What is FamilySearch?
FamilySearch is the family history website for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On it you can search historical records, peruse the FamilySearch library catalog, learn how to research, start indexing, and more.
The following video provides a brief introduction to FamilySearch and what is available. As you watch it, look for ideas that you can use in your own family research.
5 Step Research Process
Since we’ve already covered Family Tree (steps 1 and 2), we’re now going to focus on the website’s research resources. These fall under steps 3 and 4: Select Records to Search and Obtain and Search the Records
Step 3: Select Records to Search
- Looking for a birth date? Try a birth record, christening record, or newspaper announcement.
- Need a death date? Try looking at headstones, death records, obituaries, or cemetery records.
- Trying to document a relationship? Try a marriage, census, birth or death record.
- REMEMBER: Different records contain different information
Step 4: Obtain and Search the Records
- Historical Records—original records indexed by volunteers and searchable through the indexes in the Records section on FamilySearch.org
- FamilySearch Library Catalog—a listing of all the records available in the Family History Library in Salt Lake.
- FamilySearch Wiki—lists resources and information by location; may contain links, film numbers, or websites that have specific types of records for that locality
To get to records, first go to familysearch.org. First you can just click the button at the top of the screen that says ‘search’.
When you get to the next page, please note the five categories listed under the FamilySearch logo at the top-left of the screen. They say Records, Genealogies, Catalog, Books and Wiki. These will be the five categories we go over in this class.
A name search can be a valuable tool if you’re not sure what you’re looking for or if you want to make sure you catch a broad summary of the website’s content on your ancestor.
- Type information into the fields on the records page of familysearch.org
- You can click on the different category links (such as “Birth”, “Marriage”, or “Parents”) to add further search restrictions.
- Keep in mind that if you start by searching with all of the information you have, you might want to take some out piece-by-piece if you don’t find what you’re looking for. And, if you start really general—with just a name for example—you might want to add more information piece-by-piece to narrow your results
- If your search returns too many results or if none of the results are relevant, you can alter your search on the left sidebar using various filters.
- One way to help your search is through the use of wildcards. Wildcard searches allow you to search with a broader range allowing for spaces within your search (An asterisk ‘*’ will capture any possible number of letters while a question mark ‘?’ will substitute any single letter that might show up in that place).
A name search goes through all the records on the entire website. Yes, we can narrow the results with filters on the side, but if we already know exactly what kind of record we want to find, there is a better way to find out whether FamilySearch.org has the record we are looking for.
A collection search can verify that FamilySearch.org has the record collection you need and will help narrow your results right off the bat by eliminating any records that are from other collections. There are two ways to do that. The first is through location.
By using the map on the side and selecting the country or geographic area where the record would be located.
- Clicking there will bring up a page with all the record collections FamilySearch currently has digitized for that area.
The other way is through “Browse All Published Collections” This will take you to a list of all of the collections FamilySearch has available online.
- You’ll notice some record collections have a little camera next to them.
- This means you can view the actual image. Use this whenever you are given the opportunity. Often the images will contain more information than what is found on the index or the index may be wrong as well.
- Also, some collections have a number in the “Records” column and some collections say “Browse Images.”
- The number means the collection has been indexed.
- Since we don’t index records fast enough, other collections have been uploaded so that you can search them even if they aren’t indexed. These collections will be easiest to search if you know a specific place or date for your ancestor that is applicable to the record collection.
- The left-hand column has more options that will let you narrow by individual country or state to see what record collections are there.
- Clicking on the name of a record collection will bring up a page where you can search just within that collection. This is useful when you are searching for a specific birth certificate as well as helping in making your research log.
The Genealogies tab is a resource of compiled information from various sources. They include the Pedigree Resource File and Ancestral File databases. If you want to see what information others have submitted about your family, you can check here. We aren’t going to spend a lot of time in this section but feel free to browse around because you might find a tree that could give you a clue of where to look next for more information on your family.
Search in Catalog
- The Family History Library has been around for a long time, and they have many sources and records available. While many can be found online, most are still in the process. FHL wants these to be available to you hence why we have the catalog; it is here you will be able to search the entire database. Results will vary from what is online to microfilm to books available in various libraries around the world.
- There are different ways to search the catalog. You can search by place, surname, titles, author, subjects, and keywords.
- Often you will find microfilm or microfiche numbers. You are able to take these numbers to the FHL where the missionaries there can help you look at the records or you can see online if the Family History Library at BYU has the microfilm you’re looking for.
- Go to lib.byu.edu → Under Places Family History Library
- On the right side of the page is Important Links, the first link should be FHL Films and Fiche at BYU. By clicking on that, you should be taken to a page where you can enter the number in and see if the film is already on campus. If it is, then you can go to the 2nd floor of the HBLL to view it.
- If they do not have the microfilm, you can take the number to the desk of the Family History Library (2nd floor HBLL) and they can help you order it from Salt Lake free of charge because you are a student.
The books tab links to books that have been digitized and are available to anyone through FamilySearch. The books include selections from the Allen County Public Library, BYU, BYU-H and the FHL among others. The neat thing about this feature is that the scanning technology uses character recognition-- in other words, the scanners scan a book and can recognize the letters so you can search through the book using keywords.
- This is useful to us as family historians because many family histories and published transcriptions have been scanned.
The Wiki is like Wikipedia because it can be edited by anyone, but it is a useful resource if you have questions about family history. Here you can find pages on almost any family history topic ranging from how to read German handwriting to where to search for Alaska birth records. This will be useful in learning about the areas your ancestor lived and how to research in that area.
o Cannot search ancestor’s names here, rather, you search categories/locations/etc in order to find useful information that will help in the research process.
o This resource helps you find records it isn’t actually a record itself.
Up in the top right corner you will notice a drop down button “Get help.” This is where you can receive all kinds of research help on your family history through live chats and even helpful videos.
- Under Contact Us you will see the various ways you are able to communicate with the missionaries called to work for familysearch who can help guide you through any questions you may have.
- Click on Learning Center. This should take you to a new page with lots of links. This is where Familysearch stores their help videos.
- Because research varies from place to place, you can find out how to begin research in a certain area through these tutorials.
- Handwriting tutorials are also available under the country you’re researching in.
Once you click on a country (on the side of the screen) you will notice that you can find a video that interests you or you can narrow it down by skill level (beginning, intermediate, advanced) on the side. Along with this, you can also sort by subject, format or language.