Lesson 5

Workshop 5 - Small Databases and Vital Records Case Study

Large databases are not the only online repositories of records. Today we’re going to talk about other places you can go to find the records and pieces of information that you need.


Spiritual Thought


·         Where did some of your ancestors immigrate from?

·         How might immigration or emigration records (or other topic-specific record types) help us in our research?


BYU Family History Library website: a launch pad for searching


The Family History Library, located on the second floor of the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU, will serve as a wonderful start for helping you find more resources in your research. One helpful tool is the “Alphabetical List” which will be the first link on the top of the page. This is a list of many, many resources that have been compiled for easy access for you to find. You will need to remember this list because all of the sites we go over will be listed there and some of the resources can only be accessed for free when you use the link found in this list.

FamilySearch Wiki


·         We went over FamilySearch Wiki a couple weeks ago, but we just wanted to remind you that it is out there and is a really useful tool if you are unsure where to look for certain records.

US Gen Web


  • Volunteer run site with links to pages about each state and county in the United States
    • This means that every page will look different and have different information
    • Contacting the volunteers who maintain the site might help you find people that would be willing to help you with your research
  • State and county pages may have links to records, but mostly it teaches you what records and resources are available in the places your family may have lived.
  • *For non-US research: There is also a World GenWeb project


Both US Gen Web and World GenWeb links can be found on the “Alphabetical List.”



Topic Specific Resources


Cemetery Records


Find a Grave


  • Database of over 89 million graves and death information.
  • Depending on the person, you can find obituaries, family links, images of tombstones, and more because individuals are able to add and contribute to pages.
  • Off to the left you can expand your search and search the surname throughout the cemetery, county, or even do a state level search.
  • This website is mostly for US graves, but you may find some global graves as well.


Billion Graves


  • Billion Graves is a newer site than Find A Grave, but they are quickly growing their record collection.  
  • It is a more global operation, which means you are more likely to find world-wide grave markers, though it will depend on what area you are researching.
  • This is a volunteer operated site, which means you can get involved!! Grab your smartphone with GPS tracking and take pictures of grave markers in cemeteries using the BillionGraves App. These will then be uploaded and indexed automatically.
  • Searching this site, can be a little easier and one useful feature is that each grave has a GPS location attached to it, making it easier to find in large cemeteries.
  • Because it is volunteer based, different areas have more available than others – but images are being added daily so if you can’t find what you’re looking for now check back in a month or so.
  • You must have a subscription to accessed Billion Graves, but it is FREE.

Immigration Records

Immigrant Ancestors Project


  • This is a project put on by the Center for Family History and Genealogy at BYU.
  • Has a searchable database of emigration records—records from countries in Europe of people who left (most records are immigration records meaning they record people when they arrived).
  • You can also access this through the “Alphabetical List.”


Ellis Island


  • Free, however, to view records you will have to create an account.
  • Most records here are in the time range of 1892-1954, but you should be able to search an index and view the original image.
  • You can also access this website through the “Alphabetical List.”


Castle Garden


  • This is an index of those who came through Ellis Island during 1820-1913 so many early LDS immigrants might be found through Castle Garden.
  • This website does not have the actual images to browse, but you can always check ancestry.com once you have found the index on Castle Garden.
  • You can also access this website through the “Alphabetical List.”


Don’t forget other databases such as the Family History Library microfilms or Ancestry.com!





  • To access Newspapers.com for free, you will have to access it while on BYU campus.
  • This database has a lot of searchable newspapers from across the U.S. and Canada, from the last three centuries.



  • To access NewspaperArchive for free, you will have to access it while on BYU campus using the link found on the “Alphabetical List.”
  • This database has more world-wide newspapers than Newspaper.com.




·         Also a paid subscription website

o   But FREE with BYU access through library page when using the link found in the “Important Links” list.

·         Specializes in records from the United States – especially military records (although they do have many other good collections, such as Native American records, census records, newspapers, etc.).

o   The website name reflects the company’s recent focus on military records. Each fold of the flag is symbolic for the military. The third fold represents the portion of one’s life – no matter how large or small – devoted to military service.


There are a lot of other good databases you can use such as HeritageQuest Online (PERSI) and others that we don’t have time to cover today. The best websites are those on which you find something, so go explore! Find out which sites will be most helpful to you.


You may also want to be aware of some website that are available to help you in your research that don’t necessarily contain records.




·         Uses FamilySearch log in, and will use your data on your account to create a different visual map of your family.

·         Helps you trace both ancestry (going back in time) and descendancy (going back in time and then going forward again).

·         Since you are able to see the gaps in your family’s descendancy, it can be a good way to help you see where to begin a research project.  


Relative Finder


This was created by the BYU Family History Tech Lab, which is the group, in the Computer Science Department, that focuses on the technical side of family history. You can view their other projects here. www.fhtl.byu.edu


·         Log in with your FamilySearch log in.

o   **Note that these websites are only as accurate as FamilySearch, so if something’s wrong on FamilySearch, it will also be wrong on these websites**

·         It will then use your FamilySearch to see who you are related to. You can look at US Presidents, Constitution signers, LDS prophets, and many other categories.

·         If you want, you can join the BYU Family History Students group:

o   Group: BYU Family History Students

o   Password: familyhistorians


Grandma’s Pie


·         This website will show you where your ancestors came from, again using your FamilySearch information.

·         Log in with FamilySearch log in.

·         Using this, you’re able to show your heritage in pie-chart format up to 6 generations.


Virtual Pedigree


·         This website is just another way to look at your family tree. You navigate it differently and it will use a key to quickly show you where information is missing in your tree and for individual people.

·         Again, you will log in with your FamilySearch log in.


There are many other websites available in both searching for records and in looking at your own family history. You can find more on FamilySearch using the link at the bottom of the page “App Gallery” or this link (https://familysearch.org/apps/).

Google Search

Finally, be aware that Google can be an excellent resource. You may never know what hidden treasure you may find unless you search for it!