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Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #12 - Location Filters

This is my favorite search filter. Sure it may never have occurred to you to have a favorite, but I find this one incredibly useful.

When you are in search form and you start typing in a location, you will see our type ahead suggest a list of places for you.

Choose from this list.  This allows us to quickly identify everything we know about that place.  Once you’ve picked the place, you can then click on “Use Default Settings” underneath.

If you choose “Restrict to this place exactly” the place you’ve identified must match exactly.  So if you entered, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, and checked Restrict to this place exactly, you will not get matches for just Cook County, Illinois, USA.

If you choose County, then you will get matches for both the city and just the county.  And if you don’t find your person in those locations, you might try expanding to county/adjacent counties.  You don’t need to know what they are or if they crossed state lines, we know, and we will search them. 

If you just choose state and have Chicago, Cook, Illinois as your location, we will match those locations that are in Chicago first, but as long as the state is Illinois is in the location, it matches.

Give this one a spin.  By adjusting this you can expand and contract your searches easily to locate those elusive records.

Next hint: Search #13: Wildcards  or review Search Tip #11 : Name Filters

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #11 - Name Filters

Search Tips 1 - 10 Have all been about where to search for information.  Let’s change our tactics a little bit and examine ways to improve your searching when you’ve found a place to search.

If you are on, make use of name filters when you do a search.  We have over 10 Billion records and making sure you narrow your search results down to a reasonable amount, is probably a good idea.

First you will need to be on advanced search.  (IMHO, you should always use advanced search.)  It’s in the upper right corner of the search form.

Underneath the name boxes on the form, you’ll see “Use Default Settings” which loosely translates into anything close or in the case of first names, if everything else matches, this doesn’t have to.  If that is what you are after, leave it.

First Name Filters

If you click on link under First & Middle Name(s) you will be presented with a list of options:

You can choose a variety of options here. 

  • Restrict to exact : returns only records with what you’ve typed in.  Be sure you are asking for what you want.
  • Phonetic : if it sounds the same or close, we will return it.  Catherine and Katherine.
  • Similar meanings : William, Will, Bill, Billy and Wm all stand for some sort of William.  This matches them all.
  • Initials : For those pesky records where the record keeper decided an initial was just enough.

Last Name Filters

Last name filters have similar options:

  • Restrict to exact : returns only records with what you’ve typed in.  Be sure you are asking for what you want.
  • Soundex: This is really in here for historical reasons.  It is a algorithm used to compress last names to a series of similar sounds.  For more, you can read the Soundex entry on Wikipedia
  • Phonetic : if it sounds the same or close, we will return it. Smyth and Smith
  • Similar meanings : Schmidt and Smith

Next Hint: Search #12 :  Location Filters or review Search Tip #10 : It’s A Big Web

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #10 - It’s a Big Web Out There

The internet is a big place, and while I firmly believe that is the best place to start and store your finds, make sure you look everywhere. Here are few suggestions.  Feel free to add other ideas as comments.

       For example:



Next hint:  Search #11:  Name Filters or review  Search Tip #9 : One World Tree

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #9: One World Tree

The OneWorldTree data collection gathers a lot of member trees together and creates an approximation of a master tree.  We do not update this anymore, so it is a static data collection, but there are some goodies in there that you may not know about.

Here is what to do.

Start on the OneWorldTree search form.  I’m going to search for one of my ancestors: Robert Howard Cash.

Which gives me a bunch of results:

I click through on a likely one, and I come to a summary for that person.  But what I’ve looking for can be found in the listing of all the probable trees containing Robert.  The link is highlighted by the red arrow.

I click through and I see the listing.  The little books, means there are sources attached.  The little papers means that there are documents attached.  This is where the treasure hunt is revealed.  You just  never know what someone has attached. 

I click through and this time I find something quite useful: Robert Howard Cash’s will which someone has taken the time to transcribe and upload.

Sometimes you come up with nothing.  Sometimes you find a lovely little treasure.  If you don’t look, you don’t know.

Next hint: Search #10:  It’s a Big Web or review Search Tip #8 : wiki

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #8 - Message Boards or Rootsweb message boards can be one of those often forgotten but very useful places to find distant cousins who are searching for the same ancestors you are or those who are knowledgeable about a certain place or time.

You can find the link to our message boards in the header:


From there, you will go to the main dashboard where you can search for specific surname, location or topic:

Let’s say I’m looking for information on my Gillespie relatives.  I entered Gillespie into the search box and find:

I can then search within that board by typing in another name and checking the Board only box:

This will then display all the messages with that phrase or name:

And if you don’t find what you are looking for, post a message with as much information as you know in both the surname and the county message board asking for information.  Be sure to include Names, Relationships and any dates you might have.  You never know who might be reading that will have some information for you.

Look for Search #9:  One World Tree or review: Search Tip #7: wiki

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #6 - City Directories

We’ve made a lot of updates to our City Directories, and we have launched a new index for them at: U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta)

Don’t let the name fool you, this is ready for prime time.  You can read more at our original post on City Directories.

But don’t give up even if you don’t find what you are looking for with a search.  Check out browse on the right hand side.  Here I’m looking for a City Directory around the 1940 time frame so I can map where my grandparents would have lived:

Look for the state and then the city, and see if we have any years that you might be interested in.

Look for Search Tip #7: Ancestry Wiki, or review: Search Tip #5: Surname Histories

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne