Friday, January 29, 2016

Family Search Web Site

As genealogists, we are all familiar with the web site and it's sister site, Ancestry Library Edition.  Their TV commercials tell us to just click on the little leaf. Or if you are not familiar with it, be sure to come to the Medina Library's Genealogy Lock-In on April 22nd when Lisa Rienerth will be teaching a class on it.

Today, I want to talk about the other premiere genealogy web site. The  FREE  one!

When working with library members, Lisa and I use this site just as much as we do Ancestry. Most often, we have them both open on the computer screen.

What is it?
It is a FREE web site sponsored by the Church of Latter-day Saints - LDS  (Mormon Church). Because of their religious beliefs the LDS have been microfilming vital records from around the world for over 50 years. More recently, they have been digitizing and indexing those records. The FamilySearch web site is the result. And its FREE!

How do you access it?

All you need is internet access. Just go to  You can start researching immediately. To view some of the records, you will need to register. Registration is free. Just click the "Free Account" button. You will will need a valid email account to create a user name and a password.

The FamilySearch home page. The pictures change frequently, keeping the page looking fresh.

How do you use it?
Above is the homepage. Across the top are tabs for different parts of the site. You can upload your family tree on the Family Tree tab,  upload family photos, stories, videos etc on the Memories tab, execute different searches on the Search tab or help them with their ongoing work to index the records on the Indexing tab.

Across the bottom are icons for more functions, if you have uploaded your family tree, photos, etc.. If you have uploaded your family tree, you can display a Fan Chart. Next is a link to family photos stories etc under the Photos icon, then a place for viewing or printing a Family Tree. The next icon will take you to the basic search for the indexed records (more about this later). And lastly, if you have uploaded your family information, you can create a Family Booklet.

Today, we are just going to focus on the Search functions of the site. 

Click on the Search tab across the top, OR the Search icon below the picture. Either will take you to the:  Basic Search page.

The basic search page
The tabs from the home page are still there so you can quickly access them.
The next line contains the tabs for the different kinds of searches you can do.
We will be focusing on the Records, Genealogies and Wiki. Next week we will cover the Catalog search function.

First, let's take a quick look at the Wiki tab. This is where all of FamilySearch's tutorials are.
Now, I am a strong believer that if a site is well designed, you don't need a lot of tutorials to get you started. And this is a well-designed site. 

But it also has a lot going on. And the Wiki tab is more than how to use the site. It is how to do genealogy research! So if  you are new to genealogy, new to the FamilySearch site or have come across a new location, or a new record that you want to know more about, go to FamilySearch's Wiki page. Like Wikipedia, the information is input by volunteers.

Next, we will take a quick look at the Genealogies tab. LDS members have been sharing their family research with other members for years. They first made this research available through the IGI, International Genealogical Index. My first exposure to the IGI was on microfiche cards. This was an earlier, not-Internet-based way of gaining access to the records the LDS was microfilming as well as the genealogies its members were sharing.

Notice the Genealogies Search page is more streamlined than the basic search page. And it has the ability to
search by the ID of the person who submitted the family information.
Use this area cautiously, as you would any information that is submitted by an unknown user. Not everyone does their research thoroughly or well. And even the best researcher can make mistakes. If you find useful information when searching other people's genealogies, look to see if they include the source of the information. If they don't, be certain to verify it in reputable resources before adding it to your tree. If the search function doesn't find any matching information to your query in the genealogies area, it will bounce your request over to the Historical Records search.

Records Search
This is where the good stuff is, and probably where you have already been playing around while reading my blog. I know I would be!

You'll notice that the page is divided into three sections: Search Historical Records, Research by Location and Find a Collection. I have never found the Find  a Collection search useful because you have to type in the title of the collection exactly. But you can Browse all published collections to see what they have on a particular area. More on that later.

Let's Search Historical Records:
  • Enter your ancestor's name
  • Include some information that you know is factual. 
    • If you know when and where he/she died, click on the blue "Death" link and fill the information on the form.
    • Click the Search button or hit the Enter key
    • You can browse through the returned entries on the right.
  • Note the kind of information the results show:      
Excerpt from Search Results

  • At the top it tells you how many results you have
  • Under the individual's name is the name of the resource for the record
  • The event's dates and places are next.
  • Any relationships revealed in the record are listed next.
  • A detail icon/link is next.
  • Next in this example is a camera icon that tells you there is an image of the record. In the example above, clicking on the camera will take you to the Findagrave entry for his death information. 
  • As always, evaluate the information. What is the source? Is it a primary or secondary source? Do they give corroborating evidence? (HINT: the "parents" information on Joshua Johnson's Findagrave listing is wrong. I have not been able to convince the submitter to correct the information.)
THAT is your basic search.  Now let's tweak it.
Across the top of the search results are two tabs. The first, labeled Records, is the default. That is what we have been looking at. Now click on the Collections tab. This breaks down the search results into the type of the Records:
  • Birth Marriage & Death
  • Census & Lists
  • Migration & Naturalization
  • Military
Under each of these headings are the Titles of the resources. It only shows the top five titles. Just click on the Show All link to see all the titles. This is a quick way to narrow down your search results to the particular type of information that you are looking for. In this case, I found Joshua Jonston's (Johnson's) enlistment for the War of 1812.

You could spend hours and hours just browsing and tweaking your searches in the Basic Search of Historical Indexed records.  But you could be missing out on a lot of good information that is available in the Unindexed Records.

The FamilySearch staff is digitizing the microfilmed records faster than they can be indexed. But they put the digitized images on the site under the Unindexed Records portion of the site.

My favorite way of accessing these records is using the map on the basic search page. It is under "Research by Location"

To use:
  • To use the map, click on the country you are interested in. 
  • For Europe, just click on the part of the map that represents Europe. 
  • A drop down menu will pop up. 
  • Choose your location by name
  • What appears first are the indexed records. You've already searched those, so scroll down to the Image Only Records.
Unindexed Ohio Records

  • Note what records they have. Choose the records you are interested in. They will not have every record that you want them to.
  • Once you choose the record group, you will click on "Browse through  1234??? images"
  • Is the record group subdivided by a smaller denomination? This won't be the case for all records.
    •  For example, when I chose Ohio Probate Records 1789-1996, it was subdivided by counties.
    • Choose the county.
    • Look for an index.
    • If there is no index, you will need to browse the records.
Harrison County, Ohio Probate Records that have been microfilmed, but not indexed.
Notice there is NOT a general index to these records
By browsing the wills for the time period that William Johnson died in Harrison County, I found his will listed in Volume C page 77.

Excerpt from William Johnson's will, purported father of Joshua Johnson as listed on the Findagrave site. Notice the names of his heirs. No Joshua Johnson listed, even though Joshua lived until 1858.
This was a very quick tutorial on using the web site. Be sure to use the Wiki to explore many other functions available on the site.

And come back next week when....       

Next week, we will explore searching the catalog and ordering microfilm from the FamilySearch website.

1 comment: said...

Had not explored the "by location" aspect of this website and am now looking forward to doing so. Thanks for the info!