Is there a URL or method of searching the materials at Ancestry.com that allows one to find (and see) the publicly available data? Somehow, I always end up in advertising.
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"Publicly available data" is an ambiguous phrase. Do you want
Generally you can search all the databases without an active subscription, but un-free matches are shown with some fields generic and of course no access to detail pages or images. Some free content is also accessible from a Google search.
Here is a list of the free Ancestry databases that was provided in a blog article by the Ancestry Insider.