I regularly check several genealogy websites for new online records. One of my favorite sites is FamilySearch.org, the genealogy web site of the LDS church, which provides an ever-increasing number of online records at no charge. A list of their online collections can be found by clicking “Search” in the menu bar (from any page on the site) and then clicking “Browse all published collections” at the lower right of the page. The list of “Historical Record Collections” can be narrowed using the options in the left sidebar (see screenshot below). Recently added or updated collections in the list are marked with an asterisk. I simply use my browser’s “Find” function to quickly identify these marked collections.
I assumed that the “Historical Record Collections” list covered all of the digitized records on the site. But recently, while browsing through the FamilySearch Catalog (also found under the Search menu), I came across some digitized records that didn’t seem to be included in the list. Of course, my eyes lit up at the prospect of new records to explore! I wanted to find a way to efficiently locate these items, so I started looking at the Catalog search settings. I discovered that the “Search These Family History Centers” box has an option for “Online” (shown in screenshot below). This setting can be used in combination with any search (place, keyword, etc.) and will limit the search results to online items (e. g. digitized books) or collections with at least one digital item. Once you select an item, you may have to scroll through the Film Notes to find which of the records in the collection have been digitized (these will have a camera icon in the far right column). One disclaimer: some digitized records and books do have access restrictions. The ones I have come across can be viewed by going to a Family History Center or, in some cases, a partner library.
My favorite way to use this new trick is to pair it with the Place search. This lets me quickly find the online records available for a particular place. (Hint: Be sure to check all levels of the geographic hierarchy. Different records can often be found at the state, county and township levels. Take advantage of the handy “Places within…” link found just above the results list). Of course you will also want to check the FamilySearch Catalog for records that have not yet been digitized. Genealogists should never ignore these traditional sources. That said, there is nothing quite like the instant gratification provided by online records. I have already found records for several relatives, as well as for a client's ancestor. I'm looking forward to many more discoveries!
Teresa is the the owner of KinSeeker Genealogy Services. She has a Ph.D. in Biology and a lifelong fascination with genealogy. She been researching her own family history for over 20 years and loves helping others "find their stories."
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