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

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Searching the Family History Archives

FamilySearch's Website has a tab for "Search Records." This tab has pulldown menu items for both Record Search and the Family History Archives. In the menu, Record Search is called the "Record Search Pilot." Unfortunately, the Family History Archives name does not appear anywhere on the menu list. The item is called "Historical Books."

The search screen on the Family History Archives is very basic; you can search on surname, author and title. There is another option to search all which includes a check box for searching the full text of the documents. There is also a button for browsing the entire collection or just certain types of materials, such as the book collection or gazetteers.

What you may overlook is a link to "Advanced Search." Clicking on this option takes you to the search page for the entire BYU Libraries Digital Collections. You can then choose whether to search all of the collections in the digital archives or just a specific collection. The search fields give you the ability to search for:
  • All of the words
  • The exact phrase
  • Any of the words
  • None of the words
Judicious use of these four options with allow you to be very specific in your search results. If you are looking for a particular person, you may wish to enter his or her name in the exact phrase search box. But remember that you get what you ask for. You may wish to try searching on the full name as well as any nicknames or shortened variations. If your person was a blacksmith and not the carpenter of the same name, you may wish to exclude "carpenter" from the search in the "None of the words" field.

If you notice above the fields there are further deliminators, that is you can search by selected fields, proximity or by date. Just because you do not find the information or person you are looking for on the first try, does not mean the information is not in the collections. Try again and again with different variations in your search terms.

Whenever you use a search function, it is a good idea to try words in a different order. You may also want to start your search with as few words as possible and add words if you get too many responses. Searching is part art and part science. It also takes some measure of luck, so good luck in your searches.

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