Even if you have been living under the proverbial rock, you will still have heard of Ancestry.com, and more than likely, as genealogist, have spent some time using the site. Ancestry.com is larger than all other commercial genealogy sites combined. Ancestry is an enormous database, or rather, a collection of more than 30,000 databases holding some 11 billion records and adding, on average, 2 million additional records per day.
I thought it might help you better understand what a database actually is, if I provided a definition. However, when looking up the definition I was confronted with many interpretations. Here are the two I like best:
A collection of data arranged for ease and speed of search and retrieval by a computer – The American History Science Dictionary
One or more large structured sets of persistent data, usually associated with software to update and query the data. A simple database might be a single file containing many records, each of which contains the same set of fields where each field is a certain fixed width. A database is one component of a database management system – The Free Online Dictionary of Computing
Let me put this in perspective of Ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com is a collection of genealogically significant records which are quickly and easily accessible through the Ancestry.com website.
Ancestry.com is an enormous collection of genealogically significant databases, each of which represents a unique collection of related records, all of which collectively make up the Ancestry.com website. Individuals can search the entire database (or set of databases) in a broad search, or search individual databases. Sample databases include, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 or Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003.
Like any tool, Ancestry.com users, both subscribers as well as those taking advantage of free database searches when available, require some training to make the most of the website. Some people will simply struggle through on their own. However, for those who want a great overview to all Ancestry.com has to offer, including tools beyond records repositories, and to learn how to better use the site, George G. Morgan has done a wonderful job with his contribution to the Genealogy at a Glance guide series, authoring Genealogy at a Glance: Ancestry.com Research.
With this guide you can learn to use special location searches and keyword searches, Ancestry message boards, blogs, webinars, and a the learning center. Even experienced users are likely to gain a tidbit here and there to improve their search skills.
Like all the Genealogy At A Glance sheets, this guide is a four-page, full-color laminated brochure meant to be easily stored and sized to take with you when conducting related research. Also, like other guides, there are plenty of tips by the authors.
- Organization of the Database
Where to Start Your Search
- Search All Records
- Exact Match Searches
- Explore by Location
- Use the Card Catalog to Locate Specific Database
- Wildcard Searches
- Revise Your Search
- Additional Search Strategies
Source Information and Citation
Family Tree Maker Software
Find the help you need, and carry it with you, with your own copy of Genealogy At A Glance: Ancestry.com Research available at Family Roots Publishing; Price: $8.77.