections only include indexing, not the original records. You'll be able to tell which items in your search results have the original record image, as they will include a link to "View Image." If no image is available, when you click into the indexed record, you'll sometimes get a link to request a copy of the original application, which will then take you to a page explaining what information is needed and an option to generate a letter.

  • The contents of Ancestry Library are updated frequently. If you look at the bottom of the home page, you'll see the option to list recent or all databases. Click on "recent" and you'll see many updates and additions listed.

  • Many of the images are from the Library of Congress.

  • In the Stories & Publications results, this full-text content is mainly small local papers with sporadic coverage.
Search Strategies
  • Every collection has a unique search interface, as input fields will depend on what sort of informtation was collected or indexed.

  • The search provides ranked results (see stars).

  • Unless otherwise specified, the default search looks for variant spellings of the first and last names and then ranks those results.

  • In the Historical Records section, use the Soundex to get names that sound like the name you type in. For misspellings, etc., you can use wildcards. An asterisk (*) will replace 0-5 characters in a name. You can use the asterisk between letters or at the end of a name, but be aware that it must be preceded by at least three (3) characters. You can use the question mark (?) to replace one (1) character only, and, like the asterisk, can be used in between or at the end of a name and must be preceded by at least three (3) characters. Using wild cards may end up being more helpful than the Soundex, giving you more relevant results.

  • Note: If you click in the check box "exact matches only," it stays that way indefinitely until the next user chooses to uncheck.

  • Neither the message boards nor the world tree are included in search results. The only way to search those databases is to click on the list of all databases and then choose either from the Trees & Community section listed on the right side of the screen. You will also notice that you'll get prompted to search the message boards within your results (Can't find what you're looking for? Search our message boards).

  • You'll notice that you'll default to viewing 1-10 records. You can increase to viewing 1-50. However, for reasons unknown, Ancestry does not tell you how many total records you have to go through. You just have to keep clicking through - frustrating.

Printing & Saving Records

  • Ancestry Library's "Advanced Viewer" allows you to use a drag tool, zoom in, print just certain portions of an image (current view) versus the entire image.

  • It is recommended that when you print that you change the orientation to landscape versus portrait, as census records, the original images, are 11 X 17.

  • You can only save images in JPEG format.

For more information on genealogy and local history, check out the library's Web site or speak with a reference librarian.

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