Thursday, August 8, 2013

Effective FamilySearch Search Techniques – Part 3

At the 2013 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch presented a session titled “Effective Search Techniques and Sound Research Practices.”

Browse-Only Collections

FamilySearch has over 1,600 collections and most of them are not indexed. They must be browsed, like digital microfilm, as it were. FamilySearch has provided “waypoints” dividing the images into ever smaller, manageable groups. Follow several principles to minimize the work necessary to find a record.

  • Focus on the appropriate place and date range.
  • Focus on the best records to achieve your goal.
  • Browse each record collection as it is arranged in the book.
  • Look for an index. Record keeper often created alphabetical indexes for volumes of records. Sometimes these were in pages at the beginning or end of a volume. Sometimes they were in separate volumes.

Kehrer showed an example, but I didn’t jot it down quickly enough, so I had to come up with one of my own. I picked an easy one, but it demonstrates most of the principles.

Suppose we wished to find the parents of Anna Josephina Frederick who was born in 1896 in Dahlgren, Illinois. And we know her family is Catholic.

  • We start at and click on Search.
  • To see a list of all the collections, scroll down and click on Browse All Published Collections.
  • We need to determine if one of these collections covers births in Illinois in 1896. To cut down the number of collections to look through, enter “Illinois” in the Filter By Collection Name box.
  • Scan through the collection list and note that “Illinois, Diocese of Belleville, Catholic Parish Records, 1729-1956” fits what we are looking for. We select it.
  • Then click on “Browse through 34,135 images.”
  • FamilySearch divided the images into counties. Dahlgren is in Hamilton county, so select.
  • FamilySearch divided each county into towns and cities. Select Dahlgren.
  • Some cities have more than one parish. The only parish in Dahlgren is St. John Nepomucene. Select it.
  • In the list of records, notice an index exists that covers 1896 baptisms: “1893-1952 Index Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths.” Select it.
  • Some collections are available only to those who sign in. (An account is free.) This is one of those. Click on Sign In and—register if necessary and—sign in.
  • Step through the images to the index. Step through the index to the F’s on image 5. It indicates that Anna Josephina Frederick’s record is on page 32.
  • In the breadcrumb trail above the image, go back to the list of records in St. John Nepomucene Parish and select “1893-1952 Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths.”
  • Step through the images to page 32. (It is on image 2, again, an easy one.). Anna’s baptism is no. 11.

Anna Josephina Frederick

Using collections without indexes is straightforward and does not need to be avoided.

For more helpful hints on browsing long stretches of images, see “Browsing an Image-Only Collection.”

More next time…


  1. AI, sadly there are several collections whose waypoints are only the DGS number which I have no method of determining based on a traditional film number. Efforts to point out this flaw seem ignored on the GetSatisfaction site. It would be much easier to browse these waypoints if a lookup feature were available to translate film to DGS numbers.

  2. AI, some of these collections can only be viewed at a Family History Center. Until you try to pull up the image there is no indication that this restriction is there.


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