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What is Ancestry.com?
Ancestry.com is the world's largest subscription genealogy database. In 1990 two BYU graduates created Infobases, a company that sold LDS publications on floppy disks and, in 1995, CD-ROMs, In 1995 Infobases created its first website, Ancestry.com. The company's first web-based database appeared in 1998.
Ancestry.com contains over 10 billion historical records, 600 million searchable names and records from over 80 countries (although records generated in the United States are, by far, the most common.) Use Ancestry.com to find records that will help you trace your own ancestry and create a family tree. In many cases you may find that others have already created trees containing your ancestors.
Ancestry.com continues to add records on a weekly basis – if you revisit your trees and search again for records on a particular ancestor you may be surprised to find additional information.
What kinds of records can you find in Ancestry.com?
Types of Records
Ancestry contains billions of records. There are so many different kinds of records, and so much variation, in terms of information and time periods of availability, among states, countries, provinces and countries that it would be impossible to list here all the records and their characteristics.
Some records that you may discover:
U.S. Census Records
- The census was taken every ten years. Census records taken between 1790 and 1840 listed only the name of the household head, with other household members listed by age range and gender.1850 is the first year that all members of a household were listed by name, age, gender, marital status, birthplace and race. Questions about occupation, schooling, and ability to read and write were also included.
- Later census records answer questions such as birthplaces of parents, ability to speak English, first language, first languages of parents, citizenship status and more
- Most of the 1890 census records were destroyed.
- The most recent U.S. census available to the public is that taken in 1940.
- Descendants of the Diaspora will find that only free African Americans were listed by name prior to 1870. Other sources exist that may help fill in the gap. Check the tab for Genealogy Resources.
State Census Records
- Some states conducted their own census records in years ending with 5. These records may ask different questions. Most state census records provide names and ages of household members. Some may ask questions such as religious affiliation, naturalization status, and other questions.
Birth, Marriage and Death Records
- Many states did not require the registration of births, marriages or deaths until the 20th century. Kentucky did not require them until 1911, though some counties made brief attempts at collecting such registrations. Other states required them by 1870 or earlier.
- You will not find birth certificates on Ancestry. In some cases you may find an image of a marriage certificate. Often you may be able to see an image of a death certificate. More often you will find entries for births, deaths and marriages in indexes that were kept by county and state agencies. The range of years for these indexes vary greatly. Some states have birth indexes that end in 1963 or 1965. Some states have marriage and divorce indexes that end as late as 2011. A person born in Texas in 1968 may have a birth entry on Ancestry; his siblings who were born earlier, in Tennessee, have no such entries.
- One of the most common types of records you will see are draft records. You may also find muster rolls, pension records, compiled service records and other types of military records.
Immigration and Naturalization Records
- These records include declarations of intent; certificates of naturalization; ship and flight passenger lists
- Ships' passenger lists generally include names and ages of all passengers, including infants. 20th ship and flight lists record names, ages, birthplaces, current addresses, and citizenship or naturalization statuses.
- City directories span the late 19th and 20th centuries. They provide names of household heads, addresses, and telephone numbers when applicable.Entries sometimes list occupations.Spouses are usually included, their names in parentheses after the household head. Directory entries are useful for establishing a person's location at times other than census years..
- Many yearbooks have been scanned. They continue to be scanned. You just might find your photo in Ancestry.com in a yearbook
Wills and Obituaries
- Wills, if they exist, can provide information about the decedent, their holdings, and their relationships to other individuals.
- Obituaries are generally provided via Newspapers.com - they will not be available to users of the Library Edition. They can still provide citation information, allowing you to request the obituary from another source.
- Recent obituaries may be available via Legacy.com; older obituaries may be available via open source documents or newspaper databases.
- Sometimes obituaries are available under Photos or Public Images - they were scanned and uploaded by individual subscribers.
- Obituaries are very useful because they generally list the person's full name; names offamily members (often with residence) and relationships; place of birth; age and other pieces of information that may prove helpful in searching
Other Records (not limited to)
- Church directories
- Baptismal records
- School Records
- Business Directories