Saturday, April 27, 2013

Getting to Know FamilySearch Online (Part 2)

Last time we talked about three of the four basic search categories of the FamilySearch website, i.e., Records, Books, and Catalog.  Change is the only constant on the internet, and already since Part 1 of this post, the home and search pages of FamilySearch have been updated with some cosmetic uplifts and the addition of a fifth category entitled Wiki. 

Commercial - State Farm Insurance

Under the Genealogies category, which should be searched separately from the Records category for maximum results, you will find user-submitted trees that have been accumulated from the Pedigree Resource File and Ancestry File databases.  As with any user-submitted resource, make it your credo to treat
information from these trees as clues, not as facts, until you can verify it using solid genealogical research methodology.  Too often, misinformation in online family trees mushrooms like a bad virus, and definitely, definitely don't subscribe to the notion that "They can't put anything on the internet that isn't true."

New to the FamilySearch environment is the ability to add your family trees & photographs live.  Enter through the Family Tree link found at the top of the Search page, sign up for a free account using an e-mail address, and you're on your way.  At first glance this morning, it seems that information has to be manually entered, one person at a time, no apparent way to upload a tree or Gedcom file.  Once information is entered, it can be edited, and it can be searched by other users. 

The new Wiki category is equally exciting, serving as an online encyclopedia of genealogical knowledge.  It is not meant to be a place to search for names, but for topics of all types that relate to family history research.  Search on topics such as locations (town, county, state, country), ethnic resources (examples: Italian or Danish research), religious sects, records types (examples:  chancery records, parish chest records), and much more.  I was able to search using the term Shakers (a celibate, extinct religious group), and found an entire page devoted to that religion in Watervliet, New York, where my family was known to live.  The wiki pages can provide social history & links to maps to go along with your family history and also give your useful information about the where, what and how to access records.

To assist with learning about all that FamilySearch has to offer, consider reading The Guide to FamilySearch Online, by James L. Tanner.  Although published in 2011, the information remains current and applicable to the site.  The book even predicts the release of New FamilySearch which was just done during this last month, and talks about many of the features that are now available.  The Guide is available for checkout by any Van Buren District Library patron, or seek out a copy at your local library.  Remember that knowledge is power.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 5th & 6th grade students, Gobleville (Gobles), Michigan
undated [perhaps around 1915]

Can you identify any of the children or teacher in this photograph, taken in Gobles, Michigan?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.   

Friday, April 5, 2013

Getting to Know FamilySearch Online (Part 1)

It's guaranteed that unless you take the time to learn about online genealogical databases, you are missing valuable information.  This is particularly true of the bigger players in the field such as FamilySearch

Launched in 1999 and sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), the FamilySearch website has been a force in the world of online family history, for free.  They currently boast 3 1/2 million searchable names in their range of databases, with 10 million user hits per day. 

When visiting the FamilySearch home page a typical user will zero in on the boxes, quickly plugging in names and dates and with high anticipation selecting "Search."  Some will be rewarded with a hit list that contains potentially positive results.  Others may get a return of a list too large to handle, or no results at all.  Unfortunately, many searchers will stop there, not realizing that learning more about the content of the site and its search capabilities may lead them to the information they seek.

As with most sites, there is more than immediately meets the eye at FamilySearch.  The first thing you should notice is that there are four "tabs" across the top of the search fields:
  • Records
  • Genealogies
  • Catalog
  • Books
Searches have to be made across each of these categories individually, so if you are searching under Records, you are missing the other three.  Although, there is a notation at the bottom of the Records hit list indicating that there may be hits within the Genealogies databases, allowing you to click and move to that category.

Of what use is Books?  Currently, there are more than 60,000 digitized books, sponsored by Brigham Young University (BYU) Historical Books Collection.  Each is full-text searchable, and the images are downloadable.  These volumes are not necessarily the same books that we see repeated on, Heritage Quest and Google Books.  They include titles from the BYU collection, many of which are rare local histories and genealogies. 

And the Catalog?  I use the Catalog more than any other portion of the FamilySearch site.  In addition to being a complete description of all of the millions of books and microfilm in the LDS library, it also serves as a portal to digital items, including collections that have been placed in Records and to the digital Books.  I would recommend conducting searches within the Catalog on a regular basis; by title, subject, geographic insure that you aren't missing online resources. 

Next time we'll talk about more uses of the FamilySearch site and the recently published Guide to FamilySearch Online.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
Photographer - Chas. F. Prichard, Decatur 
From the personal collection of Sarah J. (Adams) Jackson

Can you identify the woman in this cabinet card, taken in Decatur, Michigan?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.