Friday, November 27, 2015

AncestryDNA Lowest Price Ever is offering AncestryDNA for only $69 from now until the end of day (EST), 30 November 2015. The promotional e-mail reads:

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AncestryDNA Canada Sale

The sale above is good only for US residents. For our Canadian readers, Ancestry DNA Canada is having a sale where you can save 30%. The DNA test is now only $119 CDN through Monday November 30th. Click here for AncestryDNA Canada sale info!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Ancestry Soon to be the Only Ancestry

On 15 December 2015 the new Ancestry will be the only Ancestry.

On 16 November 2015 I received notification that “on December 15, the new Ancestry will be the only Ancestry.” This caught me by surprise. went many years tweaking New Search before shutting down Old Search. They spoke often with customers, trying to understand the ways in which Old Search was better. They made numerous tweaks to New Search, as well as all out additions to make it possible for genealogists to continue their old workflow. They didn’t please everyone. And eventually they closed down Old Search. Now, after only months, Ancestry has announced they are cutting off users of Old Ancestry. This is a sad commentary on Ancestry’s ability to service its customers. The comparison of their current practices and their past practices is stark.

Here’s another sad commentary:

Back in 2012 politicians started talking about closing down the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). Because the United States lacks national civil registration, the SSDI is an important tool for genealogists. Long used as a tool to combat fraud, criminals had discovered that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was failing to use it. The IRS failure allowed criminals to file fraudulent tax returns. In the most convoluted logic ever, congressmen started rumbling, “If the IRS is too incompetent to use the SSDI to fight fraud, then we won’t let anyone use it!” To stave off loss of the SSDI, the genealogical community mobilized a petition drive. The goal was to present the White House a petition of 25,000 signatures asking that the IRS start using the SSDI to prevent fraudulent returns. Barely 5,000 genealogists signed it and the government closed access to the most recent three years of this important tool.

Today, has redesigned the tree pages of its website. Customers are unhappy and have mobilized the community to sign a petition to present to Ancestry CEO, Tim Sullivan. Signers proclaim “We, the undersigned, hereby sign this petition to acknowledge that we, do not like the look, style, color, and format [of the New Ancestry.]” Nearly 4,000 genealogists have signed the petition to date and the number is likely to exceed the number signing the SSDI petition.

If all this sad commentary is getting you down, I encourage you to check out a blog post by Kerry Scott that is sure to lift your spirits, at least if you are willing to laugh at yourself. See “14 Reasons the New Ancestry is the Worst Thing Since Unsliced Bread” on her Clue Wagon blog. HILARIOUS!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Mailbox: When an FHC is Not an FHC

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Recently, a search of the FamilySearch Book Catalog of digital images resulted in the "restricted Image" pop-up message which directed me to a Family History Center to view these images. So I visited the FHC in the Mid-County Library at Port Charlotte, FL. I have used this FHC in the past to order film from FamilySearch & the Library of Virginia.I started with the local volunteer who knew knew nothing about the FamilySearch site, except that film could be ordered by someone else at the library. Next, I spoke to the library film ordering expert; however, she knew nothing about the digitized book access capability at FamilySearch. So I gave them a demo and we received the same "restricted image" pop-up that I had received at my home. Both she & I agreed that the FS server probably was not recognizing their FHC IP address, but she said she would look into the situation. A week has past & I have not heard from the library.

I searched the FS site for some help. By browsing around, I found a document called the "Family History Center Affiliate Agreement" in a section about how libraries could become FHCs. This document clearly states that "restricted images" are not accessible at affiliate FHCs. So I sent all of this conflicting story (including cut & pasted images of the pop-up & Affilliate doc) to the FamilySearch Help center. I have not received a response, but I can no longer find the "Family History Center Affiliate Agreement" at FS.

This conflicting information from FS is quite tedious & frustrating. That I have not received a reply from the Help center is very surprising to me, but I really have only one interest. That interest is this: Should my local FHC be able to access "restricted images"or not? If the answer is no, why does the pop-up direct me to go to a FHC to see these images?

Dave Woody

Dear Dave,

Among many genealogists, “Family History Center,” refers specifically to a family history center owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is especially true of employees and volunteers of FamilySearch. These are different from public and institutional libraries who have established an affiliate relationship with FamilySearch (AKA the Genealogical Society of Utah) giving them film-loaning privilege. These public libraries are not considered “Family History Centers,” even though it is possible to rent films there from the Salt Lake City Family History Library.

A topic in the help system mentions the document you referred to, and answers the question you had:

The authorized agent of a public facility is sent the Genealogical Society of Utah Affiliate Library Agreement. … Patrons of approved affiliate organizations can order unrestricted microfilm and microfiche on loan to view at the affiliate organization. Books and CDs do not circulate from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Access to additional family history websites is not part of the affiliate agreement. Additional access to restricted images on is not part of the agreement.

(See “Public Libraries, Archives, or Genealogical Societies Requesting Affiliate Status,” FamilySearch [ : accessed 22 November 2015], search help system for “affiliated libraries.”)

I recently learned that FamilySearch does not officially claim the name “Family History Center” as a trademark. I guess it is because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not allow trademarks of such generic phrases. In officially reviewed communications, FamilySearch does not use “Family History Centers” (uppercase) as a proper noun, but “family history centers” (lowercase) as a common noun. Unfortunately, that leaves Church owned family history centers without a name that distinguishes them from family history centers owned by other organizations. FamilySearch should create a new name and use it throughout its products, to prevent the confusion you’ve experienced.

---The Ancestry Insider

Friday, November 20, 2015

Darned Federal Birth Certificates

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable.

Records are the darnedest things!

Notification of Birth Registration for David Hankins McCauley

Some time ago I came across an interesting blog post by Linda McCauley: “Did the U. S. Federal Government Register Births?” Linda has in her possession an official certificate from the Bureau of the Census (shown above) that documents the birth of her father. It gives his name, the date and place of birth, and it names his parents. It is signed by official authorities.

How do you feel about using this source as evidence for this birth?

  • Source (original or derivative): Is this an original, government document?
  • Information (primary or secondary): Did the informants have primary (first hand) information?
  • Evidence (direct or indirect): Does it provide direct evidence concerning the birth?

The more we learn and understand the records we use, the better our conclusions will be. As part of her evaluation, Linda took the time to understand this source. What is this darned record? Why was it created? Who created it? Where was it created? When was it created? How did they get their information?

With a little poking, Linda learned about notifications of birth registration. According to the Census Bureau:

The “Notification of Birth Registration” form, issued by the U.S. Census Bureau during the first half of the twentieth century, is not a birth certificate. The U.S. Census Bureau designed this form in 1924, at the request of various state vital statistics offices, to promote the accurate registration of births in the United States. The notification was completed and sent to parents of newborns when the state office of vital records received information on the birth and made up a birth registration record. If parents found errors in the information shown on the form, they were asked to correct them and return the form so the state’s record could be corrected accordingly. The notification was used until the late 1940s and then discontinued once states were keeping satisfactory birth records. The U.S. Census Bureau does not maintain these records.1

Now, how do you feel about using this source as evidence?

Linda pursued acquisition of the original from the state. However, instead of a facsimile of the original, the state sent her a so-called “short form” abstract.

Now, how would you feel about using this source as evidence? How would you compare the strength of these two sources? Are the two independent? Is there any advantage to having both? What can be learned by comparing the two?

Yes, records are the darnedest things!



     1.  “Open Government and FOIA: Birth Records,” United States Census Bureau ( : accessed 14 November 2015), search for “Birth Records.”
     Image credit: Linda McCauley, “Did the U. S. Federal Government Register Births?” Documenting the Details, 27 April 2011 ( : accessed 14 November 2015), digital image of Bureau of the Census, “Notification of Birth Registration,” David Hankins McCauley, 1926, privately held by Linda McCauley, 2011.

Thank you, Linda, for your permission to share your record.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

RootsTech Contest Deadline

Click for more information about RootsTech.Remember that tomorrow is the contest deadline for the Insider’s RootsTech 2016 Giveaway. Send me an example of a darned record. Darned records are funny, weird, unique, cool, or awesome. Extra credit is given if the example is instructional. I must receive it before the end of the day, Friday, 20 November 2015, Mountain Standard Time.

The prize is a $249 three-day pass. RootsTech 2016 will be held 3-6 February 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For complete contest rules, see “RootsTech 2016 Free Pass Contest.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bad Merges in Family Tree

Two cars merge badly in an intersection.I was affected again by a bad merge in FamilySearch Family Tree. Someone had merged a Tilford in Virginia with a Telford in Ireland to produce a monstrosity of a person with a gaggle of children. Mysteriously, this man bounced back and forth between Virginia and Ireland, using the Tilford spelling for all children born in Virginia and the Telford spelling for all kids born in Ireland. Hmmm. What an odd fellow.

I can’t watch all my relatives so I didn’t know the merge had occurred until it was too late. Rather than undo the merge, people had come in and made various repairs. It was no longer possible to undo.

I have often spoken of the indiscretions of FamilySearch’s past, accusing them of bad automated merges. Perhaps because of this I’ve received a message on the topic from one of FamilySearch’s engineers, Randy Wilson.

“Machine merging was done very carefully [when the New FamilySearch tree was created],” he said. “[There is] a lot of empirical evidence showing that errors were less than 0.5%. There have been a lot of bad merges done in the system, to be sure. But almost all of the bad merges I have seen (and I've seen a lot of them) have been caused by users, not the machine.”

I hope he’s right. He’s one of the brightest fellows I know. (And he’s a relative and I’d like to believe intelligence runs in the family.) But there’s something that gives me pause: Ancestral File.

My perception was that Ancestral File was a mess. I thought the first release was especially messy. No one can be blamed besides FamilySearch. Users couldn’t make any changes, good or bad. Only FamilySearch can be blamed.  I think my perception was shared by many genealogists.

“Yes, AF had some bad merges, too,” Randy said. “The actual number wasn't as bad as the user perception, because common ancestors happened more and got merged more and common ancestors also get seen by users more, because, well, they're common. So you get a ‘squaring effect’ of the bad merges being especially visible there.”

Are the software engineers of today somehow smarter than the engineers of the 1990s? Randy Wilson said

There was, in fact, a big difference between the merging algorithms used for Ancestral File…and those used in New FamilySearch. The former used "probabilistic record linkage" with simple field-based features, using parameters derived from statistics on a few hundred labeled pairs of records. The latter used far more advanced neural networks with 80,000 labeled pairs of records, with 20,000 more used to verify accuracy and select thresholds. I don't know if the engineers are "smarter" than in the 1990s, but the algorithms used sure are, and the engineers did have more extensive training in machine learning than before. In particular, we had a few Ph.Ds with a background in machine learning and neural networks working on it this time (me, Dallan Quass and Spencer Kohler).

Frankenstein genealogy results from incorrectly combining recordsIs there something about genealogical data that inherently leads to incorrect merges? Perhaps the ramifications of a merge depend on how clean the data is to begin with.

I can imagine two identical pedigrees, each sprinkled with Frankenstein monsters or extra generations or random pedigree errors. (See my article, “Frankenstein Genealogy.”) A machine algorithm is let loose on the two pedigrees. I can image the machine could become confused or react in unexpected ways.

At the very best, the machine cocks the gun. Then some naïve genealogist comes along and pulls the trigger.

Image credits:
       shuets udono, photograph of auto accident of two cars in an intersection in Japan, Flickr ( : accessed 18 October 2015). Used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
       “Frankenstein Genealogy,” The Ancestry Insider ( : 23 March 2011).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Mailbox: What is a Record?

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

When Ancestry or FamilySearch says they added "100 million new 'records'" what are they really describing?

As an example, you have one census sheet.  It has six households, of twenty-four rows of names, with eight columns of personal background for a total of one hundred and ninety-two cells of raw data.

So does that census sheet represent 1, 6, 24, or 192 "records" according to Ancestry and FamilySearch?

amiable 160

Dear amiable 160,

You’ve hit upon an amazingly complex question and a particularly confusing case.

When FamilySearch first published its U.S. census collections, the published record counts (found on were quite a bit smaller than its competitors. That raised questions as to whether they had published the entire census, or were they still indexing it, or had they accidentally missed some of the microfilms. A comparison of the record counts showed they were similar to the record counts of the old censuses from way back when Ancestry published just the names of the heads-of-households. So had FamilySearch published just the heads of households? I helped index for FamilySearch, so I was very much aware that we had indexed all the names.

Apparently, FamilySearch defined a census record as a household, while Ancestry defined it as a single row.

Well, overnight the FamilySearch numbers all jumped up to the same neighborhood as Ancestry’s. For your example, the answer is 24—if every row is used. As a side question, why are the record counts on the two sites not exactly the same? How does a website go about losing persons? I can only imagine that both organization do it. If so, there are some records on each that are not present on the other.

Another counting anomaly practiced by FamilySearch is that when they announce the total size of their collection the number is about two billion larger than the number arrived at by adding up all the record counts on the collection list. You have to listen very closely to what they say to understand the discrepancy. When they want the size of their collection to sound big, they announce the number of names, not the number of records.

I’ve spoken before about my dislike for name counts. (See “Unbelievable Name Count Claims” and “Name counts in table-style databases” for examples.) Name counts can miscommunicate in so many ways. After several of my editorials against Ancestry’s use of name counts, Ancestry stopped using them prior to going public. Bravo, Ancestry.

Someone recently noticed that their record counts for their “Select” series of databases obtained from FamilySearch are quite a bit higher than the record counts reported by FamilySearch. Presumably, they have reverted to name counts for these databases. Or perhaps Ancestry or FamilySearch created a database record for each indexed name.

That brings me back to your question. What is a record?

I’ve explained before how Ancestry defines them. It varies by collection type. See “What is a record?” for details.

For FamilySearch, you must read the announcement wording carefully. The most recent example is “New FamilySearch Collections Update: November 9, 2015.” It has a column titled “indexed records” and one titled “digital records.” I believe the latter is actually images of genealogical records. In early announcements, that is how that column was titled. (See an example on the FamilySearch website.) An image is a digital record. But it isn’t a record of a single genealogical event. Sometimes there are multiple records on an image (such as two marriage licenses on a page).

I don’t know for certain what “indexed records” on that announcement means, but I have a theory. FamilySearch’s announcement for the week of 13 July 2015 (see “New FamilySearch Collections: Week of July 13, 2015” on Dick Eastman’s blog), stated they added 47 million indexed records to “United States GenealogyBank Obituaries 1980-2014” collection. Yet the collection list states that the collection has just 16 million records. I don’t have internal knowledge explaining the discrepancy, but I think it lies around the odd way that obituaries are indexed. When you index an obituary, you index each name in a separate row, which I think results in a separate database record. My theory is that the number on the announcement is just what it says it is, “indexed records,” while the number on the collection list is what you would expect it to be: number of obituaries.

Short question. Long answer.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015 Releases Mexico Collection has a new website for Mexicans and Mexican Americans.During last month’s Dia de los Muertos celebration, released a major new collection: “Mexico Civil Registrations of Death.” There are 87 new databases thus far in the new collection. Ancestry’s announcement reads, in part:

We are pleased to announce the launch of new online services that will help Mexicans and the estimated 34 million Mexican Americans* research their family history.

More than 220 million searchable historical records from Mexico, including new birth, marriage, and death records dating back to the 1500s are now available on the Ancestry site, many of them important historical records never before available online.

Civil registration began in Mexico in 1859. Like vital records in the United States, compliance took a few years. Registration was strictly enforced starting in 1867.

These new records are being made available in part through collaboration with the Mexican Academy of Genealogy and Heraldry based in Mexico City and FamilySearch International.

I believe it has existed for some time, but Ancestry also debuted the Ancestry Mexico site.

In another first, the new Ancestry Mexico site will provide a Spanish language experience tailored specifically to Mexicans and Mexican Americans…

Ancestry has been working hard over the past few years to help people of Hispanic and Latino origins discover, preserve and share their family history by making important collections from Mexico searchable online to get them started.

“The new service really unlocks for the first time online, family history research for Mexicans and Mexican Americans, whether you prefer to speak English or Spanish,” said Todd Godfrey, Vice President of Global Content at Ancestry.

For more information, read

Monday, November 9, 2015

Monday Mailbox: SSDI

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Wondering if you have any information on when the SSDI might be updated. It’s almost a year behind, and that’s creating many problem.


Dear Unknown,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. So, I’ll let Judy Russell do it. See “SSDI access now limited” and her blog.

Bottom line: The SSDI will continue to fall further and further behind until the first quarter of 2017, when it will be three years and up to three months behind. It will then plateau and we will start to see updates, but it will always stay that far behind. Then at some future point our beloved congress will take it completely away from us.

The Ancestry Insider

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Water Bottle Dream

I had a dream that my dishwasher deformed my water bottle. Do you believe in dreams?

2015-10-31 11.17.00_thumb[6]

Thursday, November 5, 2015

RootsTech 2016 Free Pass Contest

RootsTech 2016 will be 3-6 February 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah.RootsTech 2016 will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 3-6 February 2016. Some of the hotels have already sold out, so I thought I better have my contest for a free, 3-day pass sooner than later so one of you lucky readers can make your plans early. Seating in computer labs is more limited than hotel rooms, so these sell out extremely quickly. Sponsored lunches sell out as well. They are a bit pricy ($29), but you get to hear a speaker in a relaxed atmosphere and you get to chat with other attendees at your table. At a conference luncheon earlier this year someone volunteered to help me with my Vermont brick wall, so the lunch was well worth the price.

With a 3-day pass to RootsTech you get access to

(There are extra charges for add ons: sponsored lunches, computer labs, and the Wednesday networking event. Family Discovery Day requires separate registration.)

Here are the rules for my free pass contest:

  • Send me an example of a darned record. What is a darned record? See examples from my past articles. Darned records are funny, weird, unique, cool, or awesome. Extra credit is given if the example is instructional. For example, two birth certificates for the same person, each with a different date, instructs us that no record, no matter how trustworthy the class of record, is beyond examination.
  • I’ve published many funny names from censuses, so that get’s a little old. If you submit a funny name from the census, it better be really interesting. Darned records of other types might catch my interest better. 
  • Write up an article about the record, ready for publication on my blog. By submitting your idea, record, or article, you give me permission to publish it, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to explicitly state that you are giving me permission.
  • I might edit (“rewrite”) the article to match my style. (That offends some people.)
  • I will list your name at the top of the article, “By So-And-So.” Tell me how you would like your name to appear.
  • Attach an image of the record. If the record is online, also send the URL.
  • Include a citation for the record and any other sources used. Don’t worry about it being encyclopediacticly correct.
  • Begin the subject line of your email with “Contest Entry: ” followed by a good title for the article.
  • Submit your entry to I must receive it before the end of Friday the 20th, November 2015, Mountain Standard Time. The gmail timestamp will be the official time of receipt.
  • If you’ve previously submitted a record and I have published it, you can still enter that record into the contest. Instead of writing an article, point out the URL of the published article. You will be eligible only if I can find your original email.
  • If you’ve previously submitted a record and I have not published it, submit it again, following all the instructions above.
  • Employees of FamilySearch are not eligible.
  • I will choose the winner by how awesome I think the record is, how well I like your article, and how well you followed these instructions.
  • I reserve the right to change the rules if a situation comes up that I didn’t foresee.

I’ll try to review the entries over the weekend and promptly inform the winner, but I make no guarantees. If you’ve already decided to attend RootsTech, go ahead and buy the pass, labs, and luncheons now. If the winner has already paid for RootsTech, I can arrange for you to get a refund.

I think there were no more than a dozen entries last year, so your chances of winning are extremely good.

I hope to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

RootsTech Announces 2016 Opening Keynote Speakers

Last week RootsTech announced the keynote speakers for the opening session of RootsTech 2016, to be held February 3rd through the 6th at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve warmed up considerably to non-genealogist speakers. They have been informative, funny, moving, and inspiring. They’ve brought in perspectives we sometimes don’t get when we draw exclusively from within our community. And they draw into our community, attendees that might otherwise have had no contact with genealogy.

Paula Williams Madison - author, filmmaker, and retired NBC executivePaula Williams Madison
Author, Filmmaker, and Retired NBC Executive

Paula Madison is chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management, a retired NBCUniversal executive, and the author and filmmaker of Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China.

Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China, is a compelling documentary that chronicles her journey to her maternal grandfather’s homeland in China and the reconnection of her family with his 300 descendants. HarperCollins published a memoir on the journey, Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem in April 2015.

Honored for corporate leadership and community outreach, Madison was named one of the “75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine in 2005 and included in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100.” She’s also been honored by Asian organizations, having been recognized in 2014 as one of the “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business.”

Bruce Feiler -  best-selling author and New York Times columnistBruce Feiler
Best-selling Author and New York Times Columnist

Bruce Feiler is a New York Times best-selling author, columnist, and frequent contributor to NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. His most recent book, The Secrets of Happy Families, is the result of a personal three-year journey to find the smartest and most novel solutions to make his own family happier.

Bruce Feiler’s New York Times article, “The Stories That Bind Us,” is quoted more by speakers from both and FamilySearch than any other article I’m aware of. In the article he reports on the positive effects a knowledge of family’s history has on children.

The Secrets of Happy Families, is a bold playbook for families today. It collects best practices for busy parents from some of the country’s most creative minds.

Stephen T. Rockwood - President and CEO of FamilySearch International Stephen T. Rockwood
President and CEO of FamilySearch International

Steve Rockwood is the newly appointed president and CEO of FamilySearch International, the largest genealogy organization in the world and host of RootsTech 2016. Prior to working with FamilySearch, Steve was a successful entrepreneur, creating unique services for worldwide customers such as MasterCard International, AT&T, Disney, Office Depot, and Citibank among others.

Most recently, Steve served as director of the international division at FamilySearch. More than half of the members of FamilySearch’s sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, live outside the United States. All of us involved in international aspects of FamilySearch’s services have loved his leadership and what he has accomplished for international Church members.
Tune in tomorrow to learn about my contest to give away a free, 3-day pass to RootsTech 2016.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Monday Mailbox: vs. Census Search

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I am trying to create a specialized research project on African-Americans in 1910 of Precinct 8, Saint Lucie County, Florida. I have tried several ways to search through Ancestry. The results are very strange and sometimes I get 157,000+ from all over the U.S. I used the "Lived In" search. It appears that although they use Precinct 8 as a town, it does not recognize it in the search function. Is there a better way? I also changed it from Black to Mulatto to Colored, etc.

Thank you
Pam Cooper

Dear Pam,

I think you’ve hit upon the source of the problem. When you select a location from the drop down list, you get what is sometimes called a standardized location. As you’ve seen, Ancestry’s standardized locations don’t identify locations down to the precinct level. When a non-standardized location is specified, they fallback to a different way of handling locations. Back when I was at Ancestry, the fall back was exact search. “Precinct 8, Saint Lucie, Florida” would have worked in this situation. “Precinct 8, Saint Lucie County, Florida” would have failed. Back then, “Exact” meant exact. Today, an exact search for “Precinct 8, Saint Lucie, Florida” matches anything, anywhere with an “8” in it! How helpful is that?!

Your only choice is to avoid their fallout—oops, I mean fallback—methodology. That means you are forced to select “Saint Lucie County, Florida, USA” from the standardized locations. How then do you limit results to Precinct 8? Fortunately, there is a way. has a cool feature that does not. It has often helped me out of pickles like this. It is called Keyword search. I specified “Precinct 8” (including the quotes) In the keyword field and I selected Exact. This search appears to have worked, returning just 105 blacks. You’ll want to compare the results with the images to see if there are other values of race that you want to include.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just download the results into a spreadsheet? has a cool feature that does not: download results. The equivalent search on returns 107 blacks. On FamilySearch, doing an exact search on location worked the way I expected. Why 107 results instead of 102? On FamilySearch I had to select a standardized value for race. Perhaps mulatto or colored was standardized as black. Or, since FamilySearch and Ancestry use different record processing and different search engines, Ancestry may have lost two records.

To use the download results feature, you must first create a free account and login. Once logged in, you can click the Export button and FamilySearch opens a spreadsheet containing the results. Probably to prevent piracy, you must repeat this step on each page of results. Crank up the number of results to 75 before you begin. Unexpectedly and unfortunately, the results don’t contain all the fields that indexers extracted. That’s a shame. Despite the download, you’ll still have to go record by record to get all values, such as race, that you need.

Lessons learned:

  • Whenever possible, select locations from’s standardized list.
  • Remember Ancestry’s exclusive keyword search feature.
  • Try FamilySearch’s handling of place names when Ancestry fails.
  • Utilize FamilySearch’s exclusive result download feature.
  • When you can’t find a result on one of these websites, try the other.

The Ancestry Insider