5 Fabulous Tips for using Ancestry.com

Five fabulous tips for using Ancestry.com; Ancestry tips

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Welcome back to Tenacious Genealogy! Today’s post is about various Ancestry tips to make your genealogical research on there just a bit easier. If you have yet to start on Ancestry, check out my post here, before reading forward.

Ancestry Tips:

Tip 1: Create as many family trees as you need

The wonderful thing about Ancestry is that you can create as many family trees as you need to work on your genealogy. There is no limit (as far as I have been able to find) and they don’t have to all start with you. For example, I have a line I’ve been working on where I’m trying to map out all the descendants of one of my ancestors and her brother. I can create a family tree dedicated just to her line and his line. If I found that I just want to specifically work on her line or just her brother’s line, I could create a family tree for each of them specifically. I can also set those trees to private while working on them if so desired.

My trees on Ancestry
I currently have about 7 trees on my Ancestry account to work on different trees.


Tip 2: Import your family trees if they are somewhere else

There are many websites nowadays where you can create and work on your family tree(s). A few examples are FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Findmypast, and Familyecho. And if you want to move those records to your Ancestry tree? Easy-peasy. The vast majority (if not all) of family trees online are in a file format called GEDCOM. Every genealogy website I’ve been to has the option for you to download a GEDCOM file to your computer. And importing that tree into Ancestry is quick and painless.

Step 1: Click on ‘TREES’ at the top of your dashboard. Scroll to and click on ‘ Create & Manage Family Trees’

Step 2: Go to the bottom and click on ‘Upload a GEDCOM File’.

Step 3: Click ‘Choose File’ and pick the GEDCOM file you want to use.

Step 4: Fill out the rest of the form (Tree Name, Public vs. Private, etc) and click ‘Upload’.

Voila! You’ve just uploaded your GEDCOM file to Ancestry.

Tip 3: Boolean search operators are your BFFs on Ancestry

Have an ancestor or a line with a commonly misspelled given name or surname? Boolean search operators are your friend on Ancestry. Take, for example, a surname in my family tree – ‘Vilandré. In my research, I have seen it spelled: Vilandré, Vilandre, Villandré, Villandre, Vilandry, ViLandry, V Landry, Villandry, and other various ways. So when I’m searching for a relative with that last name, searching ‘Viland*‘ (using the star as a Boolean operator) is a handy way to find records with ‘Viland‘ as the root of the surname. I can then do it again with ‘Villand’, ViLand’, or ‘VLand’.

You can also search in Ancestry used the ‘?‘ operator to find given or surnames where you aren’t sure of a letter. For example, another surname in my family is ‘Benson‘ – I could type in ‘B?ns?n‘ if I wanted to catch all records indexed with those consonants, but wasn’t sure of the letters/vowels in the spelling.  ‘B?ns?n‘ will catch variations such as ‘Banson’, ‘Bansen’, ‘Benson’, ‘Bensen’, etc.

Note to remember: Ancestry requires three (3) non-Boolean characters (so letters or numbers) to search this way, so while ‘Vil*’ or ‘B?ns‘ would work, ‘Vi*’ and ‘B?n’ would not.

Tip 4: Indexing is your other BFF

Indexing… the lesser known cousin in genealogical research. Many, many records and collections in Ancestry are either fully or partially analyzed. This can make finding ancestors (or nearby relatives) incredibly easy to find. When looking at a record, if you look at the bottom of the screen, you should see three icons: a filmstrip piece, a box stating ‘(number) of (number)‘, and two people by three lines.

If you click on the icon with two people on it, a partial screen labeled ‘Index‘ will open and you can see the names of the people indexed on the page. (This partial screen can be manipulated to take up more or less of the screen if you want to see more or less of the index at one time.)

The index for this picture shows the indexed name (Joseph Desjardins), burial year, event, and location for the individual.


For names that are misspelled or incorrectly read/indexed, or when looking at documents that are faded, blotted or otherwise hard to read, the index (and the work of indexing that makes it possible) is a time and life saver.

Tip 5: Connecting between Ancestry and FamilySearch

This is a handy tip if you have both an Ancestry account and a FamilySearch account. There is now a little FamilySearch icon at the top right side of a person’s profile. If you have a FamilySearch account, you can click on the button (which is white when it is inactive) and login to your FamilySearch account.
The FamilySearch icon is white because I haven’t logged into FamilySearch yet.


It may ask you to verify that you want to connect the two accounts (especially if it is your first time) and then afterward the FamilySearch icon will be green (with another icon next to it if your FamilySearch account is an LDS account).
Since I have an LDS account with FamilySearch, there is an option to check temple ordinances. Otherwise, that option would not be there.


NOTE: You can only connect information from Ancestry to FamilySearch (and vice versa) for people who are noted as ‘dead’ in Ancestry. Otherwise, the option won’t even show up.

Ancestry to FamilySearch Options:
Clicking on the icon will bring up four (4) options (5 if you have an LDS account).
– ‘Compare person on FamilySearch‘ – allows you to compare the information and sources you have for an individual on both sites. You can choose the information for an individual and add source information to either FamilySearch or Ancestry.

One word of caution: When changing information on FamilySearch from Ancestry, make sure to back it up with sources as well.

– ‘View this person on FamilySearch‘ – pops up a new tab in FamilySearch showing the person’s profile there.

– ‘Add relatives from FamilySearch‘ – is a great option if you have a pretty decent family tree in FamilySearch and are just getting started in Ancestry. With this option, you can connect one individual from FamilySearch then fill in their family on your Ancestry tree.

– ‘Disconnect person from FamilySearch‘ – is pretty straightforward. If you realize the person you are working on isn’t connected to the correct person in FamilySearch, or you otherwise want to disconnect the two accounts for the ancestor, you can do that easily with this option.

And there you have it! 5 fabulous tips for working on Ancestry.com.

Questions? Comments?

Questions about Ancestry? Have any other genealogical or historical subjects you’d like me to write about? Feel free to post them below in the comment section! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!

6 thoughts on “5 Fabulous Tips for using Ancestry.com

  1. Alicia S says:

    Is there a way to break apart a family tree into smaller individual trees on ancestry and have all the data move to the new tree?

    • Laura Nelson says:

      Yes and no. There isn’t an automatic way to break apart a family tree into individual trees (that I know of yet). If Ancestry had that option, I’d love it and use it regularly. Unfortunately, the easiest way to break apart a family tree on Ancestry right now is to create a separate tree with a specific individual as the ‘Home Person’ and then grow the tree from there. While you could pull data about an individual from one tree (as long as it is public) to another through the Ancestry Member Tree hint, you would have to create the individual and put some basic info (birth date/death date) in before that would generate.

  2. Donna Martin says:

    I am fairly certain the connection between FamilySearch and Ancestry is only available to members of the LDS church who have set up their LDS Ancestry account. I work at a Family Search Library and many of our staff and patrons are not LDS, they do not have this capability. I personally love this capability since my reliable trees are in Ancestry because I can control who edits them. This tool makes it possible for me to share what I have found with FamilySearch without having to do the work all over.

  3. Elizabeth Rondeau says:

    Thank you for sharing these tips . I have about 5-6 tree on Ancestry. Haven’t merged them yet. Afraid I will loose something. Question. – I did the DNA, and I am matched to many- but don’t have my DNA # . Do I have to do it over again to get a number or does Ancestry have it hidden somewhere. Thank you, Betsy

  4. Sheila Thornburgh says:

    I am fairly new to the area (Sparta) and am trying to find info on whether there is a Latter Day Saints church in the area that has a working Family Search group. I worked with one in So. Calif and they were so hepful to me as I still consider myself a beginner and have lots of questions. Or if there is another group out there that would be able to help me with my search for relatives. I have been working on ancestry for over a year so have a good start but keep running into roadblocks. hopefully someone can Email me and we can talk.

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