FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Death Certificates and Other Research Tools

The resources available for family history researchers has never been greater with another 30+ million records added to the FamilySearch.org site in the past few months. Volunteer Indexers like you and I are constantly working to add indexed information and images to the FamilySearch site, so as grand as the number of records are now, wait a few months and the number will drastically increase again and again and again.

familysearchFamilySearch Indexing I hope you are one of the volunteer indexers who are bringing the wealth of the records in the granite vaults to light in the digital world.

Check out the records collections on the FamilySearch Beta site and see how many records you find on your own ancestral families.  Save this link and check back often.findagrave

Find-a-grave An amazing amount of ancestral data and records can be gleaned from the pages of Find-a-grave. Folks are linking the memorials of their ancestral families together on the site with a seemingly frantic pace. I constantly find information about our ancestral families and extended cousins on the site. Missing dates, spouses names and their families are the reward for spending a few minutes on the site.

Births Marriages Deaths Some of you may have ancestors or extended family that lived in Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have great sites that offer indexes to births and marriage as well as very easy to use document ordering pages. I’ve obtained marriage and death certificates from both countries and it couldn’t have been easier.

While on the subject of Death Certificates, be sure to check for family death certificates on the sites of many states that offer them online at no cost. Just copy the image and save it to your hard drive for printing and use in your genealogical sources.

Many folks aren’t familiar with the great Special Collections and Family History records available online from BYU-Idaho. I’m constantly surprised at the records that I find on the site.

Family History records make a great Christmas present for family members. Share the wealth of your work with them this year.

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28 November 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , | Leave a comment

FamilySearch and BYU Genealogy Resources

The past few weeks have marked a dramatic interest surge in the LDS Church’s FamilySearch resources and products. The folks at FamilySearch invited a group of genealogy bloggers to Salt Lake where they were given excellent presentations about the projects that are offered to the public free of charge.

While most people had heard of the records Indexing project, few of them were familiar with the user driven and written FamilySearch Wiki that contains literally tens of thousands of excellent articles to help genealogists be successful in their research quests. Even if you have visited the Wiki in the past, you will undoubtedly find new articles on it now that will help you find your ancestral families.

The bloggers came away from the presentations in awe at the size and scope of the projects underway at FamilySearch and have been blogging and posting notes about it on Twitter since that day.

FamilySearch_Beta_90One of the items learned is that the FamilySearch Pilot site is no longer being updated with new records. All of the records on it are now included along with all new updates on the Beta site. Many of us do not like the search field placement on the Beta site as well as it was designed on the Pilot site but the layout is being reviewed and will hopefully see some tweaks in the future. If you have comments about the new FamilySearch sites, don’t hesitate to click on the ‘Feedback’ links and pass on your thoughts. The folks at FamilySearch are listening to the user community like never before and are working hard to make FamilySearch the best genealogy portal on the web.

The design of the new FamilySearch site looks deceptively simple until you start clicking on links that take you to ever expanding lists of their online resources. Writing and talking about it doesn’t paint the picture of the depth and scope of the resources and offerings. You have to sit down and explore to actually understand how massive the resources are. Don’t worry if you become distracted by some interesting records, articles or training along the way. We all do it. Just bookmark the page you are on so you can start from there again later. Family history researchers who visit the site often feel like they’ve wandered in to a magic genealogy candy store.

There are excellent How To” online training courses on the FamilySearch site. I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the video training lessons that will help in your quest.

byu_independent_study_90Additional excellent free training courses are available from BYU’s Independent Study site. I’ve viewed and / or have taken almost every course on these sites and highly recommend them. My wife wouldn’t let me build a bowling alley in our basement so I could ‘ace’ the Bowling course offered on the Independent Study site but other than that, I have a drawer full of ‘Successful Completion” certificates in my office to impress our grandchildren. (Humor is intended here.)

Between FamilySearch and the various family history related offerings at BYU, the LDS Church has made a Herculean effort to help us find our ancestors. Not every record we’ll need in that quest is online or available (yet), but it is being worked on by good folks from all over the world who are donating their time and efforts in the Indexing project of FamilySearch. While many records associated with the Indexing project are on the sites of other entities, those organizations are working with FamilySearch so the records are indexed and links to them are in place allowing researchers to find them after instigating a search on the FamilySearch site.

This truly is a ‘great time to be alive’. The only thing stopping us from being successful in much of our ancestral quest is ourselves – by not using the resources that are now available.

3 November 2010 Posted by | Family History, FamilySearch | , , , | Leave a comment

Premier Membership on FamilySearch

Not everyone is aware that there is a “Premier” membership level on FamilySearch.  Users with the Premier level membership can see all of the document images that are available on the site.  Those without it, can see many, many images but some are reserved due to licensing and other contractual agreements.

Readers of Science Fiction novels will recognize the initials “TANSTAAFL”.  They apply to FamilySearch as well.  

“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” 

A great deal of money and time is required to acquire, license, digitize and host family history records.  Someone has to invest up front and in the long term to bring the myriad of resources found on FamilySearch to us. 

The primary investor is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They along with their partners in the project and folks like you and I who spend time as volunteers indexing records for inclusion on FamilySearch and related sites, round out the group.

A quick search for “Premier” on the Help page of FamilySearch provided a link to the Premier Membership Document that explains the program and the details of how we can obtain a “Premier” membership level ourselves.

nFS_premier_help_search

The cost is certainly right.  All we have to do is volunteer indexing.  Earning 900 points every quarter gives us premier membership level access.  That certainly makes sense.  Investing about a half-hour of our time a week indexing the records that we use to help in our own ancestral quest is not only a ‘light fee’ but a ‘right fee’.

Indexing is easy and rewarding work.  If you don’t already have login credentials for FamilySearch, you’ll need to create an account.  The credentials extend to the Indexing section of FamilySearch.  

Once you have an account, take 2-minutes to view the Test Drive of the Indexing tool and process.  The site notes that No Special Skills are Required and that is the truth.  Even the young folks in our family can easily run the indexing tool. 

As a family history researcher, you’ll be used to reading the majority of the birth, marriage, death, census, church and other documents that you’ll see as you index. 

The folks at FamilySearch and its partners already have and continue to Pay-It-Forward.  Now it’s our turn.  We all benefit from the Indexing, both now and in the future as Free Searchable Indexes are created that we can access in our PJ’s from home.  The related images online are frosting on the cake.

Scroll to the bottom of the Indexing page to see the lists of Current, Completed and Future projects.  You may also want to scroll through the historical records on the FamilySearch Beta site to get a flavor of how much indexing has already been completed and of the scope of this worldwide project.

Below is the Premier Membership document from FamilySearch that explains the program in detail.

I’m sure that we’ll see each other in the glow of our monitors as we spend a little time Indexing each week, doing the right thing for the right reason.


Document ID: 109840

Premier Membership Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

  • What is FamilySearch premier membership?

    • Premier membership gives you access to view information (images and indexes) in some record collections on FamilySearch.org that might otherwise be unavailable or that you might otherwise have to pay to view. While FamilySearch does not charge for viewing this information, sometimes the record owners do.

  • Why does FamilySearch require premier membership to view these images?

    • Since we do not own all of the collections we publish, and some record owners require compensation to maintain their collection, this method enables more collections to be available for research. FamilySearch invests in private archives by preserving records and making these collections searchable.
      FamilySearch and some of these archives have agreed by contract to allow access to those who make a significant contribution to this process. Without premier membership, you can usually search the indexes of these restricted collections; however, the images may not be freely available.
      There are currently (as of June 2010) no collections that should require premier membership to view images. If you see records that require premier membership, please report that through the Feedback link.

  • How do I become a premier member? Are the benefits available to everyone?

    • Yes, they are available to everyone through any of the following methods:
      • Index records and earn 900 points within a calendar quarter.
      • Belong to a sponsoring organization, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or another company or society that sponsors FamilySearch.
      • Additional methods of contributing to FamilySearch may also qualify you for premier membership in the future.

    • In the future, family history centers located around the world will receive access to these restricted collections as well.

  • Why do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive premier membership status?

    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest sponsoring organization of FamilySearch. Funded by the contributions of its members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invests in records and resources for family history research. Access to these resources is extended to the general community whenever possible.

  • What is the difference between being a “member” and being a “premier member?”

    • A member is anyone who has registered for a FamilySearch account. Some collections will require the researcher to at least be a member in order to view the information in the collection. A premier member is someone who has qualified based on the guidelines indicated above.

  • Are there ever collections that a premier member cannot view?
    • Indexes for most collections will be available to premier members; however, some archives require that you view the images on their Web sites, and at times they may charge to view those images.

Indexing Specific Questions:

  • When do I have to earn points to extend my membership?
    • You must earn 900 points during a calendar quarter. The first quarter of the year is January through March; the second quarter is April through June, and so on.
    • Once you earn 900 points, your premier status is immediately given for the rest of the current quarter and the next or following quarter. For example, if you index 900 points during July, you will earn premier membership that will last through December.
    • At the end of every quarter, the qualifying points are reset to zero, much like a cell phone plan that does not carry over minutes between months.

  • Why is my expiration date “Never”?
    • If the expiration date is “Never,” you are a member of a sponsoring organization that does not need to earn points for premier membership.

  • Why don’t the names indexed add up to what the points are?
    • Points are calculated from the number of names indexed, and they are given based on the difficulty of the record. Projects that are easier to index are generally worth fewer points, but at least one point is given for each name indexed.

  • How much do I have to index to earn 900 points?
    • Indexing for approximately a half hour every week would usually earn the qualifying 900 points in a calendar quarter.

  • Where do I find out how many points I currently have?
    • Sign in to the indexing Web site, and click My History on the left to see your statistics. It will inform you how many points you have and how many are required for you to attain premier membership; or if you are already qualified, it will tell you how many points you need to earn during this calendar quarter to retain your premier membership for the following quarter.

Definitions:

Calendar Quarter

Three (3) months of a year; the four quarters are defined as: January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December.

Collections

A group of similar records that is searchable on Record Search, such as England birth records, for example.

Restricted Collections

Collections in which either its index or images cannot be viewed without being a FamilySearch member or premier member.

Member

Someone who has registered for a FamilySearch account.

Premier Member

Someone who has qualified to gain additional access to record collections due to indexing 900 points in a calendar quarter or being a member of a sponsoring organization.

8 October 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch | , , , | Leave a comment

Find-a-Grave Gold

Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of hours taking photos of tombstones for my genealogy research and to post on Find-a-grave.   At times, some of the tombstones have turned out to be those of relatives that I’d yet to discover.

The hours spent taking tombstone photos and later cropping and massaging them has been an effort but I’ve been well-paid as I learned a little about the people they memorialized and the communities of their time.   Life was different for them than we enjoy. Repeatedly seeing families with numerous infant deaths witnesses that fact, but the family groupings also witness family strengths as generation after generation are buried within a stones throw of each other.

Posting photos of the tombstones I’ve visited on Find-a-grave has been a great way to Pay-it-forward and thank others for their help in my ancestral quest.  They live in locations I can’t visit and have taken time to post similar photos on find-a-grave, work on indexing for FamilySearch, etc., and I’ve benefitted from their efforts.  Similar activities on my part just add to the reference pool that all of us can freely access.

These resources have become an integral part of my research routine.  Family linkages, photos, documents and data being posted on find-a-grave at an ever increasing rate has turn the site into a ‘must search’ in my research quests. 

Recently, I spent an evening looking through my records specifically searching for extended family members whose existence has been all but impossible to prove. 

Searching find-a-grave for them provided three positive hits in succession.  ‘Hits’ is a mild descriptive compared to the data about that branch of the family that had been posted on the site in recent months by someone paying-it-forward too.

Tombstone photos, person photos, vital record documents and text told the stories of the lives in this family.  Moves eastward rather than westward surfaced as did the shift in spelling of their surname.  No wonder we hadn’t been able to find them for so long.  They had indeed ‘faked’ us out with their jigs and jags.

If you haven’t already included find-a-grave in your research plan, add it.  Don’t hesitate to add information and images to the records of your own family members on the site.  If you didn’t create the memorial, ask the creator to add the data and make the links you send to them.   Sometimes, they will transfer the memorial to you if the record isn’t part of their own family.

Over time, we’ll undoubtedly see a lot of additional data added to the site.  Be sure to check back.  Users of the site almost universally feel a need to take the time to link family records together.  I’ve linked my own ancestors records and families together for many generations to help my cousins in their own ancestral quest even though I have their records on my own websites. 

You’ll find yourself doing the same thing when you work on your own family memorials on find-a-grave.  Bet you can’t link just one… 

 

20 August 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , , | Leave a comment

FamilySearch Pilot and Beta – Manna from Heaven

I continue to rave about the records that are appearing on the FamilySearch Pilot and Beta sites thanks to all of the volunteer indexers worldwide and the LDS Church.

Brickwall after brickwall in my ancestral tree have fallen in the past few months because of the records.  I’ve turned into a sourcing maniac too.

Many, many decades ago (rocks were still dirt) I started my personal ancestral quest.  The idea of adding complete sources to your records was an odd notion at best. 

Way back then, you’d jot down research notes on your tablet with a charcoal stick and possibly include a tracing of the writing if you couldn’t readily read it at the Family History Library in Salt Lake.  Sometimes, you took the time to write down the name of the book or film you were using but typically, that wasn’t a consideration.

It wasn’t a problem until I was thirty and someone challenged my information about a sixth great grandfather.  I couldn’t give them references to prove the accuracy of my old handwritten note.  My data was correct, but finding the original source took hundreds of hours and considerable cost.

Lesson learned.  Genealogy data without sources are just ‘nice’ stories but not anything to be taken seriously.

Since that day, a large percentage of my time has been spent ‘proving’ my own research.  I’ve only found one error so far, but even evidential sourcing wouldn’t have resolved the problem created by a town clerk two hundred years ago.

The effort has been worth it.  I am passing on proven information to our descendants as well as sharing it with the world.

The advent of online documents has been a boon to all researcher.  I’ve certainly benefitted from it since almost day one of the DARPA project that created the ‘Internet’. 

Today, I revel in the documents and data being posted in the various FamilySearch online databases.  I’ve used and loved most of the commercial genealogical venues since their first publication but FamilySearch documents are the ‘sweet spot’ in providing the exact information needed to break down my ancestral brickwalls.

I don’t have to travel too far to get to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and have spent untold hours perusing the films, books and documents available there, but none of that time and effort produced the information needed to solve the mystery of those particular problems.  Worse, I had to wear slacks and fit the library hours into my schedule. 

FamilySearch Beta and Pilot let me work in my old comfy pj’s during the wee hours of the night when the dust of the day has settled.  Given enough time at the library, I would have probably found the same documents but the online record searches are so fast and fruitful that my visits to the library will be limited to specific hard to find records and other visits associated with teaching my family history students and grandchildren how to use the wonderful resources of the FHL.

Records continue to be indexed and posted on the FamilySearch site at record setting levels.  That effort will only grow as time goes on until all of the documents in the ‘Granite Vaults’ that can be published online are published.  I hope I live long enough to see that milestone become reality.  If I think I’ve had success in breaking down brickwalls using the FamilySearch sites already, wait until that day arrives!  

FamilySearch records already serve up a genealogy Christmas morning every day.  The records that are continually added to the sites will stretch that feeling onward for years to come.  

We know that the Pilot and Beta sites will eventually migrate into the newly written FamilySearch.org site / portal.  The inclusion of all of the other family history resources into a single site will make the combined resources that much richer.

Thanks FamilySearch!   Thanks to all of the other volunteer indexers worldwide.  You are “making our days” both collectively and individually, now and in the foreseeable future. 

26 July 2010 Posted by | Research Tips | , , , , | 1 Comment

FamilySearch – Portal To Many Wonders

Long enamored with the films, books and documents at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I’ve lived long enough to enjoy the library coming to me.

I first visited the library as a youngster when it was in the office of the LDS Church Historian on 58 East South Temple in Salt Lake City. 

My mother and I used to make regular day trips to search for our ancestors.  At first I enjoyed the photos in the books but was soon filling out family group sheets and pedigree charts with the information I’d gleaned from the books. 

Learning to use the library catalog wasn’t difficult, but I seemed to spend more time looking through it than through the books that referenced my family.

When the library moved into the Church Office Building in 1971, the card catalog was still in existence but the years of training at the old building had made the finger-walking quest much easier.

When a dedicated building for the library was built in 1985, I frequented it constantly.  Eventually, the catalog migrated to a digital format.  The quest for ‘That’ record was shortened dramatically.  Life was good.  Very good.

Then the books and films entered the digital library domain.  I don’t visit Salt Lake very often now.  Increasingly, the Library comes to me on the monitors in my office at home.

FamilySearch has become a portal to all things genealogical.  New titles and record groups seem to arrive to the portal daily.  The Pilot pages of FamilySearch have become a favorite friend.  http://pilot.familysearch.org

This week, I’ve reveled in the Massachusetts Death and Burials pages.  Death information about my ancestral families has emerged from the pages.  I thought I had covered every source document related to this area, but new information is pouring off my screen. 

Decades of microfilming records by the folks from the the Library is now is being followed by the digitization, indexing and publication of the records on FamilySearch. 

Genealogists everywhere benefit from this work. New records are added to the site daily.  If you haven’t visited for a while, do yourself a favor and stop by today.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Life today is not just good -– It’s Great! –- Thanks to FamilySearch!

 

 

10 June 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , , , | Leave a comment

FamilySearch – It Just Keeps Getting Better

I stopped by the FamilySearch Pilot site for a ‘week’ yesterday.  The visit was planned for only a few minutes to look for a birth record for one of my ancestors who was born in New Hampshire.

Browsing directly to that collection, success was almost immediate.  That was easy!  While there, why not refine my search and search for the rest of my ancestors who were born in New Hampshire too?  That’s when the ‘week’ started.  Success, success, success, mixed with some failures.

The success continued all the way back to the mid-1600’s.  Thinking the ‘touch’ was with me; I started looking for the children of my direct ancestors.  A lot of their records were there too.

The saved images were added to each source entry in my database as I went along.  A quick preview of family group sheets for the families looked great with the primary sources and their related thumbnail sized images included.

“One more family”. “Just one more family” I murmured as the sun of the new day came over the mountain.  Of course I didn’t need to work all night. The records will still be there for a little while until they are removed when the indexing of them is complete.  Eventually, they’ll be included in the rewritten FamilySearch.org site, but when will that happen – exactly?

It will happen.  The WHEN is the “I Can’t Wait For It” question.

The same is true for most if not all of the records that are being Indexed by volunteers like you and I working on that massive project at FamilySearch.

If you haven’t searched the primary source records on the Pilot site yet, http://pilot.familysearch.org, give it a try this week.

FamilySearch Wiki

The FamilySearch user community is contributing excellent knowledge articles to help all of us in our ancestral quest. See it at:  https://wiki.familysearch.org

If you are having problems in your research, be sure to stop by the site and see if there is a posting to help.  If you have knowledge about any specific location research tools, hints and tips, sign in and add an article.

The wiki grows daily. Don’t forget to add it to your browser bookmarks.

Community Trees

Well documented family and regional family trees have been added as yet another FamilySearch site.  The site uses my favorite web based genealogy software – Darrin Lythgoe’s “The Next Generation.”  Take some time to look through it and see if information about your family has been included in the database. http://histfam.familysearch.org

15 January 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch | , , , , | Leave a comment