Start on your Ancestral Quest

Learn the basics of online genealogy with this free tool.

Ancestral Quest is genealogical research freeware that can search over 1 billion entries freely at FamilySearch as well as 500 million names, though that feature requires a free log-in ID. You can also upgrade to the paid version for access to more search options. However, the free tool offers a lot.

Ancestral Quest's installer let us opt for free or paid searches, something that happened frequently while using the freeware version, though that's why it's free. The setup also gave us the option to search Ancestry.com (though a subscription may be required) and make other choices. AQ's interface, charts, diagrams, and data fields all use nice, large fonts by default, which makes the data easy to see, but the look and behavior are just a few of the many options we could change. To start using the program, we could choose to create a new database, import an existing AQ database, import GEDCOM data, set up collaborations, and much more. AQ lets users open multiple database instances. We started a new family database, which involves entering a name in the family tree template on the Pedigree tab. This called up an extensive wizard for entering and saving biographical data like birth and death dates. The program suggests adding yourself as the first person (skip the death date for now) though you can use an ancestor. Our saved data appeared in the Family tab, where we could add Spouse, Children, Mother, Father, Other Relatives, and more. The Names List tab resembles a spreadsheet. The Individual tab is inactive in the freeware; it requires an upgrade to the premium product to access the data. The free search options are extensive, though. We could access the Search Center as well as perform Individual, Relationship, and Marriage searches on the Search menu. The Tools menu includes a Research Manager, Relationship Examiner, Calculators, and more. The help menu is one of the most extensive we've seen, which is just as well because there's a lot to this free application.

Despite the freeware's limitations and the need to access online accounts to search some databases, Ancestral Quest offers an excellent introduction to Internet-based genealogical research, and a great way to learn how to use the tools and resources efficiently, if you do decide to take your research to the next level.

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