You are researching a family line and you are now stuck. Maybe you think that getting a subscription to Ancestry will give you all the answers that you need to get unstuck. Not necessarily so.

Yes, Ancestry is a good source, full of records and hints on your family tree may open doors for further research. But remember, they are only possibilities — you need to research the green leaves for their match to your line. My suggestion is to work with some websites that are free and once they are exhausted, maybe get an Ancestry subscription.

One site that is equivalent in many ways to Ancestry is It is free and has easy-to-use links, plus new records uploaded continually, just like Ancestry.

How to get started. Type in (not .com) in your browser. Create Account. You must create a user name and a password to use the site. Again, it will never cost you anything, but the account keeps you in their database to send you research info. Make the username and password simple so you can remember it. 

On the top menu bar click Search, then Records. Type in the info that you have about the ancestor. For Birth it is good to put a range — you may think that you have the correct birth year but a number of things can alter that. If your ancestor was said to be born in 1809, type in 1805 to 1815. Birthplace is best to put the state, if known, then work down to the county. If you know only an approximate date for Birth or Death, use the range method. 

Always use a woman's maiden name to begin the search, However, if you are looking for a record after she was married, such as census, birth of children, and death, use the married name. Residence could be anywhere you think the person lived. Leave all small boxes ( match all names, dates, terms, exactly) unchecked. Click Search. Generally Census records come up first. 

Go to Search again, click Genealogies to see if there is anyone posting genealogies for the same ancestor.

One of the most productive and interesting tools on FamilySearch is the last item under Search. Scroll to Wiki and click. An interactive map appears and the possibilities for researching are endless. Take your time and explore. Example: Click on North America, choose North America; another drop down lists states. Click on your choice and a state map appears; click on the county, then a city. You will find the records available and if they are online. 

Don’t stop there! Try buttons and drop-down lists. Scroll and read. If you need help requesting records in another country, there are letter-writing guides for the country. As with any online repository of records, if you find something, either save it or print it immediately. It may not be there the next time you look. Have fun with

Happy Thanksgiving!

Becky McCreary is newsletter editor for the Southern Arizona Genealogy Society. Contact her at or visit the society’s website at, where her columns are archived. The articles may not be reprinted without written permission of the author.