5 ways to make the most of free access to Ancestry
Who Do You Think You Are? editor Sarah Williams gives her top tips for taking advantage of this weekend's free access to Ancestry's British and Irish records
NOTE: This article refers to a special offer Ancestry ran in 2019
Ancestry, one of the biggest family history websites in the world, is opening its digital doors for free from 15 to 19 February.
With over 20 billion records and 90 million family trees, it’s the perfect place to start researching your ancestors. But to access the records, you need a subscription, with prices starting at £10.99 per month.
Now, however, you can view all Ancestry’s British and Irish records, including parish records, censuses, local collections and much more, for free.
Whether you want to have a go at exploring your family’s history but would like to ‘try before you buy’ or you are already a keen family historian and just need to look up a few records, here are five tips to help you make the most of your time:
1. Add your family tree to Ancestry
If you already have a family tree hosted on a different site, then export it as a GEDCOM file and upload it to Ancestry. If this is your first foray into family history, then start adding in what you know about your family.
Ancestry has a very good system for suggesting possible records and by adding names to a tree you will have Ancestry’s software working for you looking for hints.
Remember though, these are just hints and it’s important not to accept them blindly or it could lead you in completely the wrong direction. If you think a record might be correct, but you’re not absolutely sure, you can select ‘Maybe’ on the record.
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2. Find your London ancestors
As your tree grows, you will find that you have ancestors from lots of different areas, but one area that frequently crops up in family trees is, of course, London.
For many years, Ancestry has had an exclusive relationship with the London Metropolitan Archives, making it the prime site for tracking down your capital ancestors. Search for family you know lived in the city and see what turns up!
3. And the same goes for Liverpool, Birmingham, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, West Yorkshire, Somerset and more...
Ancestry has struck up deals with various libraries and archives around the country meaning it will have content for these areas that you won’t find elsewhere. From tax and prison records to electoral and parish registers, some of these collections are vast. Who knows? You might even find someone in the Birmingham Pub Blacklist of 1903-1906!
4. Enter details of ‘missing’ ancestors
If you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and you don’t have a subscription to Ancestry, then now’s the time to see what you can uncover.
Not only will Ancestry have a different transcription for most of the key records shared by other sites, but you may find an ancestor turn up in one of their unique datasets such as their Post Office appointment books or railway employment records.
5. Download relevant records to your computer
Although it is nice and simple to ‘attach’ records to your family tree on Ancestry, if you don’t have a subscription to the site, those records will not be there for you to refer to at a later date.
If you find any records over the course of the weekend, make sure you download a copy to your computer so you can refer to it at any time in the future.