Thursday, June 13, 2013

Serendipity Finds in Familysearch Record Search Browse

Yesterday was a day of interesting phone calls, especially those requesting me to speak for various groups. Most of the current requests are looking for someone to guide attendees in learning how to research familysearch.org with the recent changes. While the browse section on the record search page has been there for some time, very few people are comfortable using the digitized records that are so valuable in searching for our ancestors.


Last week my post was on using the family tree and printing of pedigree charts and family group records. These are valuable tools for when we turn to the record collections and want to find original records. The pages that are indexed and have the actual documents are the easiest to use. Birth, death, marriage, census, land and probate records open the doors to knowing we are connecting to the right people and will usually link us to further generations in our families.

Next come those that are indexed, but do not provide the digitized documents. These provide us direction for accessing records that were previously unknown to us. One recent such record lead me to call a county courthouse for information on how to order a will that was listed in the index. They were shocked and wanted to know how I found the information. A short time later they sent me a digitized copy of the will which mentioned only one of twelve children, the youngest who is my husband's third great grandfather. That was a wonderful serendipity moment.

Finally the last category is the records that are not indexed, but are digitized. This is the most challenging part of the group to use, but they can deliver great information. My first experience with these records was in searching for the family of my husband's second great grandparents from St. Jacques, Montcalm, Quebec, Canada. Previous to locating them online I ordered the index for them on microfilm. With this list in hand it was fairly easy to find the christening records for ten of their eleven children, marriage records and death records for this family.

The trick to using the records is in knowing that the records are usually listed by localities, which narrows down the amount of records to be searched. In many of the record sets there are indexes included in the listing or within the records themselves. Recently someone contacted me to assist another person preparing to travel to Italy. They wanted to know how to find more information about this family and then be able to contact living people in the native town. With the information they had, town name and dates of events, a quick discovery was made of the marriage record. This record listed the couple and their parents, including where each was born.

While knowing French, Italian or whatever the native language is would help, with the aid of word lists and reading a few of the entries one becomes familiar with the context and thus able to abstract the important details. Making or downloading a copy for future reference is important as well. If you need more assistance you can go to the Facebook page for that particular location for familysearch. Look for classes locally or online that discuss these wonderful features of familysearch.org. Your local family history center has staff who are eager to assist you in this research.

Go today and check out these features of familysearch.org. Every time a new record is discovered through this site I feel serendipity all around me. This is probably due to the fact that up until the last couple of years these records had limited access. People feel challenged in using unindexed records and working in foreign languages, but don't let this hold you back. Enjoy some serendipity when you make one of these fantastic finds.

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