FamilySearch has gone through a number of different iterations, or website versions. It started with the original website familysearch.org and then grew to include a number of secondary sites such as new.familysearch.org and pilot.familysearch.org. In December 2010, a number of the secondary sites were consolidated into the current familysearch.org leaving only familysearch.org and new.familysearch.org (as well as some other resources such as the FamilySearch Wiki at wiki.familysearch.org).
You will find two main types of records while searching online:
● Compiled Sources:
○ Compiled sources are combined from various sources of data including private research and databases. These include Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index, Vital Records Index, Social Security Death Index, and Pedigree Resource File.
○ These may be inaccurate or incomplete.
○ Carefully evaluate the compiled information you find, and then use it to find primary sources.
● Primary Sources:
○ Primary sources are actual records created at the times of important events in your ancestor’s life.
○ These include actual birth certificates, census records, land records, etc.
○ These can still contain mistakes or misspellings, but are more likely to be correct because they come from actual records created during the person’s life.
Where does Family Search fit into the Five-Step Research Process?
After you have identified what you know about your family and decided what you want to learn about your family, you can then select records to search. This is Step 3 of the Five-Step Research Process. You then will be able to obtain and search those records. This is Step 4 of the Five-Step Research Process.
Go to www.familysearch.org
● Searching for records - there are four different groups of records you can search for: Records, Trees, Catalog and Books.
○ Name Search
■ Practice searching by performing a broad search for an ancestor. Notice the amount of records that show up. Then play with the various filters on the left side panel (adding ancestor’s information, or the lower left hand side, limiting records by collection, date, place, etc.)
■ There are different kinds of documents on FamilySearch. Some records are merely transcribed (some information copied off the original record), others are just images, and still others include both the transcription and images. When possible, always look at the original record - it may contain more information than the transcription copies. If there is no link to the original image, look in the source citation for the location of the original record. You may find a microfilm number, another database to search, or a library/archives to search.
○ Record Collection Search
■ A collection search can verify that FamilySearch.org has the record collection you need and will help narrow your results from the beginning by eliminating any records that are from other collections.
■ Back on the main search screen, scroll down to see a map of the world. Click on an area and you will be able to search by a specific locality or record collections. FIlters are then available on the left hand side of the screen.
■ New record collections constantly being added to this historical records database.
○ Most of the family trees in this section come from the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File.
○ These trees are a compiled record, and even though they can give you information, there are no sources to prove their validity. They are best used as a starting point to give you information for further research.
○ Searching in the catalog searches for records available in the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City. We recommend researchers to search the catalog for their ancestors or relating records, because there are many records not online. The FamilySearch Library has much more records available to be searched in person with no fee required to access them.
○ You may search the catalog in a number of ways: place search, keyword search, surname search, title search, etc. The place search is important because records were recorded in specific localities and are organized in the same manner.
○ Record types: online images, books, microfilm and microfiche. Microfilm and microfiche are film negatives organized into a reel or flat pages, respectively. These allow smaller storage space per each article.
■ The BYU library may have the microfilm or microfiche in their colelction. Check here to find out: http://web.lib.byu.edu/cgi-bin/FHL/FamilyHistoryFilms.pl
○ Family History Books is a collection of more than 40,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees. (Information from FamilySearch Books page, http://books.familysearch.org)
The Learn Tab
● Research WIki
○ The most important part of the learn tab is the research wiki. This is similar to Wikipedia and allows users from across the world to post and share information with regards to performing research for specific localities and topics.
○ The wiki is not a place to post or find ancestors names or personal information. Instead, it provides information regarding resources for research in given areas, help with specific types of research, or other information which can help with the research process.
● Research Courses
○ FamilySearch offers a variety of free classes online and in person to help you discover your family tree. Whether you are just beginning your family history research or are an experienced genealogist, you can learn something new. These classes are taught by genealogy research consultants at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as experts from around the world. (Information from FamilySearch Learn page, https://familysearch.org/learn)
● FamilySearch centers are located around the globe and allow access to both local records as well as various online databases.
● To see what resources are available at the BYU Family History Center check out http://lib.byu.edu/fslab
● Free downloadable software - an effort by both Church member and non-member volunteers to transcribe and extract various pieces of information from historical document images. Collective groups of images are referred to as batches.
● All indexed names and information are then added to the searchable Records database on FamilySearch.org.
● To try out Indexing before downloading, click on the Test Drive button on the Indexing page.