REVIEW: Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition and urges genealogists of ALL skill levels use this guide to get the most out of Ancestry.com and learn some new tricks from Nancy Hendrickson!

Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition: Your Road Map to Genealogy Success

[Editor’s Note: Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com 2nd Edition is available in print (click HERE) as well as in e-book format (click HERE). Purchase BEFORE May 12th and save 40%! Regularly priced $26.99 USD, now just $16.19 USD!]

Hendrickson, Nancy. Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, Second Edition, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2018, 272 pages.

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Whether you are new to genealogy research or you’ve been using Ancestry.com for years but truly believe you can use the site more efficiently, Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, Second Edition is the perfect guide to get the most out of Ancestry.com. As with her other books on Ancestry, FamilySearch and family history writing, Nancy Hendrickson has created a much needed navigation plan for family historians of all skill levels.

Last year I reviewed Hendrickson’s Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook and I picked up many tips on the #1 genealogy super site in America. So when I was asked to review this new book, I figured that a second edition really wouldn’t be much help to someone like me with 40 years of genealogy research experience. Again, I need to learn my lesson about assumptions . . .

What I’m trying to say is this: don’t fool yourself into thinking you know everything there is about Ancestry.com just because you use it every day or every week. As genealogists, we spend good, hard-earned money on sites like Ancestry.com so why shouldn’t we have one of the best guides to this valuable resource? So, put aside your assumptions, and your old Ancestry.com research habits, and take a tour of Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, Second Edition with me!

Why I Think Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, Second Edition Works for ALL Genealogists and Family Historians

Believe me when I tell you that I have read many genealogy “how to” books over the past ten years of being a professional genealogist. There are many good, basic books that serve those new to family history very well. However, the intermediate, and what I call “hardcore, lifer” genealogists, don’t find much new information in most of these books.

In addition, usually when I see the words “second edition” (or “third” or “fourth”), I am skeptical as to whether I should really upgrade from the first edition … could there really be that much that changed?

The new edition of Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, Second Edition is different and I can sum up why in one sentence: Nancy Hendrickson is, in my opinion, one of the best and most under-rated genealogy educators around who can impart complex methods in easy-to-use and approachable language. Further, with the new edition, Nancy has taken the time to find many new features with Ancestry.com and summarize the ones that are most useful for finding your ancestors.

Hendrickson clearly knows her way around Ancestry.com and covers these key areas in Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, Second Edition:

  • Getting Started covers the basics, using Ancestry’s family trees, mastering searching techniques, and . . . (this is why I LOVE her!) points out the use of the Card Catalog feature! Ask any experienced user of Ancestry.com or professional genealogist and most will tell you how much the Card Catalog absolutely rocks!
  • Records is a massive section and Hendrickson is on top of all the updates! She offers some great tips and tricks . . . to the point where I think her next product needs to be an Ancestry.com Cheat Sheet! She covers Census and Voter Lists; BMD records; Military records; Immigration and Travel records; Newspapers, Publications and Maps; Schools, Directories and Histories; and Wills, Probate, Land, Tax & Criminal records.
  • DNA is a brand new section in the second edition and it offers solid, easy to understand, non-scientific on using AncestryDNA data for genealogical purposes. From DNA Circles to ethnicity estimates, the author reviews all aspects of DNA including how to connect with other AncestryDNA users.
  • Diving Deeper into Ancestry.com covers how to work and collaborate with other Ancestry.com members, how to access and use ancillary products including Newspapers.com and Fold3, and provides quick links and shortcut keys.

What’s Inside

What’s Inside? The Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, second edition features

The Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, second edition features[1]:

  • Timesaving tips for uncovering specific records, time periods and topics using Ancestry.com’s search forms and Card Catalog
  • Details on Ancestry.com’s historical record collections, including what you can expect to find in them
  • Step-by-step guides for creating and managing your family tree on Ancestry.com, plus how to connect with other users and utilize the site’s powerful Hint system
  • Plain-language strategies for using your AncestryDNA results, including guides to your ethnicity report and DNA matches

Sample Tips

Here are some tips you’ll find in Unofficial Guide to Ancesry.com Second Edition[2]:

  • Add dates to your search. Even if it is just an educated guess, a date in your search will return people who have the same name, but lived across centuries. Ancestry.com’s search function is built to look not only for the exact parameters you’ve indicated, but also results that are similar.
  • Don’t specify “exact” in your census searches. Even if you know the exact name, place, and more, resist the urge to check the Exact box. Errors might have been made by enumerators, transcriptionists and ancestors, so the information recorded in the census may not exactly match what you know about your ancestor.
  • Be wary of ethnicity estimates. The promise of learning what “percent” of a nationality you are has drawn many people to test with AncestryDNA, but these ethnicity estimates aren’t as reliable as you might believe. Take these estimates with a grain of salt, and spend more time analyzing the list of DNA matches that AncestryDNA provides.

Conclusion

Writing a comprehensive yet useful guide to the leading genealogy research website in the world is not an easy task. In addition, being able to convey “how to” material on Ancestry.com that actually works and helps you increase your productivity is even more difficult. In Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition, the author does a superlative job covering all the bases to provide Ancestry.com users with the best possible information to help ensure family history success.

About The Author: Nancy Hendrickson

Nancy Hendrickson is a genealogy author, blogger, and instructor at Family Tree University. A contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine, Nancy writes almost exclusively about Internet genealogy, research, and American history. She’s a member of Western Writers of America and a long-time photography buff. Nancy is active on Facebook (www​.facebook.com/genealogyteach), Twitter (@genealogyteach) and Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/genealogyteach). You can find her at her website (www.ancestornews.com) or contact her via e-mail: genealogyteach@gmail.com.

Nancy Hendrickson is a genealogy author, blogger, and instructor at Family Tree University. A contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine, Nancy writes almost exclusively about Internet genealogy, research, and American history. She’s a member of Western Writers of America and a long-time photography buff. Nancy is active on Facebook (www​.facebook.com/genealogyteach), Twitter (@genealogyteach) and Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/genealogyteach). You can find her at her website (www.ancestornews.com) or contact her via e-mail: genealogyteach@gmail.com.

Save 40% on Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition

Now through Saturday, May 12th, you can get your copy of Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition in print (click HERE) as well as in e-book format (click HERE) and save 40%!

Now through Saturday, May 12th, you can get your copy of Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com Second Edition in print (click HERE) as well as in e-book format (click HERE) and save 40%!

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[1] Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, 2nd Edition, Family Tree Magazine online store (https://www.familytreemagazine.com/store/unofficial-guide-to-ancestry-2nd-edition, accessed 4 May 2018). Used by permission.

[2] Ibid.

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©2018, copyright Thomas MacEntee.  All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thomas MacEntee
Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee has been researching his family history for more than 40 years and is the creator of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy Bargains, DNA Bargains, The Genealogy Do-Over and numerous other web-based genealogy and family history properties.