Monday, September 1, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–The Search menu (Genealogies)

Screenshot taken from the FamilySearch website

Genealogies is the last section of the Search menu that we are going to discuss.  Genealogies is a collection of uploaded GEDCOM files.  This is very similar in format to the trees on sites like  It is VERY different than the Family Tree section of FamilySearch.  You will see two options, Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File.  Basically, Ancestral File are all of the old GEDCOMs that FamilySearch has been collecting from day one and the Pedigree Resource File are all of the new GEDCOMs coming in.

When you do a search in this section you will get a list people that match your search criteria.  You can click them one at a time to see the details of what was included in the submission.

Again, this section is very different than Family Tree.  You can’t do anything but view the information in this section.  You can’t manipulate the data in any way.  FamilySearch does generate a nice source citation for you if you choose to use this information as a source (I wouldn’t).

The bad news about this section is once you upload a GEDCOM it is there forever.  You can’t take it back.  About 18 years ago I submitted a GEDCOM to the Family History Library.  I was so excited! I was a novice researcher and the GEDCOM I submitted was full of errors and had very few sources.  It is still there and I can’t remove it.  People that search this section will have my bad info in their search results and if they are newbies they just might add that bad info to their file not knowing any better.  Be careful using this section and don’t take anything you find as gospel.  Many people have uploaded bad GEDCOMs over the years.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–The Search menu (Books)

Screenshot taken from the FamilySearch website

I use the Books section of the Search menu all the time.  This is a collection of public domain books, periodicals and manuscripts.  The FHL has partnered with several other libraries so you have access to even more things.  You will be able to read the items online or download them to your hard drive.  What makes this different than something like Google Books is that EVERYTHING listed is in the public domain and everything is genealogy or history related.  I do use Google Books but I have to weed through all of the hits that only have previews and those that have nothing at all to do with what I am searching for.  I think that many genealogists overlook this section thinking that they won’t find anything of use.  All I know is that I have found many treasures here and this page is part of my regular search routine when I am researching someone.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–The Search menu (Catalog)

Screenshot taken from the FamilySearch website


The next section we are going to look at on the Search menu is the Catalog section.  I skipped the Genealogies section for now but we will be coming back to it.

The Catalog section is the card catalog for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  It is a normal library card catalog system.  Most of what you will find here will be microfilm listings.  There will also be some books listed that haven’t been microfilmed.  I am not going to show you how to do a search in the catalog since it is pretty self-explanatory but I do want to give you a couple of tips.

  • If you have problems finding something specific try going back to the old version of the online catalog.  You will see a link on the search page in the upper right that says “Visit the previous version.”  Sometimes using the old search works better.
  • Once you find the microfilm you need, it is a snap to order it.  Just click on the film number and fill in the blanks.  The film will be sent to your local FHC for you to view.  You will have to pay shipping to and from the FHL.
  • The FHL will do lookups for you but there are very strict guidelines.  Everything you need to know about that is HERE.  You can do this in a two step process which will still be quicker and cheaper than ordering the film.  Have the FHL look up your person of interest on the index film and then take that information to do a second request for the actual document.
  • One really nice thing is if you pick a microfilm where the images have already been digitized you will see a link to the image set.  It is easy to overlook image sets on FS, especially since they are adding new records practically every day, but it is pretty hard to accidentally order a microfilm that you don’t need.
  • Microfilm is a much underused resource.  Don’t think that everything is online because it isn’t.  Even relying on microfilm is risky.  Courthouses have records in their vaults that have not been microfilmed.  I have found several instances of loose papers being sent to the state archives that were sent before the microfilm crews came round.  Most churches have not had their collections microfilmed. I call courthouses and repositories all the time to see if maybe they have something that I need that isn’t on microfilm.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–The Search menu (Records)

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website.

FS 3

 The Search menu has five options but we have already talked about the Wiki so we will skip that one.  The other four options I will do over four days.

Records is the bread and butter of FamilySearch.  When you click on the Search button you will be brought to the search page BUT I don’t do any searches from this page.  Why?  Because this search is too broad.  It searches everything that FamilySearch has online.  I prefer to narrow it down to a specific records set.  Sure, this will mean more work in that I will have to do more individual searches but for me it is a lot less frustrating because I don’t have to weed through nearly as many false leads.  To get to the individual record sets click the Browse All Published Collections link or click on the interactive map just above the link.

FS 4


You will see the the record sets divided up my location, date,  and type of records.  I like to go to United States and then to the state I am working with to see what all FamilySearch has.  There are three different types of record sets and Georgia happens to have all three so I will use them as an example. 

FS 5


The first entry (labeled 1) has a camera to the left and the words, “Browse Images.”  This record set is not indexed.  You will have to go through the pages one at a time.   These images are usually broken down into smaller sets once you click on the link.  Sometimes they are divided up by county or by year.  They can be even further subdivided so it isn’t quite as daunting as you might thing.  Another hint, if you are looking at records that are normally in bound books such as deeds, look at the first images because most of these books have handwritten indexes in them which will save you a ton of time.

The second entry (labeled 2) does not have a camera to the left and there is number in the column to the right.  This is an index only.  There are no images in this database.  You would use this as a finding aid so that you can track down the image in another way.

The third entry (labeled 3) is the best of both worlds.  There is a camera to the left indicating that there are images and there is a number to the right indicating that these images are indexed.  If you find your person of interest in the index there will be a link to click to get to the image.

One really nice thing about all of these databases is that FamilySearch will give you a nice source citation to go along with your index entry and/or your image. 

fs 7

On this screenshot you can see the link to view the actual document on the right and the nicely formatted source citation at the bottom of the screen.  One other thing I would like to point out.  Right below William Ashley’s name you will see the Attach To Family Tree.  If you have your family on Family Tree this is an easy way to add documents right to the individual.  If you don’t want to add this document to William right now but you want to hang on to it for later, you can send it to the Source Box.  All of this will come into play once we get to the Family Tree portion of the website.

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–The Help menu

The first section of the FamilySearch webpage I want to talk about is the HELP section.  Most people don’t bother to access the Help menu until they have a problem.  There are some pretty cool things in the Help menu if you just take the time to look.  If you click Get Help in the extreme upper right corner this is what you will see:

FS 1Screenshot from FamilySearch


The Quick Start to FamilySearch is a short video that gives you a general overview of the Family History Library (FHL) and FamilySearch (FS).  It is very interesting.  You will learn some background information and some cool statistics.

Getting Started is a step by step tutorial with videos. This is an excellent resource for people just starting out.  There is so much information out there that you can become overwhelmed and frustrated.  This tutorial is a great way to get started.

The Help Center is easy to navigate because it is divided up into 8 major topics, Family Tree, Memories, Search, Indexing, FamilySearch Account, Genealogy Assistance, Family History Center, and Mobile.  When you click on one of the topics you will be taken to an easy to navigate menu of helps specific to that topic.  At the bottom of the main Help Center page you will see the top 10 FAQ and the entire FAQ is searchable.

The Learning Center is AMAZING!  There are hundreds of videos by the top CGs, AGs and professional genealogists from around the world on every topic you can imagine.  They are divided by skill level, location, and subject so it is easy to navigate.  There are also quick lists for Most Popular Courses and New Courses.  At the bottom of the main page there are links to the 5 Minute Genealogy series (21 episodes) which is great for the beginner.  Information is presented in small chunks that isn’t overwhelming or intimidating.  The videos go all the way up to very advanced so there is something here for everyone.

The Research Wiki is where I go when I am researching a topic or a place that I am not familiar with.  There are almost 80,000 articles and the number is growing.  The section is community supported which means if you are reading a page and you have information that you feel would be helpful to other researchers you can add it.  There are also some links over on the right side that will help you get the most out of the Wiki.  Since the Wiki survives on volunteerism, you will also see some links where you can help with specific projects.

The Contact Us section shows you all the different ways you can contact the FHL for help.  You can call them on the telephone, chat with them via instant messaging, send them an email or be referred to someone local that can assist you.  Remember that the FHL is on Mountain Time and their help center personnel are only available during the FHL’s normal operating hours which you can see HERE.  If you want to contact them after hours then email is best.   One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that someone from the FHL can remote into your computer to assist you.  If a FS technician wants to do this they will walk you through the process.  Every time you contact FS via email it will be logged into a ticketing system and you can track your “cases” via the My Cases link. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Intro addendum

Yesterday I said that everything on FamilySearch (FS) is free.   I need to qualify that a bit.  Rhonda, my partner in genealogical crime, emailed me and reminded me of something.  Rhonda works at the local Family History Center (FHC) so she is my go to person for anything FHL/FHC/FS. 

There are links to some records on FS that are actually housed on partner sites.  These are subscription sites.  If you have subscriptions to these sites then no problem.  If you don’t, you will need to visit the FHL, your local FHC, one of the public libraries around the country that has been designated as a FHC, or any public library that has subscriptions to the linked databases and you will be able to access them there.  You can access all of the records for free but some of them you will not be able to view at home unless you have a subscription to that particular site.  Here is a link from FS explaining all of this in greater detail.

Access to Records video at (free records and paid sites)


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Intro

FS 2Screenshot from FamilySearch

This is the start of a series on FamilySearch.  I am going to show you some things on FamilySearch that you might not know about.   I think FamilySearch is the best all around genealogical website and it is completely free.  Here is some general information you need to know before we get started.

  • FamilySearch (FS) is the online presence of the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The FHL is the largest repository of genealogical holdings in the world (by far)
  • The FHL and FS are owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)
  • You do not need to be a member of the LDS church to take advantage of the FHL’s holdings
  • Everything on the website is free of charge
  • New materials are being added to the website on a daily basis so it is important to check back often
  • The best way to keep up to date on what is going on at FS is to subscribe to the FamilySearch Blog


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis



Monday, August 25, 2014

Advice from UCOS

I have been watching old episodes of New Tricks, a British crime drama series.   UCOS (Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad) reinvestigates murders that have gone cold.  This is one of several “cold case” type shows and they all give us an example of what to do when one of your genealogical cases goes cold. 

The detectives go back and look at each piece of evidence again.  They formulate new theories instead of just assuming that the original line of enquiry was correct.  The detectives also takes advantage of technology that wasn’t in place during the original investigation (DNA for example).  The new team has a fresh set of eyes so they might see things that the original investigators overlooked. 

This is probably my favorite brick wall technique.  I will set aside a frustrating case and then just forget about it for awhile.  When I pick it back up I start at the beginning and I look at everything again.  I like to manipulate the data in as many ways as I can (spreadsheets are your friend).  I also like to have a fellow genealogist look over my data in case I am overlooking something obvious.  I survey the available databases to see if maybe something new is out there.  I also consider DNA just like the police detectives do. 

Just because your case isn’t solvable today doesn’t mean it won’t be tomorrow. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lectures, lectures, lectures

I have 4 big lectures coming up and I need some time to work on them so I am off the blog for a bit.  I’ll be back soon Smile


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fun with census records

Do you ever search the census records to see if you can find famous people?  I love to do this.  I am way too lazy this morning to craft full citations so I am just linking to the images on FamilySearch.


Laura (Ingalls) Wilder, 1880 Federal Census, De Smet, Kingsbury, Dakota Territory



Abraham Lincoln, 1850 Federal Census, Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois



 Ernest Hemmingway, 1910 census, Oak Park, Cook, Illinois



Errol Flynn, 1940, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California



John Hancock, 1790, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts



And last, but not least, Lizzie Borden, 1880, Fall River, Bristol, Massachusetts
This one is interesting because you can see Lizzie’s father Andrew and her stepmother Abby, the two people Lizzie was accused of killing. 



I could do this all day Smile


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, July 25, 2014


I am guessing that many of you watch the show Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC.  I really like the show and have seen every episode.  The first episode this season with Cynthia Nixon was really interesting.  It actually left me wanting to know more about Martha (Curnutt) Casto.

My only complaint with the program is that most researchers can’t travel all over the globe to do their research.  Nixon’s story was confined to the US but even so, she travelled quite a bit.  I think this can be disheartening for beginning researchers that watch the show for inspiration. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The importance of borders

I have talked about borders before but always in the context of the United States.  This past week I learned how important it is to know about the border changes no matter which country you are working with.  I have a Prussian document dated 10 Jan 1922 that was a puzzle to me. It is a declaration of citizenship to Prussia for my great-grandmother Emilie (Fiege) Weichert. She was living in the Marienwerder District where she was born and had always lived. Why did she need citizenship? The Treaty of Versailles signed at the end of World War I split the Marienwerder District between Prussia and Poland. I now know that this paper was necessary to show her allegiance to Germany instead of Poland. I never noticed that the document actually says “Auf Grund des Artikels 91 des Vertrages von Versailles…” (On the basis of Article 91 of the Treaty of Versailles…)  Now it all makes sense.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I gave you a list of the subscription sites I use and now I want to show you the freebie sites I frequent.  These are just the the websites that help me with my research and not those for continuing education.  I have them in alphabetical order because it would be hard for me to rank them.  I am also only listing those websites of a general nature.  There are many great state and county specific websites out there so it would depend on where your research is.  For example, many of the state archives have indexes and digital images of some of their holdings and some county clerks are also putting indexes and images on line.

My #1 freebie site is FamilySearch.  I am setting this one apart because of how important it is to me.  I am on FamilySearch everyday.  New records are being added all the time thanks to the wonderful indexing volunteers. 


If you have any other favorite websites of a general nature (not state or county specific) you can add them to the comments.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Final count 66,417


Congratulations to FamilySearch Indexing for breaking their old 24 hour indexing record.  The new record stands at 66,417.






Screenshot of announcement logo taken from the
FamilySearch Indexing Facebook Page


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Monday, July 21, 2014

To crop or not to crop, that is the question

Someone on the Organized Genealogist’s Facebook Page asked a great question.  Should you crop images to more clearly show the relevant sections?

I always scan the entire page (page in a book, newspaper page, census page etc.)  I want the entire page for several reasons.  I never like to take something completely out of context. The page may have important header information that further identifies the source. There may be clues on this page that aren’t readily apparent but will be once you do more research. 

Sometimes the entire page is a bit cumbersome and it is hard to see the pertinent information.  I extract the relevant information and put that in my notes or in an event in Legacy but I also attach the complete page so that anyone can come behind me and examine it.  You could also do a clipping of a portion of the page to make it more readable but I would still attach the entire page as well.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Sunday, July 20, 2014

New website you might like

I was contacted by Garret Fractolin who wanted me to take a look at his website and maybe promote his site on the blog.  I always get a little skeptical when I get email messages like this but I pulled up the website to take a look. 


Garret has assembled the contact information for all of the county clerk offices in the US.  There are a lot of ads on this page which I assume Garret had to do to make all of his work worthwhile, other than that, the site looks pretty good.  I checked a few of the county clerks that I know by heart and the information is correct.

I did see some typos but I still think it is a good catch all website. One thing that he is missing is that many counties have separate courts for different types of records and those courts could have different addresses and phone numbers. At least if someone were to contact the listed clerk’s office they would in turn refer the person to the correct court. I have already sent Garret a list of possible improvements. Since this is a fairly new site I am sure he is still tweaking.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

It’s our Blogiversary!

Ancestoring has been online for two years!  I wouldn’t have even realized it was our blogiversary  if it hadn’t been for Thomas MacEntee posting a Happy Blogiversary post on Facebook from Geneabloggers.  Woo hoo!  Let the party begin!

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, July 18, 2014

Relative Finder

Brigham Young University (BYU) has a really nifty tool on their website called Relative Finder.  When you allow Relative Finder access to your Family Tree on FamilySearch it will then tell you which famous people you are related to.  They have different categories of famous people and you can select whichever groups you like.  I have to say that this is fun.  The best part is that they give you the exact path of how to get to that person.  I have 90 hits for the groups I chose.  Some are duplicates because Thomas Jefferson is in two different groups, he was a president and he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  By the way, he is my 7th cousin 6 times removed.  Knowing the exact path means you can then go back and do the research necessary to prove each connection.  Remember, most of what is on Family Tree is not sourced yet so you can’t just accept the information without further research.  There are some really cool people on my lists.  Here are the presidents I am related to:

Thomas Jefferson – 7th cousin, 6 times removed
Ulysses Grant – 12th cousin, twice removed
Zachary Taylor – 6th cousin, 8 times removed
Abraham Lincoln – 13th cousin, 6 times removed
Benjamin Harrison – 12th cousin 6 times removed
Franklin Pierce – 13th cousin, 7 times removed
Herbert Hoover – 8th cousin, 6 times removed
Millard Fillmore – 13th cousin, 3 times removed

Okay, so I am not closely related to any of them but still.  I am also related to 8 passengers of the Mayflower.

Edward Winslow – 11th cousin, 12 times removed
Francis Cook – 11th cousin, 16 times removed
Henry Sampson – 10th cousin, 11 times removed
John Alden – 8th cousin, 11 times removed
Richard Moore – 14th cousin, 8 times removed
Thomas Rogers – 9th cousin, 19 times removed
William Bradford – 12th cousin, 15 times removed
William Mullins – 7th cousin 13 times removed

Another cool category is famous writers (You knew I would be interested in this one).

Henry David Thoreau – 14th cousin 3 times removed
Samuel L. Clemens – 13th cousin, 5 times removed

Since this is put out by BYU many of the categories are LDS related.  I am not LDS but I was curious to see if I might be related to Brigham Young and I am (6th cousins, 7 times removed).  What is interesting about this one is that I have the line proved all the way up my side.  Assuming that the line back down to Brigham Young is also proved (and I am sure it is since his line has been studied extensively) I could put this one together in a flash.  I am also related to Lewis AND Clark which I thought was pretty neat.

I told you this was fun.  So who are my favorites?  The royals of course!  I have kings in my line from several countries.  I was hoping to see Henry VIII in my tree but no such luck.  I am a little disappointed with that. 

Here are two screenshots.  The first one shows just the two writers I am related to.  I picked this list because it was short enough that I could screenshot it with no problem.

RF1Screenshot taken from Relative Finder


The second screenshot is part of the chart that is generated when you click VIEW on the list.  I can’t get the entire chart on a screenshot.  I picked my relationship to Frances Lightfoot Lee (signer of the Declaration of Independence) because I have my line proved through Joshua Lee and Mary Woodard so I am pretty close. Our common ancestors are Richard Henry Lee and Anna Owen Constable. Frank (I can call him Frank because we are related) descends from Richard and Anna’s son Richard and I descend from their son John.  I am 9 more generations down on the right side.


rf2Screenshot taken from Relative Finder

I love new toys.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The FamilySearch Family Tree mobile app has arrived

Here is the complete story straight from the horse’s mouth:

They’re Here!  FamilySearch Introduces Two New Mobile Apps by Todd Powell of FamilySearch.

I downloaded the Family Tree app yesterday to my Android phone.  I really like it. Right now all you can do is view your tree but the app will be updated in the future to allow you to add data. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The genealogy programs I use

You guys are a curious bunch!  After I posted about Transcript I got FIVE emails in one day wanting to know what all genealogy programs I use.  I am just going to screenshot the contents of my genealogy programs folder that I have on my desktop which contains all of the shortcuts.  The only ones you won’t see on this list are MS Office, Evernote and Picasa which I also use for genealogy.  You will see that I have quite a few genealogy database programs on my computer even though I work for Legacy.   I use them for testing purposes and to help Legacy customers who are trying to switch over from another program.  The only one I don’t have that I want to get is The Master Genealogist but it is a little pricey and they don’t have a free version so I will be watching for some sort of mega sale.  Another program that I would like to have is DeedMapper (or something similar).  This one is also a bit pricey.  The one thing that I don’t like about DeepMapper is that even though it will handle the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is does it very awkwardly.  The program is set up specifically for metes and bounds.  I would like to find a program that I can use to map out an entire township/range instead of having to try and draw it out by hand on poster size paper.  If anyone knows of a program that can handle this let me know.  If you have other favorite programs you can post about them in the comments section.



















Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis