If you are a true researcher, then you have used FamilySearch.org (FS) but have you used ALL of the features there? Have you seen some of the new services they offer? Let’s take a look at these.
Have you ever wanted to bounce your research off someone else or ask for advice in overcoming a brick wall? You can now get help from a research consult either in person (where available) or virtually. You can book a consultant for a free, 20-minute consultation once a week. They are “Designed to provide you with research guidance, methodology, and next steps.” You will be asked for some information concerning your family or specific issues when you submit the request so the consultant can be better prepared to help. For more information, check them out at: https://www.familysearch.org/family-history-library/virtual-genealogy-consultation-faqs.
You know the frustration when you are searching for a record only to learn the only place that has it is the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah? Or find that while there are copies around, none are within a reasonable drive but there is also a copy at the FHL? You can now fill out a form listing the digital item or book item you are needing and they will find it and send it to you. You do need the details of the specific item you are looking for. For a book look-up, you may not have the page number but you can give the specific name and information (e.g. spouse’s name) you require. These are 1 item per request. They are not doing your research for you as you must provide them with sufficient information to prevent them from having to search, they can grab the microform and know the image number, or grab the book by title, call number, and author and have either the page number or the name being researched. However, if the book is not indexed or easily searched, this type of request might get rejected. Again, for more information on this and other new services please see www.FamilySearch.org/family-history-library,
I will say this unapologetically, the trees on FS are just as untrustworthy as those on Ancestry.com and all other places. However, you should not dismiss them unequivocally as they might lend you clues. So do look at the trees for these for suggestions. Be sure to look for sources and if they exist, thoroughly examine them with the idea discussed in last week’s blog. Can you prove it wrong? While others may have put up trees without any sources, they might still know something we do not. Case in point, researching for a client whose widow and children carried the surname of Musselwhite, we were trying to determine her husband’s name. One family researcher had a name that I have yet to prove existed. However, when I communicated directly with them for a source, they had a family Bible started by the deceased granddaughter. They were also on Ancestry and had taken a DNA test. When we changed our tree to show the same information for the missing man, several others showed up in the ThruLines. So, did we prove this man carried the alleged name? No, we only proved that we have the same person in mind whose name may or may not have been what they had. The reason why I say this is because I never found a single document with that name anywhere in the county or nearby counties.
Should this client decide to conduct further research on this family, she at least has a starting point.
There are two ways to research here, you can look at the FS world tree by selecting Search, Family Tree to see what others have; select Search, Genealogies. Then you must click on the person’s name to see if they have any sources listed.
Take a look at the Research Wiki for locations or collections you are interested in. If you select an area, it will tell you when it was formed and from what areas it was cut out from. They list any known records lost from fires or other disasters. Lists local agencies are nearby such as Genealogical Societies, Historical Societies, Libraries, and FHLs. You can also click on find affiliate libraries where you can go and access the same images which are restricted to FHLs.
A large number of books are digitized and selecting Books from the Search drop-down will give you access to their book catalog where you can search for books just like any library.
Finally, the Catalog is under the Search dropdown. Here, you gain access to the vast array of digitized records. Many of these records are digitized microforms of what is in your local courthouses. Some are indexed through FS, some you will need to open and look for an index at the beginning or end of the collection and many are not indexed at all. It may be well worth your time to go through these books page by page if necessary.
If what you are looking for is not at the city level, try the county. If not at the county, try the state. To give you an idea of what I am speaking of, here is the list of topics and the number of items in each category from Pierce County, Georgia.
So you can see from the list to the right, there are six items in the Probate Records area, eight under Public Records, and eleven court records. Now look a bit further. Each of these items lists a government entity as the author so you should be able to view them, if not from home, at a FHL or affiliate. When the author is a person or agency such as Daughters of the American Revolution then it is a book and may not be digitized.
One final hint. Sometimes you see where a microfilm roll contains multiple items and you want to find your area quickly. For this example, I will use the Tax Digest of Pierce County with multiple years as shown here.
Pierce’s records follow Milton, Miller, and Monroe Counties. The fastest way to find the Pierce collection is to click the grid view and hit the minus sign until it no longer shrinks. Then look for black squares indicating the end of a collection and the beginning of another. Count for the fourth one and double click and judge against the list. Did you get the fourth county of fourth entry, Monroe County 1868 – 69? Using this format, find the one you want. Same thing if you are looking at entries that are not indexed and cover multiple years such as Marriage Records covering 1860 – 1880 and you believe the marriage you are looking for was 1875, then look at the total number of images and select something about ¾ of the way through. Enlarge it and see where you are.
One final thought, this does not override a visit to the actual courthouse or another repository when the opportunity avails itself. Not every single record or ledger was scanned and you do not want to risk missing out on the material not scanned.
Good luck and Happy Hunting!