NEHGS AmericanAncestors.org site free through 19 November

+6 votes
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I wanted to make people aware that the AmericanAncestors.org site is free for the next week.  It's got a fabulous database, so you might want to focus your research on this for the next few days if you aren't a member of NEHGS.  Here's their announcement:

Fall back into family history research with FREE access to more than 1.4 billion searchable names on AmericanAncestors.org through Tuesday, November 19, 2019.  

Anyone can access our many research databases by registering as a FREE Guest Member at AmericanAncestors.org/Free-Billion. Search the world's largest database of Mayflower descendants, sacramental records of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and more!


 

in The Tree House by Darlene Athey-Hill G2G6 Pilot (437k points)

1 Answer

0 votes
I tried this as soon as I received the notice of free access but their servers were overloaded and it took another day to get connected.  I searched their databases but their search engine is not very good (I'm used to Ancestry) and I found it very tedious and difficult to get anything useful.  I would like to know just what they have that is so wonderful.  Ancestry seems to have much of the same.
by David Stearns G2G1 (1.6k points)

David, keep in mind that many people don't have a paid subscription to ancestry.com.  As such, having free access to the records available through NEHGS is extremely useful and valuable.  To list just a few databases:

  • Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to N.E. 1620-1633, Vols. I-III
  • Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Vols. I-VII
  • Great Migration Newsletter, Vols. 1-20
  • Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620
  • Mayflower Descendant (published by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants since 1899)
  • New England Ancestors Magazine
Hi David,

I am a member of both Ancestry and AmericanAncestors. I agree that the search engines are very different on the two sites, but on AmericanAncestors, once you find something which might be useful, you usually can get an image of the document and read it for yourself. A large number of Ancestry search results point to other people's family trees, or indexes of records, or indexes of family tree information. Another large portion, in my experience, are poorly transcribed and/or indexed. What I save in time searching is made up in time used sorting and evaluating.

I use Ancestry a lot, but when I want really reliable information about my New England people, AmericanAncestors is better.
Yes, unlike the search utility at Ancestry.com, the search interface on AmericanAncestors isn't designed to magically home in on all of the records that might represent a specific person. But AmericanAncestors has excellent authoritative sources that aren't available on Ancestry, the search results are all good sources (no user-uploaded images of pages from an unidentifed published book, user-uploaded images of ships, etc.), and the source citations on AmericanAncestors identify the actual source of each document, rather than pretending that Ancestry.com was the author.

When I search AmericanAncestors, I typically start with the name (no other details) and see what results there are for that name. Sometimes it's an unusual name with few results, and I can easily explore the whole list of records. More often, I will select a few individual subsets of the results to review (for example, Massachusetts Vital Records 1620-1850 or the Great Migration Study Project or Jounals and Periodicals). Sometimes I add dates or places to the search form, but I don't do that if I want to see results from source types such as Journals and Periodicals, because those typically aren't indexed by the person's life dates or places.

To add on to the previous three (excellent) replies: I can't imagine doing serious New England genealogy research without access to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. It's 174 years of mostly reliable genealogical research, reported and published using the best practices of the time (which, of course, have evolved a lot since 1846). Before it was available online, I used it for years at the Newberry Library in Chicago, which has the compete run. When the CD-ROM version came out—seven CDs, if I remember correctly—I bought that and used it extensively. Also valuable are the online copies of The American Genealogist, The Mayflower Descendant, The Maine Genealogist, and The Essex Genealogist, plus some others that fall outside my area of interest.

Another set of extremely valuable databases are the probate records for all (I think all) of the counties of eastern and central Massachusetts. Some of these counties (not all) are available at FamilySearch.org, but on FamilySearch it's a,lot harder to find what you're looking for, because you have to page through very large sets of records until you find the one you need. On AmericanAncestors, enter the name, the date (or date range) of the probate, and if there's a record, a click takes you directly to it, which consists of the filmed images of the original records.

On the downside: sometimes the site is maddeningly slow (although it seems to be getting better), and I've discovered quite a few indexing errors, which they are very good about correcting when you call them to their attention.

Thank you everybody for your excellent comments and I agree with much of what was said.  They do have some unique databases like The Mayflower Magazine and complete probate documents for download.  I intend to keep investigating until the free period expires and make a decision as to whether or not to join.  It's not free, of course, so cannot be compared to FamilySearch but for those of us with Colonial New England ancestors it looks like a wealth of useful information. It is rather cumbersome and the search engine could use some help in identifying relevant documents but I think with more use and help from their webinars searching will become easier.  Thanks again everyone.  

David

Another very useful database on the AmericanAncestors site is The American Genealogist, aka TAG. 

I've found that it's often more efficient to NOT use a lot of information in the searches. Don't restrict by date or location. Instead, for example, using the Advanced Search function, use only the name you're searching. Then, when the results come up, select the database on the left that interests you, say choosing the Journals and Periodicals, then next screen, choose the View All under periodicals, and see what smaller, regional publications are listed.

Or select the Vital Records category, then View All, and select a smaller appropriate database related to where you are researching.

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