RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

The Guide to FamilySearch

This is the introduction to the new book entitled, The Guide to FamilySearch Online. The book is now out-of-date and needs to be revised. It still contains a huge amount of pertinent and valuable information. At the present time, I am waiting for the website to stabilize before issuing a new edition. Thanks for your patience.

The book is also available in a downloadable version from Legacy Family Tree (Millennia Corp).

The book is published by Bookmark Graphics. I will continue to give links to additional sources for the book as they are available.

The book is 367 pages with extensive illustrations.

Watch for the announcement.



Why You Need This Guide

                  If you are interested in finding your ancestors, as millions of people around the world are, then you need this guide. In the rapidly changing world of technology as it applies to genealogy, there are relatively few people who realize the vast scope of the FamilySearch online resources. So much attention is paid to commercial online subscription websites through the media, popular TV shows and advertising, that the low-key, almost background image of FamilySearch is lost in the hype. This Guide provides detailed instructions to all of the current FamilySearch websites. You will likely be surprised not only with the extent of the lesser known sites, but also with features in more popular and better known sites.
            During the past few years, more and more genealogical resources have been finding their way online and the FamilySearch websites provide the most extensive free genealogical resources available on the Internet. Recently, these online resources have grown to the point that you cannot ignore these resources and be thorough in your genealogical research. This is especially true with the almost daily online addition of digitized source documents and indexes from the extensive collection of microfilms acquired since 1938 when filming began. During calendar year 2010, continuing into 2011 and on into the future, FamilySearch added and will continue to add, hundreds of millions of original source records including both indexes and digitized images. In addition, FamilySearch is in the process of developing a huge family tree collection, now referred to as New FamilySearch. These combined records include well over a billion individuals in a pedigree-like structure. This Guide is your guide to these incredibly large and complex databases.
            If you are a long time user of FamilySearch websites, you will find insights into features and information you likely did not know existed. But, if you are relatively new or inexperienced with FamilySearch, you will find a wealth of instruction that will open windows of opportunity to enriching your genealogical experience.

What is and is not included in this Guide

            Genealogy is an involved and challenging pursuit. This Guide will not teach you how to do genealogy, but the FamilySearch websites can and will help you to learn. This Guide will not help you with the myriad skills needed to research old records and build a credible pedigree but, again, the FamilySearch websites will help you learn all you need to know. Neither will this Guide go into the details of how to contribute information to New FamilySearch or to the FamilySearch Research Wiki or do FamilySearch Indexing but both websites have built in instructions and tutorials.
This Guide will help you navigate through the huge and complex online world created by FamilySearch. You will learn in depth how the websites are organized and what resources are available. During your study of the websites, if you run across a problem or question, be sure and read further, you will likely find that your difficulty or question was anticipated. I will shortly introduce the extensive Help Center and other help links available in different parts of the websites. Pay particular attention to the help screens, there are huge resources that will support, not just your online activities, but also all of your genealogical research.

How This Guide Is Organized

                  If you were going to explore in a jungle, you would probably take along a compass or the current electronic equivalent. This Guide is the guide or compass to FamilySearch and its vast jungle-like web of resources. Sometimes the entryways, or portals, into this web jungle do not give you any idea about the resources hidden within. This Guide takes each of the FamilySearch entryways leads you through the links with explanations of how to find your way to information about your family you may have otherwise missed.
            Each section of this Guide looks at one of the main entryways into the FamilySearch collection of websites and then explores all of the links, giving both an overview of the information available and specific instructions on how to locate the objects of your search. Because some of the websites have significant sub-site resources, like the Research Wiki and TechTips that are part of, the sections are further broken down into subsections where appropriate.
Section One covers the major website. It begins with a backward look at the old site that was replaced in December 2010. Each of the following subsections cover a particular portion of the website that works semi-autonomously. There are sections for the Historical Records Collection, the Family History Library Catalog, and other links from the startup page. There are additional sections on the Research Wiki, the Forums, TechTips and other resources on this huge and complex website.
Section Two is devoted to the FamilySearch Indexing program, a huge multi-national volunteer effort to index the scanned images from the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections. The Indexing program has its own online 90 page Guide. Although the Indexing website is linked to FamilySearch it is a separate website and is very heavily used. Current figures for Indexing show that the volunteers are adding about 1.5 million records a day.
            Section Three looks at the New FamilySearch program. New FamilySearch has two online guides of over 200 pages in PDF format located in the Help Center. One guide is for members of the Church, the other is designed for those who are not members. It is not the goal of this Guide to reproduce this extensive manual in a different format. For this reason, the discussion of the New FamilySearch program will be more in the nature of an overview with an emphasis on the help resources available and with references to the manual as necessary. The first subsection is an overview of the entire program. Each of the succeeding subsections deal with aspects of the program, such as searching, combining records, entering sources, discussions and so forth.
            Section Four presents a look at other FamilySearch websites with resources that have yet to be incorporated into the main site. The sites covered include several lesser-known sites, some of which are more related to the FamilySearch organization than genealogical research. 
            In discussing the websites, an overview will be followed with a detailed analysis of each of the links, both internal and external to the program. In making references to the FamilySearch websites, I have tried to be consistent with the terminology and capitalization as viewed on the websites, which are not always consistent, so please be patient with the text.