One of the best features of FamilySearch is that it is free. Beginner and professional researchers alike can take advantage of the site’s integrated tree, its billions of family history records, and its many other resources without ever paying a dime for it. But did you know that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a FamilySearch account can also get free access to other genealogy sites? These sites are some of the most useful genealogy sites available, with records numbering in the billions to help you find more information about your ancestors. One of these valuable partner sites is American Ancestors. The partnership between this organization and FamilySearch has made more records available and made those records more searchable than ever. To set up your free account, visit the American Ancestors page on FamilySearch.org.
American Ancestors Highlights
The American Ancestors website is the site for the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), the oldest genealogical society in the country. The website is the most used genealogical society website in the world. The society is associated with a research facility of the same name in Boston. Researchers can visit year-round to use the extensive collection of records and to speak with some of the nation’s leading genealogical experts.
You may not expect to find records from the 1890 Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, census on American Ancestors, but the website does offer some important collections of European records.
Not surprisingly, American Ancestors is particularly useful for people with New England and early American ancestors. Resources include vital, church, probate, tax, and military records, as well as newspapers, maps, and many other types of information for this time period. Many of these records are unique, having been kept by churches in small towns or in county offices. You will also find a number of family or town histories focused on early New England settlers. Many of the records are digitized, indexed, and searchable. Of the more than 450 databases on the website, 388 cover the U.S., and a full 343—a remarkable number—date to before 1800. You can see a list of the available records here.
What some people may not realize is that the American Ancestors site benefits nearly all researchers, not just those with early New England ancestors. The databases cover other U.S. states and have dates ranging from centuries ago to only a couple of decades ago. There are even a few collections from other countries, such as Germany, Ireland, and South Africa.
While on the American Ancestors site, be sure to spend some time in the education center. You can find this by clicking the Education tab at the top of the page. Here you can watch videos on such topics as using Connecticut resources or organizing and preserving your family papers. Some webinars are free, while others require a fee to enroll. You will also find document templates, family charts, and articles on topics of interest to genealogists.
Keep in mind that while your free membership allows you to access many valuable resources to advance your research, it does not give you access to everything American Ancestors has. Some of the databases require a paid subscription (although you may be able to access them by visiting a library or other institution that has a paid subscription). The databases that require a subscription are the Great Migration Series, the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1847–present), the Massachusetts Vital Records (1841–1970), and several other collections. Also, external collections, those hosted by institutions other than American Ancestors, are not included with your free acount.
Finding Your Family
This record of Samuel Meacham comes from Abstracts of Wills, Admins, and Guardianships in New York State, 1787–1835.
To start a search for your family at American Ancestors, locate and click the Search tab at the top of the page. Then click Databases. The next step will be to type in what you know about your family. As with any search, remember to be flexible, use spelling variations, and widen your search criteria to increase your chances of success. Alternatively, you could try narrowing your search by selecting a certain type of record or database to search. After typing in the information, click Search to receive a list of possible results. A paper icon next to a name indicates that you can see a transcript of the record. If a small camera icon appears, you will be able to see an image of the actual record. Arrows at the top of the page allow you to look at nearby pages in a record (this feature would be useful in the example above because the record is listed as having “no date”). In addition, you can choose to download or print records. Other tabs at the top of the page give more information about the record collection and provide citation information. After you have downloaded and saved any relevant matches for individuals on your family tree, log in to FamilySearch.org, upload the record, and attach it to your tree.
Enjoy access to vast collections of early American records, and connect with the oldest genealogical society in the U.S. with your free American Ancestors membership. And keep watching as FamilySearch and American Ancestors continue to make family history records more readily available to everyone.
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