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Ask-the-Pros Question and Answer – Too Many Answers

Question:

I’m a beginner at this. On Ancestry.com when I type in a person’s name, birth year, state and marriage section that I want to check, I get SO many answers to look at that are from England, other states, etc. – about 20,000 or more. Why doesn’t just the person’s name & information that I put in come up? It’s so frustrating to sit and go through all this information because it simply has the same last name. Thank you

Answer:

Searching in a large online database can certainly be frustrating, even for those with years of experience. With databases such as Ancestry.com, you should use a search strategy. I suggest putting in a minimal amount of information about the target person, perhaps a name, one date and a place of residence, birth, marriage or whatever you know. If you get too many results, perhaps for the reason that the person’s name is very common, you might try adding one piece of information at a time and redoing the search each time you add information.

If this still does not work to reduce the number of results, look to the larger family. Try searching on the spouse’s name using the woman’s married name as the surname. Try searching on each of the children’s names, in turn, and seeing if the results change. Be sure to update all of the data entry fields; it would not be a good idea to search for a child with a parent’s birthdate. Usually, if there are any records in Ancestry.com or another similarly large database, you will see some results after this type of search. If not, you may wish to move down (closer to you) one generation or more and try with the more recent family. Often you will find clues to the parents from records found for the children or grandchildren.

You may also wish to try different online databases. Not all of the different companies have the same information, you may find FamilySearch.org or MyHeritage.com have the information you are looking for.

Another tactic is to search the individual collections of records within Ancestry.com (or the other database programs). In Ancestry.com, look for the “Card Catalog” which is a list of all of the individual collections. You can then use the filters provided on the Card Catalog screen to view collections that may contain information pertaining to the date and place where your ancestor lived. If you search these individual collections, you will cut down the number of results dramatically.

Good Luck in your searching.

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