Thursday, September 4, 2014

#FGS2014 Conference: Person Search vs. Record Search

Robert Kehrer presents FamilySearch effective search techniquesAt the 2014 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Robert Kehrer gave a luncheon presentation titled “Effective Search Techniques and Sourcing Your Conclusions on” Kehrer is a senior product manager for FamilySearch. This is the first of several articles about that presentation.

First, I have to thank everyone at my table for giving me your chocolate-chip cookies. Thank you. <smile>

Kehrer walked attendees through a scenario of finding information about his great-grandfather. In doing so he demonstrated a number of features available when searching historical records on FamilySearch. Here are some of the features that I don’t think I’ve written about before:

Researchers tend to search in one of two paradigms: person searching and record searching. For a person search, the researcher has a person in mind and wants the search to return all the records possible about that person. For a record search, the researcher has a record in mind and wants the search to return that particular record. Depending on their paradigm, a user searching for John Telford, born in Ireland between 1800 and 1805, may want matches from the 1880 United States Census. Or he may not.

Search for a person born in Ireland, no matter what kind of record or where it was created. supports both search paradigms. The secret to record searching (vs. person searching) is to use the “Restrict records by” fields to specify the desired record type and the location where it was created:

Use the "Restrict record by" fields to search for records (vs. persons).

(If you can’t see the record types, click on “Type” underneath the “Restrict records by” title. Likewise for Location.)

I’ve sometimes viewed person search versus record search as a progression. Before we cross the chasm, we search for people. Once we’ve crossed the chasm, we’re forced to a higher level of maturity; we search for records. Friday I wondered if there might be a third level to that progression. I listened to a luncheon presentation by Tom Jones in which he identified three stages in his personal development as a genealogist: 1. Name gathering, 2. record hunting, and 3. case building. (Those may not have been the terms he used, but hopefully I’m close.) Perhaps when we first start doing genealogy we search for people. After some maturation, we search for records. After further progression, we search for proof.

But I digress… Stay tuned for more from Robert Kehrer’s luncheon.

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