At the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Loretta “Lou” Dennis Szucs of Ancestry.com presented a session titled “Hidden Treasure at Ancestry.com.” I must say, of all the hidden treasures at Ancestry.com, Lou is the greatest. She was probably the most prestigious genealogist at the conference and there she was giving an ordinary presentation. I wasn’t about to miss it. See “Loretto "Lou" Dennis Szucs” for a seven paragraph listing of her many accomplishments and honors. She is currently vice president of community relations for Ancestry.com. And she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet.
Truly Ancestry.com’s greatest hidden treasure.
“Our people are more than names and dates and places,” she said. “They run in our blood and in our DNA.”
Ancestry.com now has 11 billion records and is adding more every day. The home page has a section that shows the more recently added and updated databases. Click “View all new records” to see more.
The key is to zero in on the records you need, she said. One method of zeroing in is to click the search menu, scroll down, and click a state (or division of another country) on the map. This leads to a space that lists databases with content covering that state.
The card catalog is another way to zero in on particular databases. When using the catalog, there are two search fields. Don’t use the title field unless you know the exact title. Instead, use the keyword field.
Ancestry.com’s member trees now number over 50 million with 170 million attached photos, stories, and documents.
“I made my tree public,” she said, “and someone spotted it and she wrote to me and said I notice you don’t have any pictures [of so-and-so]. I have a picture. Would you like to have it?” Making your tree public might lead to treasures for you.
The Ancestry.com learning center is a hidden treasure. You can download charts for free and there are all kinds of getting started helps.
It is also possible to search by category. Click on Search and then use the categories along the right side of the page.
Szucs talked about non-population census schedules. These can add a variety of interesting facts about an ancestor. “We often overlook the fact of looking at the big picture,” she said.
Records of vital events can be found in unexpected places. The ship Liverpool arrived in New York in March 1849. Of the 416 passengers who left England, 37 would die before reaching the American shore.
“The stories around these records are so compelling,” Szucs said.
Szucs talked about many individual databases. “In these little tiny collections that don’t surface right away you might find gold.”
In closing she said, “Ancestry’s aim is to preserve family history records across the globe, and to make them searchable online.”