I recently discovered a family tree which was filled out by my grandmother for my mother when she was in elementary school. The tree is very basic, with names filled out everywhere, but there are no birth dates, death dates, etc. that would give any information other than an ancestor's name.

Since I have an account to Ancestry.com, I inputted the names into the family tree builder, and usually many hints come up for you to view and discern whether or not they are your ancestor or not. But barely any hints showed up, and there were no hints that came up for many of the names high up on the family tree.

I thought, well, I'll try searching for them manually. So I went to the search and began searching for the names, only to find out that they have absolutely no results for a man named Astruc Dupont!

Astruc Dupont is one of the highest names on the tree. I have tried FamilySearch and other websites, with no luck. I went to my local library and asked how I might go about doing this, and the genealogy department had no advice for me. They said I was in a tough spot.

Here is a picture of the section of the tree I am interested in. I blocked out the names of anyone born within the last 100 years. I am only interested in the ancestors of Lillie Maude Butler and up.

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    I think it would be useful to post a picture of the tree with the names of anybody born less than 100 years ago masked out. In particular I think it might be useful to see a high resolution image of the name "Astruc Dupont" in case anyone reads the letters slightly differently.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 2:57
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    Rather that relying on someone else's work you may be better served by starting with what you know, yourself > Parents > grandparents and filling in all those details and then work backwards from there to your Astruc Dupont. Don't forget that Ancestry does not have all records there are many other websites to search and record offices to visit.
    – Colin
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 7:43
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    Do you know where your ancestors are supposed to have come from? I'd never heard the name "Astruc" before, but JewishEncyclopedia has an entry for it, noting that it was common in southern France and eastern Spain. "Dupont" is of French origin too; southern French if HouseOfNames is to be believed (hmmm). So you may need to look for old French records. But that's only a wild guess. (I agree with @Colin - work backwards from what you know. Deal with Astruc when/if you get to him.)
    – AndyW
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 9:20
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    It depends on the quality of records in the country that your ancestors were from whether Ancestry will have them or not. My father is Maltese, and there are no Maltese records online
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 10:22
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    Like @Colin (and AndyW) I am reluctant to encourage you to spend too much time looking for names on this tree until you are confident that the one who lived the most recently can be confidently identified as your ancestor.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 7:12

3 Answers 3


Your example shows why, despite all the efforts of Ancestry and other companies to accommodate their customers who want to search by name, searching by name alone is not an effective technique for finding the individuals we're looking for.

In her presentation "Broke, But Not Out of Luck: Exploring Bankruptcy Records for Genealogy Research", presented as session 10 of the 2015 Virtual Genealogy Fair, archivist Jessica Hopkins gave the audience tips about what information we needed to have on hand before we tried to find bankruptcy records at NARA.

We needed to know:

  • A name of one of the parties involved
  • the location where the court case had been filed
  • a time period or date range when it happened

Hopkins called this the "three-legged stool". When you want someplace to stand which is secure, if you have three legs, the stool won't tip over. If you only have one or two of the three legs, the stool is tippy and you don't have a secure place to stand.

This concept is true not only for the bankruptcy records that are held by her branch of NARA. It is true for every record we use for genealogy. If you find a record where the name matches and the age matches, that's not necessarily the right person, and you have to use other identifiers such as occupation or the names of relatives to determine whether the record belongs to your person or not.

For tips on using Ancestry specifically, I recommend watching some of Crista Cowan's "Barefoot Genealogist" videos on her Ancestry Desktop Education playlist. Start with Smarter Searching: Look for Records, not People and then look for other videos that offer search tips.

If you are searching for people with extremely common names, you might need as many as five or six identifiers to distinguish them from other people in the same area with the same name.

If you can't find any records at all, you need to widen your search by doing surname-only searches, first-name-only searches, using wildcards, using different spellings of the surname, and so on. Search other places besides just Ancestry, and keep a journal of what searches you've tried, and what you found.

Search aids such as Stephen P. Morse's One-Step Web Pages can be a huge help, but there's no substitute for learning more about how the search engine works at each website you try, and learning about the different types of records you are trying to search. The FAQ explaining the One-Step portals discusses the weaknesses of many search engine and why Morse designed his site to help with the process.

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    2 points: 1) Ancestry changed its algorithm for tree search 2(?) years ago and stopped indexing individuals without sources. They cannot be found by searching ancestry trees, although they can still be reached from within a tree. 2) Surname frequency is geographically variable - a common surname is one country is likely to be more rare in another. That means, that search strategies will probably change from one record set to another.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 15:15

There may exist a lot of reasons for a such behaviour.

  • You may have totally incorrect family tree;
  • or person's names were written with the errors;
  • or there is nobody who shares ancestors with you who uploaded the tree to Ancestry. I faced with this phenomenom when investigating my poor ancestors from peasant strata. I am the first man who entered them into public darabase.

I usually use Geni.com tree for publishing data about my ancestors and shocked how many people had the same name. More - the big parts of trees may look the same because of repetition of the sames names in the same order. But we need to double check data. I fixed a lot of issues with such a false-positive "twins" or "duplicates".

Regarding your question please provide more data. The photocopy of the sheet with the tree is OK.

Addition: I believe that Astruc is surname. It likes it was misplaced from the record above. I.e. your greatgrandfather is William Monet (french?). Or maybe it is the second name (like Anne Marie)


Dont discredit any of your Grandma's advice. Maybe she filled out the chart with emphasis on the names rather than the relations of who married who. I would plug the names in Ancestry.com and see how they relate based on record evidence. At least you have family names and keep in mind variations of spellings.

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