Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Searching for Sources at FamilySearch at #NGS2015GEN (Part 1)

Robert Kehrer's grandfather, Howard Franklin AllorFamilySearch’s Robert Kehrer, search product manager, presented a luncheon session at the 2015 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society. It was titled “FamilySearch Hinting: Making Difficult Research Easy.” Like shaky leaf record hints in personal member trees, FamilySearch’s record hints are indicators in Family Tree that a record exists that might pertain to a person in the tree.

[Since we are days past the conference, I must worn again that my recollections fail me. Some of the information below comes directly from my notes. Some are interpolations.]

Users can create sources in Family Tree in four different ways:

  1. By creating a Memory source. (Family Tree sometimes calls these documents.)
  2. By explicitly creating a new source. The source can be from anywhere on [or off] the Internet.
  3. Through searching for a record. This is done with an attach tool that Robert called the Source Linker.
  4. Via hinting. This also utilizes the attach tool.

Howard Franklin Allor is Robert’s grandfather.

Discharge papers of Howard Franklin AllorRobert found his grandfather’s naval discharge paper and uploaded it to To add a document, click on Memories, then Add Document, and then drag and drop the file. Robert didn’t show it, but a document can also be attached to a source in the Sources section of the person page. As this document contains strong evidence regarding an event in Howard’s life, I would do so. The evidence of birth is weaker, but I would still tag it as a source for the birth information.

From the discharge papers, Robert learned that his grandfather had served on the USS Stokes, so he searched the web and found a website dedicated to the Stokes.

On the website, Robert found a photo of the crew during the commissioning ceremony. Because a crew list showed his grandfather was present, and because of his grandfather’s glasses and moustache, he was able to locate him in the photo! He downloaded it and uploaded it to

Robert demonstrated how to create a source to any arbitrary page on the Internet. As an example, he created a source for Howard’s SSDI record on That’s a good example, because it demonstrates copy and paste of a source citation. To create the source, go to the person page, scroll down to the sources section, and click Create a New Source. Make up a title. This is the title that will be displayed in the source list. Copy and paste the URL. Copy and paste the citation. Put whatever you feel appropriate in the Notes field. Some people copy and paste the record values. Robert copied and pasted some of the database description.

USS Stokes commissioning crew on 4 November 1944I thought it would have been interesting if he had created a source for the commissioning photo. Having seen a couple of misidentified photographs in Family Tree, I am increasingly aware of the need to specify the provenance of historical photos. Robert has a high confidence in the photo because he knows the provenance. But how can other people judge? A source and citation would go a long way. Your citation might look different than mine and still be just fine, but I would have tinkered with a citation looking a bit like this one:

Ken Brown, “Crew Photos,” text and digital images, USS Stokes (AKA-68), website ( : accessed 19 May 2015), third of four photographs labeled “The above photos of the USS Stokes commissioning crew were taken on 4 November 1944”; provided by Steve Carver, son of F2c George R. Carver.

If I knew something about George R. Carver, I might add that. Was he there? Was he an official who would have known the subject of the photograph? (But I digress…)

A source can be created through searching a record. has records containing about 5.2 billion names. The records are very heavily weighted towards civil (vital) records, church records, and census records—records that help bridge the generations. One way to begin a search is by clicking Search Records on the person page:

Howard Franklin Allor's person page on FamilySearch Family Tree starts a search, using the name, birthplace, and a birth year range of two years on either side of the birth year. (See the left side of the screen shot, below.)

Search results for Howard Franklin Allor, search initiated from FamilySearch Family Tree

Notice the difference between starting a search from an Ancestry Member Tree and FamilySearch Family Tree. loads the search with every known fact about the person, including names of some relatives. FamilySearch is nearly the opposite, specifying just birth information. The result will become apparent in part 2 of this article.

Click on a result and review it. If it pertains to your search subject, click the big blue button on the right hand side labeled “Attach to Family Tree.”

Find a grave record of Howard Franklin Allor, search initiated from FamilySearch Family Tree

Next time I’ll talk about number four on the list of ways to create a source: hinting.

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