Thursday, May 9, 2013

#NGS2013 - Using to Unearth Your Family Roots

At the 2013 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society, Beth Taylor of FamilySearch presented “Using to Unearth Your Family Roots.” She is a research consultant for the United States and Canada at the FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

She presented use of the website from the researcher’s point of view.

“I’m a user, just like you.”

She spoke about the FamilySearch Family Tree, which she calls “the new, new FamilySearch.”

“What if we had our tree?” she asked.

Taylor said you can discover what research has already been done. You can collaborate with others to reach conclusions. You can explain your conclusions and attach sources. And you can share photos and stories.

Most of what Taylor presented I have written about before, so let me hit some highlights.

Family Tree still supports the bow-tie view pedigree chart, starting with you in the middle. You can hover and click to see multiple wives and hover and click to see the children. Click on a person to see a summary card. Additionally, Family Tree sports a fan chart as an alternative to the bow-tie view.

Fan chart of Mordecai T. Cleaver (1832-1878)

On a person page the subject individual is listed more than once under Family Members. That is not to say there are others with his name. Rather, he is listed once for each spouse and once as a child for each set of parents. He’s listed in bold to indicate that he is the subject of the page.

Family Members section of person page on Family Tree

In historical record collections, FamilySearch has

  • 3.5 billion searchable names with
  • 1 billion images indexed.
  • There are about 200 million indexed names published each year.
  • There are about 35+ million new images added each month.

Use filters to decrease the number of results from a search. By way of illustration, a search for Mordecai Cleaver (b. 1832, Ohio) in the 1870 census can be accomplished entirely with filters:

  • A search for family name Cleaver gives 334,000+ results.
  • Filtering Birth Year to the 1800s drops the number to 126,661.
  • Further filtering birth year to the 1830s drops the results to 9,769.
  • Filtering the birthplace to the United States and then to Ohio filters down to 404.
  • Filtering for the 1870 census drops the results to 64.

That’s a small enough set that someone can easily review it.

Filtering is also available for the list of all record collections. One of Taylor’s favorites is filtering by name.

As indexing projects progress, results are published incrementally. The number of records shown in the list will go up as FamilySearch finishes more of the collection. For a state collection, they might publish by county. The little description at the top of the record collection page is important because it often tells what jurisdictions are done.

When looking at a record in a collection without images, pay attention to whether the record shows a film number. The film can be ordered for viewing in your local family history center.

Instead of having all the fields automatically showing in a search form, FamilySearch requires you to click to open up the search fields.

If you’re not paying attention to the browse-only collections, you’re missing half of what FamilySearch has to offer.


  1. Way to go Beth! Great explanations.

  2. Thanks for showing how the filtering works to narrow down your results and for showing the "new, new FamilySearch!" Hope you are enjoying the conference!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.