With the huge range of data available at Ancestry.co.uk, it’s vital to learn how to find it. Luckily the site has incredibly powerful search tools that make it easy for you. You can search the entire collection in one go, or drill down into a subset such as military records or census data, and then search just those for the individual or family you are seeking. You can also browse the different types of records to get a sense of what they contain. Ancestry.co.uk uses powerful search technology which actually combs through all of its worldwide sites, but you can always narrow down just to answers from the UK and Ireland.
This is the main search page which you can reach at any time by clicking the Search tab along the top of the page. The more information you give on name, dates and locations, the fewer results you will get, but the more precise they will be.
If you just enter a name and place, it’s likely that there will be too many results to go through one by one; this is where the site’s filters come in. Use the ‘Narrow by’ options on the left to zoom in on particular groups of records.
Another way to narrow things down is by giving more information in the ‘Advanced search’ feature. Here you can add search information such as Mother, Father, Sibling or Spouse and relevant keywords.
Use Ancestry.co.uk’s ‘Exact’ tickboxes next to names to force the results to show only names as you typed them – if you don’t, surname variants will be included. However, this can be useful because names are often spelt in different ways.
You can also use the date range features to focus on either a precise year, or a range of years (you can choose plus or minus 1, 2, 5 or 10 years as the range). Use ‘Edit search’ at the left at any time to refine your criteria again.
If you want to check out a record quickly without leaving the results page, just hover your mouse over the name in the list of results, and a summary of that record will pop up to the right. This is ideal for browsing several results quickly.
Another great way to explore the Ancestry.co.uk collections is to use the Card Catalogue, available under the Search tab. It's very handy for searching smaller collections in particular – here we're searching for anything relating to Oxford by typing ‘oxford’ into the keyword search box.
The Card Catalogue can then be filtered further by type of record, such as military, directories and so on – as well as location or date range – using the Filter options on the left. Click the name of a collection at the right at any time to be taken to its specific search facility.
Many of the collections at Ancestry.co.uk have their own search feature. The fields available will vary according to what information is in the collection, with name fields and a general keyword (searching across all records) at the least.
Many of the data collection pages can be browsed as well as searched. Browse options appear to the right of the search. In this example, you can pick a volume with a specific date range, and then look through names in a particular part of the alphabet.