This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you). Please see my full disclosure policy for details.

sharing is caring

It’s here! The first of April is finally here and that means it is time for the A to Z Challenge! I’m branching out a bit with this topic but and the research of my family’s history was a great way for me to pass the time when I was too weak and ill to go outside. So I decided it would make for an excellent topic for those of you who might be itching to discover a new hobby this month. Enjoy and as always, I am in no way an expert nor affiliated with

When thinking about family history and genealogy, the first website to come to mind will probably be, no? But is it worth the $$ and what is the best process for getting started?

Here below are FIVE tips for successfully using

#1. What is Free?

If you have access to a public library in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Norway, you might be lucky enough to have access to their “Ancestry Institution” for FREE. You’ll have to be on site at the library but it will allow you to:

  • Access a vast collection of U.S. and international documents online
  • View images of original documents enhance research and critical thinking
  • Read narratives, oral histories, indexes and abstracts to other resources
  • Search over 30,000 record collections and 11 billion records with a click of a button

#2. Should I Accept Hints?

If you have started a family tree on Ancestry, you’ll likely see a green leaf pop up on many of your ancestors’ names with hints. But are they accurate? Should they be heeded? I have seen that many hints are accurate and point to my ancestor. However, often enough there will be incorrect hints that if accepted will take your family tree on a wild ride requiring you to go back and do a lot of deleting and editing.

My 3 hints when it comes to HINTS are –

  1. Don’t accept any parent hints unless you already have proof your ancestors are connected to this individual. By accepting a wrong parent hint, you will put yourself far back and cause big mess-ups on your tree.
  2. If you are likely to click “accept” without doing the due diligence of research, I’d highly recommend turning off hints all together by deselecting “Receive hint notifications“.
  3. I’d personally recommend NOT using “Ancestry Member Tree Hints” NOR using “Sons/Daughters of the American Revolution” applications (that could be faulty too) in your research at the beginning. If one person has wrong data and you innocently accept their data as gospel – you too will have wrong data. It’s best at the beginning to input your own data based on what you know to be 100% truth. If you must use Ancestry Member Tree Hints, try to only use hints that are backed by a source.

#3. Pay for a GLOBAL Membership

Ancestry offers 3 membership levels – U.S., World Explorer, and All Access. The World Explorer is $10 more per month. Even if you are not sure how far back you can trace your family and you live in the United States, you’ll have to agree unless you are 100% native American, we are ALL immigrants. So at one point, your family tree will take you to Europe or Africa or Asia. And to access any of those records you will need access to International records.

So if you are a sincere researcher, I highly recommend a GLOBAL membership.

The third level – All Access – offers two additional memberships for and (basic).

Fold3 provides military records although I could never find my Grandfathers’ records from World War II and the Korean War nor my dad’s records from Vietnam. provides American newspaper records from the 1700s to the 2000s. I have had luck finding obituaries for family members in large metropolitan cities such as Portland, Oregon. However, records for smaller communities such as Cobleskill, New York, were not to be found. But more on that when I share about “NYS Historical Newspapers” (N).

#4. Make Use of the Message Boards

One of the best resources on Ancestry — their message boards. Here you can ask questions of the community based on surnames and cities. You can look for relatives, ask for sources and recommendations. The resources on the message boards are endless.

#5. SAVE Your Findings Offline

After finding records, what do you do with those records? I highly recommend buying an external hard drive and using it to save your family records. By uploading to your hard drive – family photos, a copy of your family tree (able to download from, newspaper clippings, spreadsheets of links, census records, and more can be downloaded and saved off the website’s server.

It’s highly unlikely the server will fail us but you never know! So take the time and organize your files so you can easily access them when doing research and also when showing off your findings to aunts and uncles.

5 tips for using #atozchallenge #ancestry #genealogy #thejoyousliving

So are you excited about joining me on my A to Z Challenge through Family History? I’d highly recommend trying a 14 day FREE trial of Ancestry (but be sure to mark the 13th day on your calendar so you have the option of cancelling your membership if it doesn’t fit your needs) and downloading the Ancestry app from the Apple App Store.

The Joyous Living: A TO Z Challenge Badge

Please leave in the comments below a name of an ancestor you’re excited to learn more about.