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  • Using AmericanAncestors.org

  • Andy H-D Late 2013 200x260
    By Andy Hanson-Dvoracek
    Web Content Coordinator

    | Login | Quick Search | Advanced Search | Keyword Search |
    | Searching by Database | Searching Journals | Using Wildcards | Using Soundex |
    | Saving Searches | Favorite Databases | Viewing Records | Printing Records |
    | Saving Records | Citation Information | Need Help? |

    computer researchIntroduction

    AmericanAncestors.org offers thousands of searchable, digitized collections containing more than 125 million records. These collections include vital records, cemetery records, probate records, genealogies, and scholarly journals. View a complete list of our databases. Learn how to get the most of your AmericanAncestors.org search using the tips and techniques below. You can also watch a video tutorial on how to search our databases or a two-part webinar (Part I and Part II). For more help on using our website visit our Help page.

    Login

    To access records from all databases on AmericanAncestors.org, you must be an NEHGS member and you must be logged in.

    To login:
    1) Go to AmericanAncestors.org and click “Login” at the very top of the page.
    2) Enter your username and password.
    3) You can now search all databases and access results!

    If you are not an NEHGS member, you can register for free as a Guest User and access records from a limited number of databases. Learn more about the available databases and watch a recorded webinar about the guest user program and its benefits.

    Quick Search

    Start broad by using the Quick Search on the homepage. Even if you already know a lot about the person you’re searching for (year range, place, etc.), the Quick Search will execute the most comprehensive search of all our databases. Enter a first and last name to begin. If you want to narrow your search results use our Advanced Search or if you’d like to broaden your search results even more, consider using wildcards or Soundex (see below).

    quick search

    Advanced Search

    To narrow your search results, use our Advanced Search to add known information about your search subject, to search by database, to use Soundex, and to utilize other features. The Advanced Search form can be accessed by clicking on “Search” near our seal toward the top of our website or by clicking “Advanced Search” in the Quick Search bar on our homepage.

    advancedsearch

    Keyword Searches

    The keyword field is a powerful tool that searches record text, as well as all other search fields and NEHGS web pages. If you find a search tip on a database that recommends searching that database by keyword, only use the keyword field and leave all other fields blank

    Searching by Database

    You can narrow your search by database. You can select a specific database in a few different ways:

    • Choose a database from our catalog of databases
    • From the advanced search page, click the drop down listing under “Database” and select the collection you would like to browse. The listing under “Database” here shows an alphabetical listing of all databases. You can also check one of boxes next to “Database” to narrow down the listing by your favorites or by free-access collections.
    • From the advanced search page, click the drop down listing under “Category” and select the type of collections you are interested in searching (e.g. Vital Records, Diaries and Transcripts, Genealogies, etc.). If you then click on the drop down listing under “Database” only the databases relevant to your selected category will appear.


    Once you select the database you are interested in, search for the individual as you would normally.

    Note: When selecting a specific database from the advanced search page, be sure to read any applicable search tips that appear just above the search button. These tips will inform you when a database should only be searched by entering criteria in the keyword field.

    Search Tips Area

    Journal Searches

    Scholarly journals and periodicals are important, yet often overlooked, resources. AmericanAncestors.org offers thousands of searchable issues from a number of journals, including our own New England Historic and Genealogical Register, the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record, The Mayflower Descendant, and many others. Searching journals on our website is different than searching other records:

    • Names can be searched using the “First Name” and “Last Name” fields, while article titles can be searched using the keyword field at the bottom of the Advanced Search form.
    • By default, searching a periodical will return every instance of a name within an article. However, if you are looking for a list of articles with a particular keyword in the title some journals offer the “Article Title Only Filter” found toward the bottom of the Advanced Search screen. Check this box and each individual article will be returned once.
    • When searching journals and other periodicals, the year you see in your search results refers to the publication year and not a year tied to the person you are searching for. Don’t preclude these records because of that shown date!
    • Once you are at a database image, you can navigate between volumes and pages of the journal, see a grid view of the page, and find citation information just as you would when viewing a vital record.

    Watch a video tutorial on searching journals and periodicals on AmericanAncestors.org.

    Using Wildcards

    Each populated search field executes an exact search. Wildcards used within your search terms can help broaden your results. In this context, a wildcard refers to a single character that can represent one or a series of unknown characters—as in poker, a wildcard can represent any other card. They are especially helpful when searching for ancestors: consider how many times you have seen misspellings, transcription mistakes, and other inconsistencies in the records. Note: A wildcard can be used within the First Name, Last Name, and Keyword fields and must follow at least two known characters. Supported wildcards include:

    Operator Applicable Search Fields Usage Example
    ? Keyword; First Name; Last Name; Location Represents any single character Hans?n returns Hansen and Hanson
    * Keyword; First Name; Last Name; Location Replaces zero or more characters; best used for spelling variations or a series of unknown characters. Wood* returns Wood, Woods, Woodward, Woodbury, and others
    AND Keyword Used between words; both terms must appear in the results William AND Bradford
    OR Keyword Used between words; requires only one term to appear William OR Bradford
    NOT Keyword Used between words and in combination with another operator; precludes results that include the second term Bradford AND NOT William
    ~~ Keyword Represents a numeric range 1900~~1950
    w/N Keyword N = a number; two terms must be within "N" words of one another Percy w/5 Burrell
    + Keyword Used between words; both words must be next to each other in the results French+Canadian
    ( ) Keyword Combined with other operators; as in math, items within parentheses occurs first (John OR Ted) w/7 Kennedy

    Using Soundex

    If the name of the person you are searching for was commonly misspelled, consider using Soundex. Soundex is a phonetic algorithm that indexes names by sound rather than letter. To use Soundex on AmericanAncestors.org, check the box next to “Last Name” on the Advanced Search screen. You will see various spellings of the name, all phonetically similar to that which you are searching for.

    Saving Searches

    AmericanAncestors.org allows you to save your favorite searches to your user profile for future use. By saving your repeat searches you can access them from any computer you use to log onto our website; the search is re-executed each time you bring it up so corrections and additions we make to our database will be reflected in your search; and it saves you time and keeps your search parameters consistent.

    Watch a video tutorial on how to save searches on AmericanAncestors.org.

    To save a search, fill out the Advanced Search form as you would normally. When you are happy with the search, click on the “Save This Search” button at the top of the form and name your search. You can do this before or after performing the search. Note: If you wish to make refinements or changes after saving the search, you will have to save it again under a different name.

    savebutton

    To find and re-execute your saved searches, go to your user profile by clicking on your username at the top of the screen near our seal. From here your saved searches will be on the right side of the page, where you can either execute them or delete them.

    savesearches

    Favorite Databases

    You can also create a list of favorite or frequently used databases and search those as a group or individually. To create your list of favorite databases:

    1) Go to your user profile by clicking on your username at the top of the screen near our seal.

    2) Near the middle of your profile page, you will see “Favorite Databases.” Click the down arrow next to right of the word “-Select-.” A drop down list of all our databases will appear.

    favorites

    3) Select a favorite database.

    4) Click the “Add” button. Your favorite database is now listed in the scrolling text box below.

    Note: If you no longer want a database in your favorites, select it from the created list on your profile page and click the “Remove” button.

    To pull up your list favorite databases for a search, go to the Advanced Search screen and check the box “Favorite(s) only” near the middle of the form next to “Database.” When you open the database drop down list (by clicking on the down arrow under “Database”) you will only see the databases from your favorite list. Select one or use all to execute your search.

    favoritessearch

    Viewing Records

    Once your search results are returned, select “View” next to the record listing.

    results

    AmericanAncestors.org offers three image viewing options: Microsoft Silverlight, Javascript viewer, and basic. Each viewer has its own compatibility issues and features different viewing tools. Click on a link below to choose your viewer preference:

    • Microsoft Silverlight: Enhanced browser viewer, compatible with Windows and Mac OS X Intel based operating systems (download required). Viewer tools: Zoom, Pan, Rotate, Print, Save.
    • JavaScript Viewer: Enhanced browser viewer, compatible with all Windows, Mac, and Linux systems (no download required). Viewer tools: Zoom, Pan, Print, Save
    • Basic Viewer: basic tool for downloading and printing images, compatible with all operating systems (no download required). Viewer tools: Print, Save

    Viewer tools are at the bottom of the window. Depending on what viewer you are using, you may see: Print, Save; Rotate counter-clockwise, Rotate clockwise, Zoom-in, Zoom-out; and Full-screen view.

    Details


    To “pan” or move the image around in the image viewers, place your cursor over the image, click and hold your mouse button, then drag the image around as you move your mouse or drag your finger across your touchpad. Note: If you are a Mac user with a newer version of Safari 4.0.4+, try engaging full screen mode to manipulate the image.

    Print Records

    All browsers can print from either our Silverlight or Javascript image viewers. Pop-ups must be enabled in order to see the print dialog. Learn how to disable your pop-up blocker.

    Watch a video tutorial on how to print or save records on AmericanAncestors.org.

    In Silverlight

    1) Select the printer icon on the bottom-left of the image viewer.

    Silverlight Print Step One

    2) A menu will appear, displaying two options "Print Original" (the entire document) and "Print Current View" (what is currently shown in the viewer). Select your preference.

    Silverlight Print Step Two

    3) If you have a pop-up blocker enabled, you will encounter difficulties printing until you disable this feature.

    4) Once pop-ups are enabled and you select either Current View or Original printing, a window will appear with your printer options. Set your preferences and select "Print."

    In JavaScript

    1) Select the printer icon located on the bottom-left of the image viewer.

    Javascript Print One

    2) If you have a pop-up blocker enabled on the website you will encounter difficulties printing until you disable this feature.

    3) Once pop-ups are enabled, a window will appear with your printer options. Set your preferences and select "Print."

    Save Records

    In Silverlight

    1) On the bottom right side of the image viewer, select the disc icon to save the image.

    Save Image Silverlight One

    2) A menu will appear with the option to "Save Original" (the entire document), or "Save Current View" (what you currently see in the viewer). Select your preference.

    Save Image Silverlight Two

    If you are using Silverlight with Internet Explorer:

    a) A pop-up window will appear, asking if you would like to open or save the image. Select the "Save" option.

    b) Another window will appear, displaying a menu for you to select where you would like to save the image. Select the folder you would like to save the image to and select "Save."

    If you are using Silverlight with Chrome:

    a) In Chrome, the image will save automatically to your desktop or preferred image folder.

    Save Image Javascript Three

    b) In order to view the image, select the "Show All Downloads" link located at the bottom of your screen.

    In JavaScript

    1) In order to save an image in Javascript, mouse-over the bottom right hand corner of the image viewer.

    Save Image Javascript One

    2) A menu will appear with the options available. Select the disc icon.

    Save Image Javascript Two

    If you are using Javascript with Internet Explorer:

    a) A pop-up blocker notification will appear at the top of the browser window.

    Save Image Javascript IE One

    b) Click on this bar, and select the option to download file.

    Save Image Javascript IE Two

    c) Select "Save."

    If you are using Javascript with Chrome:

    a) In Chrome, the image will save automatically to your desktop or preferred image folder.

    Save Image Javascript Three

    b) In order to view the image, select the "Show All Downloads" link located at the bottom of your screen.

    4) Another window will appear, displaying a menu for you to select where you would like to save the image. Select the folder you would like to save the image to and select "Save."

    Save Image Silverlight Four

    Citation Information

    You can find database citation on the search result page, located below the image. Certain databases will have a more detailed citation. The Great Migration, The American Genealogist and New Netherland Connections will also display a list of pdfs containing various front-matter from the original publication.

    1) Enter your search criteria and view the results list page.

    2) Click "View" next to the record you would like to see.

    3) Scroll down. Located below the list of names on the page, you will find the citation information for the particular database result you are viewing.

    Search  Citation

    Need help?

    Want to maximize your research? The experts at NEHGS can help! We offer a number of services that can help you break down brick walls and expand your research.

    Meet one-on-one with our genealogists

    Want research guidance from a professional genealogist? Our experts provide 30-minute to two-hour consultations in person or by phone.

    • Find elusive ancestors—Whether you are searching in the U.S. or abroad, in the 17th or 20th century, our genealogists have the knowledge to assist you.
    • Locate and use records—Vital records, military records, deeds, probate, and more—if you’re wondering where to look for them, how to read them, or what data you can find in them, we can guide you.
    • Get more out of technology—Feel like you could be making better use of your genealogy software? Curious about websites and databases that might be relevant to your research? Let us help!

    Schedule your consultation today or contact consultations@nehgs.org.

    Hire our experts in Research Services

    Whether you are just beginning your family research or have been researching for years, NEHGS Research Services is here to assist you. Our team of experts can:

    • Conduct hourly research
    • Break down “brick walls”
    • Retrieve manuscript materials
    • Obtain probate records
    • Research and prepare your lineage society application
    • Organize your materials and files
    • Write narrative biographies about your ancestors
    • Create customized family charts

    Hire Research Services today or contact research@nehgs.org, 617-226-1233.

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