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Ask Ancestry Anne: Favorite Search Tip #2 - Place Pages

When you start researching a new area, or if you are just trying to find something new and different for a place you are familiar with, Place Pages is a great place to start looking.

Go to our Search Home Page and go down to the bottom of the page.  You’ll see the map which is where you begin.

Click on the link of whatever state you are interested in.  Or if you are not interested in the United States, look at one of the country tabs to change your focus.

I’m going to focus on my maternal side, so I click on North Carolina.

You’ll notice that we’ve broken the data collections up by categories:

This can help you identify if we specific census enumerations specific to that state, and will lay out what Vitals we have.  And if you are in the mood to document those military careers you’ll know where to start.

Stories, Memories and Histories may help you discover some colorful tales about what was like in the era your ancestors live.

We didn’t stop at the state level.  If you look at the area on the right under the map, you will see the list of counties that we have information on as well.

If I click on Lincoln, I’ll see the 28 collections has on Lincoln County:

You just never know where your going to find that piece of information that will help you break down the brick wall!

Look for Search Tip #3: Card Catalog, or review: Search Tip #1 : Shaky Leaves

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

A Hero Connected

I posted a military page in my Kelly Family Tree for a second cousin, twice removed—Sylvester Milas Bolick. He was not in my direct line but I was fascinated by him because he was killed in World War II, is buried in Belgium and had received a Purple Heart. 

In February, I got an e-mail out of the blue from a man in Belgium who had found the public military page I had set up for Sylvester last year. As a teenager, this Belgian man adopted the grave of Sylvester Milas Bolick, a fallen soldier of WWII who was buried at the American Cemetery and Memorial of Henri-Chapelle, Belgium “to whom (among others) I owe the freedom and liberty I enjoy today.” This young man did some research through the NARA and other places trying to find information about that man whose grave he has tended twice a year since he was twelve-years old. (He will be 30 in June.) Prior to that, his godfather had tended the grave. So, out of curiosity, this Belgian man has after many years finally decided to try and find more information on Sylvester.

The story does not end here. I have found probably about six or seven cousins through my research in Ancestry, including one who was a niece to Sylvester Milas Bolick. I put her in contact with this Belgian man, and now this Belgian man has passed along all of the research he has found to Sylvester’s family and me and has even sent us color photographs of Sylvester’s headstone and all the NARA information he received (which the family did not have).  

Sylvester’s name and photo and known history have now been added to the Adoptiegraven database  which we were not even aware of. 

Rhea Kelly
Kelly Family Tree

Ask Ancestry Anne: My grandmother’s story continues

I lost touch with my mother’s side of the family many years ago.  But I have rediscovered the family through the documents on

I’ve learned a lot about my grandmother Jennie Elizabeth Payne and then all of her brothers and sisters.  In 1930, I found her and her orphaned brothers and sisters living together,  her father and mother having died in the 1920’s.  It gave me a whole new perspective on her and what she must have gone through. It changed my whole view of her and what her life must have been like.


I know that in 1930 she has no listed profession, but I know she was a nurse at some point in her life.  Was it during the 1930’s?  Did they the family stay together on the farm or where they all leaving elsewhere?  I know most of her brothers fought in WWII.  Did they have any idea what was coming?

I believe she married my grandfather Howard Turner in May of 1940, so I should find her living alone or with relatives.  In 1930, she is living in Crowder’s Mountain, Gaston County, North Carolina.  My mother was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, after 1940, so I have a couple of counties to start hunting in.  And yes, I will page through the images until I find her.  I just know that there are some details in the census that will help me understand what happened to this family during the depression.

Happy Searching!

— Ancestry Anne

Mysteries and other stories in the family tree

By Juliana Smith

Marissa Tomei’s journey into the past on last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (Fridays 8/7c on NBC) centered on the untimely death of her great-grandfather. At the start, he was little more than a name in the family tree and the subject of speculation—of the shadiest type. But his reputation got a makeover once Tomei dug into his story.

That’s the wonderful part about going beyond a name on a family tree—digging into the story brings people to life. And adding off-the-beaten-path resources like newspapers, which helped Tomei get the real story of her great-grandfather’s murder and its aftermath, makes the truth that much more vivid.

My first research experience with newspapers was also one of the first real research trips I took with my mother. We went to the Chicago Public Library, where we spent hours scrolling through microfilms of old newspapers, looking for mentions of her client’s ancestors. Although I was supposed to be searching for an obituary, I kept calling my mother over to see my exciting discoveries. Unfortunately they were not about her client; they were just interesting articles from the era we were researching.

I’ve never lost that fascination with old newspapers and still enjoy trolling through the pages of dailies and weeklies from places where my ancestors lived—and pretty much anywhere else.

Historical newspapers offer a firsthand look into the times and places our ancestors inhabited. And that glimpse into bygone eras often provides insights that can’t be found elsewhere. You’ll find the newspapers collection through the Search tab. Click on it and look for Stories & Publications on the right side. Then use these search tips to find your family in the news.

·         Specify “Exact.” Restricting your search to “exact” can help narrow the results. For names, click the Use Default Settings links below the name fields and select the appropriate restrictions. For keywords, click the Exact box following the keyword field.

·         To narrow your search to a particular time frame, enter a date in the year field under Publication Info. You can click the Exact Only box, but also allow a little wiggle room by entering +/- 1, 2, 5 or 10 years (e.g., a search for a publication date of 1850 with +/- 10 years will search newspapers for 1840–1860).

·         If you want to search for a phrase, put it in quotes. This tells to look for that exact phrase—for example,  “California emigration”—rather than pages that mention California in one article and emigration from Sweden in another.

·         Search beyond your ancestor’s stomping grounds. Like they do today, newspapers often picked up stories from places across the country. Try searching the entire collection for a place name (town or county) instead of a person.

Make some time to search or browse newspapers from the era of your ancestors. Bookmark your “favorites,” and when you find a few spare minutes, curl up with the laptop and take a quick trip through the past with some real pages of history. And be sure to add them to your family tree, in case you ever have the needs to unravel a family mystery, too. You’ll find information about doing just that at is a sponsor of the Who Do You Think You Are?.

This is my two older sisters being evacuated to Wales from Gillingham, Kent, England during World War II. They are the two in the front holding their dolls. I was too young to go with them.
Florence Keels

This is my two older sisters being evacuated to Wales from Gillingham, Kent, England during World War II. They are the two in the front holding their dolls. I was too young to go with them.

Florence Keels