© 2019 by Clan Forbes Society, Inc.

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Tracing Your Lineage with Ancestry.com

Not so long ago, genealogy involved personal visits to churches and libraries, hundreds of file cards and documents, and complex hand-written family trees. Today, tracing your lineage has been revolutionized by computers and the Internet. A massive number of historical documents such as census reports and court house records have been digitized. Computer software has simplified organizing and retrieving genealogical information. Online services have streamlined and enhanced the ability to research and create family trees.


Many services can assist you in organizing your genealogical research, such as FamilySearch and MyHeritage. However, the Clan Forbes Society has chosen to use Ancestry.com for recording its many family trees. Ancestry has the most records of any other site (17 billion), is extremely easy to use, has a mobile app, and has a companion program for updating information offline (Family Tree Maker, by Mackiev.) 

Family Trees: Starting your first family tree in Ancestry.com is simple: just enter the names and birthdates of your close family members. You may want to consider creating separate trees for each parent or grandparent. In any event, you should start with the most recent person and work your way back. From any page on Ancestry, click the “Trees” tab and select “Start a New Tree” or “Create & Manage Trees” (depending on the page.) Click “Create a new tree” and click “Add Yourself” or “Add home person.” Enter the requested information and click “Save” or “Continue.” Click “Add Father” or “Add Mother,” enter their information, and click “Save.” And you’re off and running! You can build your tree by your tree, clicking on the “Profile” of the family member and in the Family column, click Add. In the drop-down menu, click on a type of family member. Fill out the person’s information and click “Save.” If you click on the name of the tree, you will see menu selections “Tree Overview,” “Media Gallery” (where you can store photographs and scans), “All Hints” (more below), “Tree Settings” (for changing the name, description, privacy levels, and sharing options), “Sharing” (for sending invitations to other individuals), and “Family Group Sheet” (with family details.) If you ever get stuck you can click on “tutorials” in the lower right corner.


Search: You can access the “search” function from the top menu. You can select such searches as All Collections; Census & Voter Lists; Birth, Marriage & Death; Immigration & Travel; Public Member Trees; Military; Card Catalog; and Member Search. For the “General Search,” you enter requested information in a “search form.” With this form you enter as much information as you have about the family member, identify the type or source of information, and narrow the results by year and state. Please be aware that variations of the names may exist in these records, such as Forbes, Fobes, Vobes, Forbess, Forbis, Forbush, etc. 

Hints: Ancestry.com automatically scours its databases looking for information that may be related to your family member. When it finds a potential link, the program adds a little green leaf icon to your Card indicating that it has found a “hint.” Click on the leaf icon to see these “hints.” Review these “hints” carefully, especially information found on other family trees. Review the documents thoroughly to confirm they reference the right family member. Then you can deal with the “hints” appropriately by clicking “Maybe” if it needs more research; “Ignored” if you are certain it is incorrect; and “Accepted” if you want to incorporate the information into your tree. You’ll have to remove the information manually if you decide the hint is wrong. If you want to conduct your own research and not rely on “hints,” turn them off by selecting “Site Preferences” when you click on your name or user name in the top right corner and deselect “Receive hint notifications.” To turn off hints for specific trees, deselect the trees.


Connect: You can use “Member Connect” if you want to share information with other members who are researching people in your family tree. In your tree, click on a person, then click Profile in the menu that appears. From their profile page, click “Tools” and select “Member Connect.” On the Member Connect page, click the “Suggested Connections” tab. You’ll see a list of people who likely have the same person in their trees. To compare their tree to your tree, click “Compare;” to save a family tree on the list, click “Connect.”

Learn more: If you ever get stuck on how to perform a specific function, you can click on “Tutorials” in the lower right corner. If you want to learn more about searching and how to understand all the records available to you, purchase the Unofficial Ancestry.com Workbook. This is an excellent manual that will assist you in tracing your family tree using this online service.

And don’t forget to share your experiences with your clan members at the Clan Forbes Society!