7 Reasons Why You Can’t Find Yourself On Ancestry

I can find my parents and older brother and sisters on Ancestry.com. But I can’t find myself on the genealogy website.

There are good reasons for that. If you’re wondering why you can’t find yourself on Ancestry, this article explains the seven reasons you are not coming up in the search results.

The first three reasons are for when you are searching for yourself in the family trees of other members. The second four reasons are why you can’t find yourself in Ancestry’s record collections.

1. You Are Only Searching In Public Family Trees

The Search drop-down menu at the top of the Ancestry website offers the option to search through public family trees on Ancestry.

I don’t recommend that you use this option.

After a bit of experimentation using “John Smith”, I’ve concluded that using the public family tree search only brings back results that include death details.

Instead of using the menu drop-down, I recommend that you use the filters on the standard “Search all records” page. This lets you restrict the search to both public and private trees.

This picture shows how to set the options:

You’ll still have to scroll through a lot of results with death details when searching for yourself.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could restrict your search to living people? Well, you can’t.

If you have some clever way to do so, drop a comment below.

If you’re familiar with privacy in Ancestry trees, then you’ll know that Ancestry hides the details of living people when you’re looking at someone else’s tree.

So, you may be surprised that this method shows the details of living people in private trees. You could see something like this:

I’m hiding some of the displayed details of this John J Smith in Philadelphia.

Despite showing these details, you still can’t look inside a private tree. Ancestry provides you a link send a message to the member expressing interest in the tree.

2. Some Ancestry Members Don’t Add Living People To Family Trees

Going by comments on social media, many Ancestry members don’t bother putting their own generation or below into their family trees.

Their goal is to research their ancestors, so they want to build up and not out.

Personally, I don’t put living people under a certain age into a family tree that I am willing to share with others.

This is why you may not find yourself in the family trees of other members.

3. You Probably Won’t Find Yourself In Ancestry Hints (Except School Yearbooks)

If you’ve entered yourself in your family tree, you may not get any Ancestry hints on your profile.

The reason is that Ancestry hints only look at ten percent of its record collections.

This ten percent of records covers vital records (birth, marriage, and death) and census records.

We will explain later how privacy laws may exclude those records about you.

However, if you’re American you may find your school yearbook popping up. Those are included in the hints system.

We’ll also take a look at yearbooks in more detail in the next sections.

4. You Are Too Young To Be In Recent Birth Or Census Records

Ancestry is limited by country and state laws on privacy.

For example, the 1950 U.S. Census is the most recently available to the public. You have to wait until 2032 to view the 1960 census.

Ireland is even more restrictive with census data. 1911 is the most recently available Irish census. Other countries have different timeframes.

The recency of birth registration documents is even more complex as it varies by state. Some states have a hundred-year limit on the release of records for public viewing on Ancestry.com.

In my case, Ireland has a cut-off point of 1965. I’m the youngest of my siblings. They’re before the cut-off point and I’m not.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get copies of your own birth certificate.

But instead of looking it up on Ancestry, you would need to contact the records management department of the region where you were born.

5. Ancestry Has Not Acquired A Record Collection With You In It (Yet)

Just because your birth registration record is too recent to be on Ancestry.com, that doesn’t mean that other details of people of your age aren’t there.

The problem is that the data is patchy. For example, Ancestry has marriage record collections from some states that go up to 1980 while other states stop at 1950.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to finding collections that have more recent data.

  1. Open the Card Catalog page
  2. Scroll down the page to the “Filter By Location” section and choose a region
  3. Scroll down further to the “Filter By Dates” section.

The dates links only go up to the 1990s but this is misleading. There are more recent records than that.

Ancestry date links

 If you click on the 1990s link, you will see the collections with records as recent as 2020 (marriages in North Dakota).

Many of the collections are death notices and obituaries. As you probably aren’t looking for yourself in these collections, it’s worth using the category filters to zone in on the kind of information that will be useful.

If you’re American, you may find your smiling teenage self in a school yearbook.

From the Card Catalog page, you can find these under the “Schools, Directories & Church Histories” category. The collection is called:

U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-2016

When I ran an exact-match search on my year of birth, there were over twelve thousand records with photographs.

Some recent birth records

Using the same method of finding recent data, I drilled down into the birth and baptism category since the 1990s.

I picked a collection called:

Monroe County, Iowa, U.S., Card Index of Births, Deaths & Marriages from Newspaper Clippings, 1898-2013

This collection has birth records from Monroe County in Iowa from as recently as 2013. Note that these aren’t official birth registration records.

Instead, it looks like some parents in this county put notices in their local newspaper when their children are born. This practice was far more common in pre-internet days than it is now.

These recent birth records are the exception on the Ancestry.com website.

If you can’t find birth records about yourself and you were born after 1950, you shouldn’t be surprised.

6. There Are Errors In The Ancestry Records

No record archive is perfect. It’s possible that Ancestry has acquired records about you, but your searches can’t find them.

This could be due to errors in the source record or errors in the transcription into the Ancestry database.

Errors in the source record

The person who recorded the information about you may have spelled your name incorrectly or written the wrong year for your date of birth.

The original image has been scanned and transcribed into the Ancestry database with this inaccurate information. That’s not Ancestry’s fault!

If you can’t find yourself in the school yearbook collection, you should try some variations on your name.

Errors in the transcription

Ancestry.com uses a mix of automated and human transcription to get the information from the original records into their database.

Errors can occur with both processes. That is why you can report errors on any record.

I was amused to find my father in the New York Passenger Lists in the 1960s. But his first name is spelled incorrectly.

When I examined the image, the person had recorded the name correctly. So, this was a mistake in the transcription.

7. You Are Searching In The Wrong Way

Other people may be finding you on Ancestry with ease. The problem could be with the way you are using the search features.

I explain more about how you can miss records in our general article on why you can’t find someone on Ancestry. The linked article has lots of tips and examples on using the search features in the right and the wrong way.

Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

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