4 Brilliant Ancestry Hacks You Need to Know

Research on a Budget

I consider myself an addicted genealogist. There is a joke in the genealogy community. We are all self proclaimed addicts but you will never see a genealogist anonymous meeting. Why? Genealogists never want to quit. Perhaps we’re not a funny lot but the point is valid.

Everyday I dedicate time to researching or improving my research skills. I have been at this a long time and I consider myself a good researcher. In this field no one is ever truly an “expert”. People have specializations, but the subject is just so wide that it is is impossible to know it all at an expert level. It is a constant effort to acquire more information and skills.

If I ever strike it rich I might allow myself to spend endless amounts of money on this passion that I love so much but that is not this reality. Each of my precious genealogy budget dollars has to be used in the best way possible. I have discovered a few hacks to stretch my budget while still utilizing the vast resources at ancestry.com.

Being a member of ancestry.com can be a budget buster. The vast resources on the site, and the ease of use makes it worth the effort to subscribe to the paid site at least for short periods of time occasionally. However those monthly subscription fees can be hard to choke down.

4 Money Saving Ancestry Hacks

My first ancestry hack is to only subscribe when you are able to dedicate a considerable amount of time to research. If you are pressed for time and don’t know when you might have time to research then cancel that membership. It seems simple enough but I don’t know how many times I see people with a paid subscription to the site on auto renewal that haven’t touched the site in months. Your tree will remain there waiting for you to return at a free membership level unless YOU delete it. Don’t be afraid to save a few bucks if you can’t find the time to research.


My second ancestry hack is that even if you are researching on a regular basis cancel from time to time to get the company to offer a discount rate to stay. Often they will give 2 months for the twice of one if you have been a subscriber for awhile. It is no secret that most companies put more effort into attracting new customers than they do to ones who are loyal. I have no problem reminding companies that my research dollars are hard earned and I expect them to work for them just as they would a new customer. Ancestry is definitely one of the biggest and easiest to use sites but it is not the only place to research. I like to walk away from time to time just to remind myself that there are so many wonderful records repositories other than ancestry.


My third ancestry hack is to watch for sales. Ancestry is big on running regular sales. They typically run sales around holidays. The sales will typically offer DNA tests at $59 plus shipping and 50% off subscription services. I like to take advantage of sales around Black Friday and Mother’s Day to get my subscription services 50% off for the 6 month package.


My fourth ancestry hack is to use rakuten. It sounds too simple to be true but I always make sure I use a rakuten link when I purchase DNA tests or my regular subscription memberships. Typically, ancestry offers 7.5% cash back through rakuten. That’s right, just for buying your normal subscription you can earn 7.5% each and every time if you open a ticket through rakuten. I actually LOVE this site. They also offer 4% on DNA tests through ancestry. On a rare occasion I have even found ancestry on the double cash back list and received 15% cash back on my purchase.

Disclaimer: I will receive a small compensation from rakuten through this link however I recommend using rakuten for many of your shopping needs if you like to save money and receive cash back. I recommend this product because I think it is valuable and I have earned hundreds of dollars back in this method not because I have a referral link.

These are my 4 brilliant ancestry hacks. I use these methods to stretch my research budget and get the most out of each dollar I spend. Do you have any budget stretching ancestry hacks?

5 Fast Tips To Help Find Your Family History Treasure

1.  Follow the document trail as far as you can but once the details start to get less clear it’s time to fan out. In family history research FAN refers to friends and neighbors.

As an example, let’s say that the research trail goes dead at the 1900 U.S. census. A lot of researchers run into roadblocks around this time period due to the destroyed 1890 U.S. Census. This is a good time to attempt to perform FAN research.

I used this method to knock down one of my own family brick walls. My great-great grandmother was a controversial figure in the family lore of my ancestry. She lived into my lifetime although I don’t really have any recollection of her. I did grow up hearing various tidbits about her from different relatives and none of them were positive.

When I started my research on her I didn’t have a great deal of details. I knew a given name, Fanny, and I knew the surname she had when she died, Meadows. I didn’t know if Fanny was a nickname for a different name. I had no clue if Meadows was a maiden name or a married name.

Fanny was a research challenge

I built off what I did know using documents that I knew were related to my Great-Grandmother, Fanny’s daughter. I was able to locate the family on the 1920 census, the first census after my Great Grandmother was born. Without the FAN method this would have been my dead end.

On this census living in the household with the family was an individual named Elmer Bennett….and he was listed as a nephew.

With a little digging I was able to locate Elmer Bennett and Fanny Bennett on the 1910 census and they both lived in the household of Fanny’s parents. With that information I was able to crack the brick wall that held up my research on my Great-Great Grandmother.

The FAN technique of looking at Friends and Neighbors can be valuable in navigating research speed bumps.


2. Cast a broad net with a general search engine search. Often, we get tunnel vision and convince ourselves the only way to research is via sites we know and trust

There are countless more focused sites that while they may have less broad information, they may have extensive details of the individuals that you are researching. The best way to locate some of the harder to find resources is to search wide to locate the pinpoint resources.

The history of West Virginia might be a topic that not everyone needs. For me and my extensive West Virginia mountain heritage, the West Virginia Culture site has been a priceless resource. If I had limited my research to strictly sites such as ancestry and family search, I may have never found this massively helpful resource.

Unlike sites such as Ancestry with a wide catalog of records and a subscription fee smaller more specific websites will often be free or operate solely on donations.

There is a plethora of lesser known websites that are just as reliable as sites such as family search and ancestry

It’s easier to toss out the wrong results than it is to infer information from a mystery record. Exhaust all avenues.


3. Don’t focus too much on spelling if the rest of the details mesh out. Spelling has not been standardized long in the grand timeline of history. Many people were unable to read and write until modern times.

A recent instance that I came across was the case of the Monteith/Mantooth surname. Legend has it that there was a rift in the Mantooth family generations ago that led to one branch of the Monteith family changing their name to Mantooth.

If the spelling is close and all the other details match up, then you must research deeper. It’s better to research the wrong thing and realize it later than it is to skip over a record because Smith is spelled Smyth. It doesn’t hurt to sound out a name and try to think of any ways you can that might be a spelling for that name. Search them all. Then remember that our ancestors often had accents so you might have missed a spelling completely.


4. Research more than just people. If there is a certain location where the ancestors, you are researching lived for a long time take the time to learn about that area

I have discovered a great deal of family information through researching things such as towns, churches, and early military units.

Town founders, early community office, local militia unit rosters. There are countless places that ancestors can show up in historical documents.

The members of the communities were self-sufficient. They pooled efforts to help build churches, they would donate land for a community building, and they would ban together to build roads.  In earlier periods these were handled at a community level and often details notes exist of these events.


5. Pushes and Pulls. This is such a simple concept but it’s easy to forget during research. Much like the world today there are often bigger events happening which influences migration patterns. Migration is rarely random.

A good example of this is with the Scotch-Irish population of the 18th and 19th centuries.

These individuals left regions of Scotland and Ireland hoping to create a better life. The conditions in their home regions were the pushes.

The pulls were the reasons they were pulled to the Americas such as available land and religious freedoms.

The Irish potato famine pushed many Irish families out of Ireland decades later and pulled them to the United States in search of economic opportunity.

During the industrial revolution the United States saw a lot of people pushed from rural farmland where there were less economic opportunities to urban areas such as Detroit, Michigan seeking available jobs in the factories.

My grandfather was from a poor coal mining family in Appalachia. He was pushed from his small community in rural West Virginia that his family had inhabited for hundreds of years. He was pulled to the economic opportunity of the manufacturing hub of northern automotive cities. He retired from GM in Flint, Michigan after a long and rewarding career. At that point he was pushed yet again from the busy hustle and bustle of life in a city and pulled toward a slower and more rural life.

Often if we consider the larger picture of a certain group or region it can provide great clues that can help fill in the research blanks.

What are your top 5 fast tips to help you find your family history treasure?

A New Leaf

Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. It is second only to adult content searches regarding internet search terms. As family history interest passes from just being about family lore and delves further into the science realm with DNA the field is only going to continue to grow in popularity.

As interest in family history continues to grow the resources dedicated to the industry are becoming more visible. NBC has premiered a new show “A New Leaf” hosted by Daisy Fuentes and presented by Ancesty.com. The show airs on Saturday morning and is available free on demand on the network’s website.

I took a moment to review the premier episode and thought I would provide my thoughts on this show. The show is only 30 minutes in run time and that is with commercials. Actual airtime is closer to 20 minutes. I found the program enjoyable.

This episode is about a young woman, Nadia, and her mother Stephanie. Nadia is trying to learn more about her mother’s unknown father so she can learn more about that unknown side of her family. One thing that is unfortunate about the show is they skip over the process of how they identified the identity of Stephanie’s father. This was a good opportunity for the program to delve into the process of genetic genealogy but honestly in a 30-minute time slot, for an early morning weekend audience, this was probably the wisest choice.

Most of the show is about the reaction of Nadia and Stephanie as they learn about this unknown branch of their family tree. The researchers were able to locate records and photos of several of their ancestors including a very interesting interview from Stephanie’s great-great-grandmother, Martha Patton, who was 91 years old when interviewed for the Slave Narrative project 1936-1938.

Compared to a more research detailed show such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” this show is more of a feel-good show for the person with casual interest in family history. There is a lot of general history education dotted in through the program that relates to the story being researched but not as much on the actual research process.

Overall, I loved the show

I think it is a great concept that can help the average person understand the things genealogical research can reveal without getting bogged down in the detail of how it is done. I would recommend this program for anyone looking for a lighthearted program that can provide interesting educational tidbits without being too technical to appeal to a wide audience.

Have you had a chance to check out this show? Take a moment to let me know what you thought of the premier in the comments!

With Some Duct Tape Here…and a Little Glue There…It’s Coming Together

Why This Page?

The facebook groups I have created are great for keeping in touch with family and for targeted information geared toward that select group.  I do research for several family lines and wanted to be able to have a place to post information that might not fit into one of those groups.  I also hope that by not limiting myself to the face book audience I might make connections I might not otherwise make to people who don’t use social media.  I will still do face book group posts; they might just be shares from the blog in the future.

What’s New?

It’s only been a few days and the Dusty Roots and Forgotten Treasures page is up and running smoothly and more and more content is being added every day.  I have added lineage lists for each branch of my family (currently it’s only direct ancestors), created a page for my kids/in-laws family with their lineage to include a Jacobs/Sindle page, added a photo gallery page, started work on a notable relations page and also a handy list of research sites I use while doing research.   I am steady working to make the page better.

What’s next?

  • Continued improvements to the information on the page
  • More blog posts about the different people or topics I come across in my research. My goal is a minimum of one original post per day
  • Research Tips, any useful sites I find, reviews of software I use
  • More photos and Improvements to the photo gallery such as labeling photos

What would you like to see?

Currently my issue is there are not enough hours in a day to add all the stuff I want to see on the page while learning the basics of how to work the website.  Be patient with me as I continue to add content and check back often to keep updated on changes.

Everything listed on this site is what I believe to be true at this time due to research results.  I do not claim to be error free.  Some of the lines I research have been diligently worked for years; others I have barely scrape the surface.  If something posted appears incorrect I welcome feedback.  I am constantly looking to improve the quality of information I share.

I’m constantly researching and I am looking for topics to blog about.  Have an ancestor or genealogy topic that you would like to see as a future blog?  Contact me and I will try to cover the topic.