So you have a subscription or membership on Ancestry.com or a similar Family History search site and you have access to online records, that's great. Here you can begin filling in your family tree with the information you find. But it's not always that simple.
Learning to use the search site
Each online records site differs slightly in the way you input your search criteria. There may be hundreds or thousands of results for a person with the same name. Some entries on the results are duplicates of the same person. So how do you know which one is the person you are looking for?
You can narrow down the results by location and time period that you are searching. You can also choose to look at only one set of official records at a time. For example: Look at Death Index only if you already have a date of birth confirmed.
What Evidence Is There?
Does the results match the location or surrounding area?
Is there a source document to view for other evidence?
Is this person on someone else's tree that links to a common ancestor?
Is there a Location residence listed that matches census records that you have?
Is the occupation the same as your ancestor if you know it? If There Is Only One Result Listed It Must Be Correct- UNTRUE
Not all records are online. Depending on the time period you are researching as well as location the records you are seeking may not be listed for your search. Back in time records were not kept in one central location. It may be that your ancestor was only recorded by the church or diocese. When reading and writing were not commonplace it was left up to Clerks and Clergy to write down names and details. Subsequently there may be alternate spellings of the name you are researching.
Only enter the last name in search criteria.
Opt for spelling variations of the last name.
Never assume the ages listed are accurate.
Make a note of the spelling variations so that you can refer to them later.
Finding Time To Search The Records
So here is the biggest drawback to building your family tree, finding the time. So many memberships or subscriptions are paid for every month and no one had time to make use of it. I speak to many people who explain that they cancelled membership after a year because they just never found the time to systematically search, record, cross reference or order certificates to prove the connections. So having access to the records and images does not automatically mean that the Family Tree is progressing. It's like the lights are on, but nobody's home.
How Can A Genealogist Help?
A professional Genealogist has experience in searching records both on and offline. They are organized in their approach and focus which means they are often much quicker at finding the answer to your search question. A genealogist approaches the search with a specific target so that they do not get tempted into jumping down rabbit holes that have no evidence to support a link. Many genealogists have access to other records or a network of others in the professional field. You can benefit from their search services because they have subscriptions to many records, documents and images. They may have that "Outside of the box" attitude too which leads them to little gems and evidence to support one or more of the general registration office entries. Some even have access to more recent records that are not yet in the public domain, or know how to access information in other countries. You get easy to read reports and charts that you do not have to configure yourself, which can be a lovely way to share your family tree or common ancestors information with others.
I offer genealogy services and more. You can browse the options at AnotherLeafGenealogy .com