Saturday, September 13, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 5)

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

There are a few more things I want to point out.



1 – The discussion area is where you can post things you want other researchers to see such as your theories.

2 – Notes is for whatever you need it for.  For example, sometimes you need to write something about one of the vital events you added.  In a genealogy program you have space for that but on he website you need to use the Notes section.

3 – The Records Hints is similar to’s “Shaky Leaves.” 

4 – FamilySearch will automatically populate the search fields with the data that has been entered on this person.

5 – For those people that use the website exclusively here is how you can print out reports and charts.

6 – Every addition, deletion and merge is recorded here.  You can see who did what and when they did it.

7 – This is where you can add a birth to death biography on a person.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 4)

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

In the next couple of posts I want to point out a few important things.   All of them will be on the Person screen.  I can’t screenshot the entire page so this is just the bottom part. 

fs 1

Possible Duplicates is the very first thing you want to do whenever you are working on someone and you will want to check this every time you open a person.   Just because there wasn’t a duplicate yesterday doesn’t mean there won’t be one today.  I picked someone that actually has a duplicate.  Here is what it looks like:

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Fred only has one possible duplicate but you could easily have a long list.  You will have to click the Review Merge on each one.   I can’t screenshot the entire merge screen but this will give you an idea.

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I am not going to talk you through how to merge two people because this is in the Training Materials, however, there are a couple of important things I want to point out.

  • Do not use the FSID number as part of your paper or electronic filing system.  When two people are merged one of the FSIDs is lost and it might be the one you have been using. 
  • The person on the LEFT is the one that is retained and the person on the right is the one that will be lost.
  • If the person on the right has data that needs to be retained you can move it to the left.  Make sure you check all of the tabs that have information (Life Sketch, Vitals, Other, Family, Sources).
  • If the person on the right actually has more correct information than the left, you can switch them using the Switch Positions option. That will save you some time.
  • When you merge two people this might cause problems with the attached parents, spouse(s), and children.  You will most likely have to go in and merge these people too.
  • Don’t merge two people unless you are sure!  Merges can be undone but still.  All changes are logged.  If you know the FSID of a deleted person you will still be able to look them up and it will point you to the new person.
  • You can merge people from within the three programs that interface with Family Tree.  I use Legacy and I think it is easier to do a merge there than on the website.  I can’t speak to the other two programs.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 3)

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

Now I am going to start showing you some specific things in Family Tree.  The first thing are the four options.

FT 1

The Tree link will bring you to a interactive “map” of your Family Tree.  The default view is a traditional pedigree chart though you can change that.  I will show you how in another screenshot further down.  You are the anchor person.  As you link to family members your tree will grow.   What you see on this particular page is your simple direct line only (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) etc.  To get to the siblings of a particular person you will need pull up the Person page for one of the parents.  To get to collateral lines you do the same thing but you will have to navigate to them.  Just remember, when you go to the tree itself you will only see your direct line but you can navigate to all of the people that are connected to you. 

One thing I want to mention right now is living people.  When you add someone to the tree that is alive no one but the person who added the living person can see him/her.  You can work with them just like anyone else but only you can.  IMPORTANT:  Make sure that anyone you add that you know to be deceased is marked as deceased or add something in the death field which will automatically mark them as deceased.  If you are working on the website itself this isn’t much of a problem as long as you mark the little box that says deceased but if you are using one of the programs that directly interfaces with Family Tree then you will need to make sure that there is something in the death field.  Simply having them marked as deceased in your program isn’t going to work.  If FamilySearch does not see something in the death field when the person is imported it will mark them as living.   This also applies to any gedcoms you upload. If you don’t know an exact death date you can simply add an estimation such as abt. 1850, bef. 1900, after 1765, bet. 1820 and 1830.   FamilySearch will then mark the person as deceased.  What you don’t want is someone born in 1793 to be listed as living because no one else will be able to see him. 


The Person link will bring you to this page.  Here is my favorite person, Silas Simmons.

FT 2

This is the screen you will use when you are actually working on someone, if you are doing it on the website and not using one of the programs that directly interfaces.  I can’t screenshot the entire page.  What is missing at the bottom is the spouse/children information and parents/siblings information.  You can navigate to these people from this screen.  The only thing I want to point out on the screen right now is the word Person at the top (it is highlighted in green).  There is a drop down arrow there that will bring up a history list of who you have been working on. This list works like bookmarks. You can easily navigate to people this way.   FamilySearch recently added a new feature so that you can now delete people off of this list (little x to the right of their name).  Your list will then only include those people you are actively working on.  You can also hand type in an FSID number to get to someone if you need to. If you are using one of the programs that interfaces, like Legacy, you will have all of these FSID numbers at your disposal.  I will be coming back to this screen in a future blog post to point out some important things.

The next link is Find.  This is a simple search screen you can use to find people in Family Tree.  The person does not need to be connected to you. 

The last link is Lists.  This will bring up a list of all the people you have put on your “Watch List.”   If you look at the screenshot of Silas’ page, just to the right of his photo you will see “Watch.”  If you click that it will put that person on your Watch List.   Once a week FamilySearch will send you an email with a list of everyone on your Watch List that has been modified in anyway.  This is a great feature but only those persons that are using the website exclusively need to use this.  Legacy has an internal way to tell you that someone on FamilySearch as been changed and you will see this immediately not once a week.   If you click the Lists link you will be able to see who all you have on the Watch List and you can remove them from here if you want to.  If anyone adds, deletes, or merges anything on a person on your watch list you will be notified.

Now we are going to go back to the Tree link because I want to show you how to change the way it displays.  On the screenshot I whited out the living people (except me, you already know who I am anyway). If you click on the arrow at the end of a line you can expand the tree.  The screenshot show the default view.

FT 3

You have 4 choices of views.  I have mine at the default which is Traditional.  I am not going to show you the other three.  I will let you play around with that yourself.  I will tell you that if you use the mobile app for Family Tree you might want you use the Portrait view which is the same as what the mobile app displays.  To navigate the page you just use your mouse to drag the chart around.  Under the dropdown box for the different views there is a print button and a + and – to make the view bigger.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Memories

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

We are going to take a bit of a detour and discuss the Memories section before we go back to Family Tree.  The Memories section works with Family Tree.


You can add photos, stories, and documents to your ancestors directly in Family Tree but so can everyone else.  If you only want to see what you have personally added you will go to the Memories section.  Memories pulls all of these things out of Family Tree so that they are easier to see.  If you go to People, that will show you a list of people to whom you have added photos, stories and documents to.  Albums allows you to group your photos.  The Find link is simply a search engine to search everything in Memories.

There is one really cool thing you can do in Memories and that is batch upload.   Let’s say you just scanned 20 death certificates.  I could go into Family Tree and pull up each person one at a time and then attach the correct death certificate OR I could batch upload all 20 at one time in the Memories section.  After the upload FamilySearch will ask you who each photo/document belongs to and it is easy to assign each one to the right person.  It is much quicker doing it this way.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree (part 2)

Yesterday I talked about how important it is to learn the proper way to use Family Tree so today I want to show you all of the training materials that are available.  This is in two parts.  The first part includes resources for using Family Tree on the website itself and the second part are resources to learn how to use the Family Tree interface within Legacy.  Legacy is one of only three database programs that can directly interface with Family Tree.  Even if you are going to access Family Tree using Legacy you really need to go to through the training for the website itself.   There are still some things you can’t do through Legacy (or the other two programs) and you will have to do these things on the website.   Family Search is in full control of what the database programs can do and what they can’t do.  FamilySearch approves features one at a time so these programs do not have full functionality yet, however, you can do most tasks through the interface.

FamilySearch Training

  • Family Tree Videos – Here are some really great videos on every possible task you can do in Family Tree. Scroll through the list because the order they are on this list isn’t necessarily the order you will want to watch them. 
  • Family Tree Help Page – Make sure you read the FAQ, What’s New, Tips and Tricks and Other Resources.  The Learning Center Video Courses only lists 5 videos and in the link above I have listed all of them.
  • PDF Handouts – This set of handouts is the best.  Each one walks you through the common tasks and the have wonderful graphics showing you what every single item on a screen is and does.  The PDFs you need are under the Family Tree section.

Legacy Training

Please take the time to learn how to use Family Tree the right way.  Not only will this help you but it will help everyone else using Family Tree.  Please don’t be one of those people others have to clean up after.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Monday, September 8, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Tree

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

tree 1

There are four links, Tree, Person, Find, Lists.   We will talk about all four but first you need to know exactly what Family Tree is.  Family Tree is a single collaborative tree.  The picture you see in the screenshot happens to be of Silas Simmons.  In all of history there was only one Silas Simmons that was born about 1794 in South Carolina who married a woman name Janet, fought in the War of 1812 and whose parents were James Simmons and Ellenor Lee.  When you go to Family Tree you will find this Silas Simmons one time.  He has a unique FamilySearch Identification Number (FSID) which is KDM1-8B5.  Every genealogist who has information about THIS Silas Simmons will add it here.   In contrast, the Genealogies section of FamilySearch and the Member Trees on are collections of uploaded gedcoms.  If you run a search in for this Silas Simmons you will see him 189 times.  To see what information everyone has on Silas you will have to access all 189 trees and compare/contrast what you see.  In Family Tree you only have to look at one person.

I personally like the Family Tree concept better.  Is it perfect?  No, but neither are the collections of uploaded gedcoms.  Family Tree is still relatively new.  It is getting better all the time.  FamilySearch is making improvements and the genealogists working on the tree are doing a lot of cleanup work which will also make it better.

When Family Tree was first introduced as NewFamilySearch they started the tree by importing all of the gedcoms from the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File.  We discussed what these two databases are HERE and I also posted a follow up HERE.  These gedcoms contained a lot of errors and a lot of duplicates.  Using my Silas Simmons example there are 189 on and I am sure that the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File had even more.  The first order of business was to try and merge all of the duplicates which in itself was (and still is) a massive undertaking.   Then there are all of the errors and unsourced information.   There are thousands of experienced researchers doing this cleanup work, however, inexperienced researchers are sill adding people without checking to see if the person is already there and they are still adding unsourced data so the cleanup is ongoing.  As more data gets cleaned up and as more people gain the experience needed to use Family Tree it will only get better over time.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Odds and ends

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

Here is a collection of little odds and ends before we move on to Family Tree

1) At the very bottom of the FamilySearch home page you will see a link to their Site Map.  This is well worth a look because this is an easy way to find all of the different pages and resources in easy to navigate categories.

odds 1


2) You really will want to subscribe to the FamilySearch Blog.  Again, the link is at the bottom of the FamilySearch home page or you can just click the link above.  This is the best way to keep up with everything that is going on at FamilySearch.  They are adding new records and new services all the time and you don’t want to miss out.

odds 2


3) Don’t forget that FamilySearch now has a Mobile App for iDevices and Androids that will sync with Family Tree.

odds 3


Next well will move on to the Family Tree section of FamilySearch.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Friday, September 5, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Family Booklet

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

There are a couple more things I want to point out on the FamilySearch website before we get into Family Tree and Memories (they go together).  The first one is the Family Booklet.  The link for this one is in a little different place.

FB 1


FamilySearch wants to help you preserve all of the old stories you know that have been passed down through your family.  Recording these stories is so important because if you don’t do it they will be lost forever. 


FB 2

The Online version is more for yourself (you will be the anchor person).  If you do use the online version you can pull people in from Family Tree which makes the data entry a lot faster. You can also order paper booklets ($1.00 each) or print off the website (free).  These booklets are just perfect to pass out to family members to fill out and return. There are check sheets built into the booklets to make sure you remember to upload the information.  I would order the paper copies (as opposed to printing them online) and then pass the booklets out at your next family reunion.  Make sure that the people you are collecting data from understand that you plan on adding this information to Family Tree.  You should have permission from anyone that is living even though living people are totally private on Family Tree (only the person that added the living person can see this person online). 

When someone is kind enough to provide me with information, I use Legacy to print out easy understand pedigree charts and reports for them so that they have a record of their lineage.  Everyone I have done this for has always been appreciative. 


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


Thursday, September 4, 2014

FamilySearch Genealogies–Addendum

I previously said that you can’t remove your gedcom from the Genealogies section of FamilySearch.  (See original article HERE).  I need to qualify that a bit.  You can physically remove it BUT FamilySearch retains the information which amounts to the same thing.

Here exact information from FamilySearch help file.

“The Pedigree Resource File has existed for many years, and the data has been published in several ways. If you submitted this GEDCOM file several years ago, you should be aware of the following:

  • The Pedigree Resource File has been published on compact discs for more than a decade. If this file is on one of these compact discs, it is deleted from the online version of the Pedigree Resource File. It remains on the compact discs.
  • Some information from the Pedigree Resource File was used to create the database that is currently used by the and FamilySearch Family Tree websites.) This data is stored separately from the official Pedigree Resource File, which people can search from the user-submitted genealogies section of If you delete a GEDCOM file, it is deleted from the online Pedigree Resource File. It is not deleted from or the FamilySearch Family Tree.”

Although this says, “several years ago” this isn’t quite true.  Here is what FS says on a different page in their help file:

“Some corrections to the Pedigree Resource File are possible. If you find errors in data that you submitted, you can sometimes delete the entire submission and make a new submission containing the correct information.”  You can do this IF the information hasn’t already been added to Family Tree.

The current version of Family Tree was released to everyone March 2013 (not several years ago).  The uploaded gedcoms that FamilySearch had at that time were added to Family Tree to give Family Tree a solid starting point.  All of these records are easy to spot because they will say, added “by FamilySearch” even if it came from an uploaded gedcom. You will not see the original contributor’s information so you won’t be able to contact them.

I didn’t want to talk about Family Tree just yet but I will say one thing that relates to this topic.  You can delete people from Family Tree but if your entire gedcom was uploaded that is impossible because you have to delete them one at a time.  FamilySearch’s position is that these people should not be deleted but rather corrected. These people were most likely real, it is the specific information attached to them and the familial links that are wrong.  The problem with that is if you you uploaded a gedcom fraught with errors all of those errors are now visible and available to everyone and if your gedcom contained 10,000 people good luck tracking them all down.  People with little researching experience will see the information up on Family Tree and think it is 100% true.  I personally think that you should be able to delete ALL information you have submitted with a push of a button but that isn’t the case either with gedcoms or Family Tree.

Having said that, I really like Family Tree.  It improves over time as experienced researchers go in and clean up the data.  However, people are still uploading gedcoms to the Genealogies section and to Family Tree so the cleanup is a massive undertaking and it is ongoing.   I didn’t want you to think that I don’t like Family Tree because I do.  I do think there are problems with the Genealogies section and Family Tree and I think that users should have more control with what they have submitted.   There is one other problem with Family Tree that I think should be addressed but I will discuss that later.

I will tell you that I contacted the FHL several times in the past to get my original gedcom removed and I also asked that my original gedcom be removed from NewFamilySearch (the predecessor to Family Tree) and I was told that it was impossible.  I was told to upload a new one with the correct information and it would be added to the mix.  I don’t think that is the best solution so I have not uploaded another gedcom.

Even though FS says that you can remove recently uploaded gedcoms I would be wary in that at anytime FS could upload all of those gedcoms to FamilyTree as they have done in the past and then your information will not be retrievable.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Volunteering

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website

vol 1


Indexing isn’t the only way to contribute to FamilySearch.  If you click on the Volunteer button at the top right of the screen you will see other opportunities.

vol 2

I encourage you to click on each one of these links to see what all is available.  Some of these options are for LDS members only but there is plenty to do for non-LDS as well.  I administer a page on Facebook and I help update the Wiki.  How hard is that?  


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Getting the most out of FamilySearch–Indexing

All screenshots taken from the FamilySearch website and from the FamilySearch Indexing program.

Index 1

We are now moving on to the Indexing tab.  There are three sections, Overview, Find a Project and Help Resources.  I will explain the three sections a little further down.

Here is some general information:

  • Indexing is a great way to give back to the genealogical community
  • Indexing is a great learning tool for reading handwritten documents

How it works:

  • You download a small program to your computer (FS will be switching over to a web-based indexing system soon so you won’t need a program on your computer anymore)
  • You watch/read all of the training materials
  • You select a batch and off you go!

“But I am worried that I won’t be able to read the handwriting and I will make a mistake!”

  • All batches are indexed by TWO indexes.  If the indexers disagree on anything the entire batch goes to an arbitrator who will decide
  • There are batches for beginner, intermediate and advanced indexers
  • If you ever pick up a batch and it looks too difficult you can throw it back into the queue and pick up a different one
  • If there is something on a batch you need help with you can “share” your batch with another indexer or arbitrator for their opinion
  • After a batch has been arbitrated you will have the opportunity to review the batch and see what the arbitrator changed
  • You will be given your percentage of agreement with the arbitrators.  As you gain experience  you will see this number go up.  This is a great way to monitor your progress

The #1 reason an arbitrator has to change an entry has absolutely nothing to do with how well the person was able to read the handwriting!  The #1 reason an arbitrator changes something is because the indexer did not read the specific instructions for that project.  Each project has its own set of instructions and they can be very different from project to project.  I have been an arbitrator for a long time and I have to say it is a bit frustrating when I have to go through a batch and change a lot of things just because an indexer did not read the instructions.  A little further down I will have a screenshot of the indexing program and I will show you where the instructions are.


Here is a screenshot from the Overview section.  Make sure you go to each section, Test Drive, Get Started, Find a Project and Get Help.  I can’t screenshot this entire page but below this are some cool stats about indexing as well as announcements about the Indexing Project.

Index 2 


Here is a screenshot from the Find a Project page.  You will be selecting the projects through the program itself but on this page you can see what all is available beforehand and you can see what percentage of the project is complete. 

index 3


The Help Resources tab is the most important.  The more time you spend here the better you will be.  There are separate sections for indexers and arbitrators.  The stake indexing director and group administrator sections are for LDS leaders.

index 4


I have expanded the Indexer section so that you can see what all is available to help you.

index 5


Now I am going to show you the indexing program itself.  This will change once indexing switches over to web-based.  The first picture is the main window in the indexing program.  I have written some notes on the screenshot.  Click the screenshot to make it bigger.

index 6


This second shot is what you will see when you are indexing.  I moved everything up so that you can’t see the actual document image because FS prefers that images of current projects are not displayed (you are able to see the very top of the image but that is all).  You can see in the left panel what you need to extract from this document. These fields will change depending on what you are working on.  This happens to be sexton records.  Over on the right I have highlighted the most important thing—the Project Instructions.  If you read this you and  the arbitrators will get along very well.  There are many ways to manipulate the image to make it more readable but that is more than I can do in a single blog post.

index 7


I encourage you to at least give indexing a try.  I think that once you get started not only will you enjoy it you will get addicted Smile

Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis

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, the Ancestral File are all of the old GEDCOMs that FamilySearch has been collecting from day one (and these are LDS submitted genealogies only) and the Pedigree Resource File which is all of the old genealogies submitted by non-LDS researchers as well as 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.

NOTE:  I have added an addendum to this post.  I wanted to leave this post intact and submit an addendum instead of changing the original.  Here is the ADDENDUM.


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