Using AmericanAncestors.org

Getting the most out of our online offerings

Introduction

AmericanAncestors.org offers thousands of searchable, digitized collections containing more than one billion records. These collections include vital records, cemetery records, probate records, genealogies, and scholarly journals. Learn how to get the most of your AmericanAncestors.org search using the tips and techniques below.

Log In

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

To log in:

  1. Go to AmericanAncestors.org and click "Log in" 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 Member and access records from a limited number of databases.

Three Ways to Search

  • Traditional advanced search
  • Database search
    • Access a database-specific search page
    • The results with the best fit to your search criteria are returned, and sorted in order of relevance
  • Category search
    • Access a category-specific search page.
    • The results with the best fit to your search criteria are returned, and sorted in order of relevance
    • Watch our webinar, Searching Databases on AmericanAncestors.org.

      Database Search

      You can narrow your search by specific database.

      • Choose a database from our A-Z Database list by clicking the magnifying glass icon next to the database name.
      • Only fields available for search in the chosen database will appear on the search form.

      Note: Be sure to read the Search Tips listed underneath the search form to gain information on any particularities of a given database.

      Example Database Search page

      Category Search

      You may want to use Category Search if you are interested in a particular type of records, like vital records or census records.

      To access Category Search, click on any of the categories listed under the "Search by category" heading.

      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:

      • Start on our category-specific search page.
      • Article titles can be searched using the keyword field.
      • Some journals offer the "Article Title Only Filter" found toward the bottom of the screen. Check this box (found on the database search page for a particular journal) 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 overlook these records because of that shown date!
      • For more information, see our recent webinar: How to Search Journals on AmericanAncestors.org.
        • Using Wildcards

          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. 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. Supported wildcards include:

          OperatorApplicable Search FieldsUsageExample
          ?Keyword; First Name; Last Name; LocationRepresents any single characterHans?n returns Hansen and Hanson
          *Keyword; First Name; Last Name; LocationReplaces zero or more characters; best used for spelling variations or a series of unknown characters. Wood* returns Wood, Woods, Woodward, Woodbury, and others

          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.

          To save a search, perform a search as you would normally. When you are happy with the search, click on the "Save Search" button at the top of the search results. Note: If you wish to make refinements or changes after saving the search, you will have to save it again under a different name.

          To find and re-execute your saved searches, go to your user profile by clicking "My Account" at the top of the screen near our seal. From here your saved searches will be the second option, where you can execute them.

          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. While viewing database records, you can save the collection you are currently viewing by clicking Favorite below the database name.
          2. You can also save a favorite database while browsing databases by clicking on the star in the table.

          Note: If you no longer want a database in your favorites, simply click the star again.

          To pull up your list favorite databases for a search, go to the 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.

          Viewing Records

          Once your search results are returned, click on the name in the record listing.

          Viewer tools are at the upper-left corner of the window. These include: Download, Print; Zoom-in, Zoom-out, Restore Original View; and Full-screen view.

          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.

          On each image page you should be able to:

          • Get help (lower right, underneath image).
          • Write a comment (lower right, underneath image). If you find an error, have a question, or have other thoughts related to our databases, please let us know!
          • View and copy the citation (button located directly underneath image).
          • See the database description.
          • Read search tips for this particular database.

          Printing and Saving Records

          To save or print a database image for your own records, use the Download and Print button at the upper left-hand corner of the image. This will open a new tab to print or save the current view of the image.

          Note: For some databases, these files will be very large. To limit the image to that portion which appears in your browser view, check "Current View" before clicking Download or Print.

          Email webmaster@nehgs.org with any questions!


          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.