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 Ancestry.com, 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 location...to 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.    


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