This guide will introduce you to Ancestry and show you how to carry out a basic search.

Ancestry is one of the most popular online resources aimed at family history researchers.

You can print or download this Ancestry helpsheet [953 KB].

It is available in your local library using the computers or on a mobile device when using library Wi-Fi in a West Sussex Library.

How to use Ancestry

Log on to one of the library computers. When the tiles appear, scroll down and click on the Ancestry tile.

Screenshot of Library Computer Home tiles showing Ancestry

To start, click the Search tab on the black toolbar at the top of the Ancestry page.

Screenshot of Ancestry website home page

The best place to start is often the Census & Electoral Rolls. Make sure you select the U.K. Census Collection under Narrow by Category. You can either search all the UK censuses or select a specific year.

Image of Ancestry search function

Enter the details of the person you are looking for in the search boxes. The less information you enter, the more results you will get. When you have filled out the boxes click on Search.

Screenshot of search function for births and deaths

Shown below are the results of a typical search. The closest matches are listed first. Be aware that names are sometimes misspelled, particularly where there is more than one way to spell the name. To make sure that you have the right person, view the full entry by selecting the census heading for the person you wish to view.

Screenshot of 1901 census search results for Lily Brookes

The full entry will list every member of the household on census day, along with their age.

Screenshot of names and ages of household members for Lily Brookes

Click the green View button to see the original document.

Image of census entry for Lily Brookes

Click the tools icon from the menu on the right-hand side to download and save the image, print it or email it to yourself.

Image to show process of saving the search results for Lily Brookes

For more help with using Ancestry and family research generally, remember to check our What’s on in Libraries page for forthcoming events.

Other ways we can help you find the information that you need:

Contact the Library Service

Local Clubs and Societies

Family History

Local History


Homework and Research

This guide has been produced by West Sussex County Council Library Service © 2020.

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