Browse-only databases at FamilySearch are easy to use and may hold the key to the genealogy brick wall you have been working on.
Don’t be scared off because the records haven’t been indexed. Guest blogger Amie Tennant Bowser show you how to take advantage of these great records!
New Genealogy Records Come Online Every Week
Each week, we report on the latest genealogy records to have come online.
Sometimes in our weekly record update articles we include databases from the free FamilySearch website that are not yet indexed. These collections are referred to as browse-only. Have you ever been disappointed when you realized the database you are most interested in is only able to be browsed?
The highlighted genealogy records in these collections are browse-only
You may be thinking, “Good grief! I can’t possibly browse thousands of records!” and we don’t expect you to. In this article we are going to share strategies that you can use to zero in on the genealogy records you want to browse.
Browse Only Records Versus Indexed Records
Most folks search for genealogy records at FamilySearch by typing in some key information at the home page. It might be just the first and last name, and the place where that ancestor lived. Here’s an example:
When you use this method, you are only searching for records that have been indexed.
Indexed records are great because they have already been reviewed by one of the thousands of FamilySearch volunteers. They use online software on the FamilySearch website to download images of historical documents. Then, they read the information on the image and transcribe the information.
A second, more experienced volunteer then reviews the transcribed information to ensure accuracy before it is submitted to the website where they can be searched. It’s a huge effort to help genealogists more easily search the online records.
So, it’s important to understand that not all digitized record images that are on the FamilySearch website have been indexed. This means there may be countless records that will not be retrieved by a name search.
Unindexed records can only be browsed until they are indexed. So as you can see, there is a very good chance that there are records on the site that apply to your family, but you won’t find them through the search engine.
Instead, you need to go in the virtual “back door” to locate these records. Follow along with me and I’ll show you how.
How to Find Browse-Only Records at FamilySearch
Let’s imagine you want to search probate records in Auglaize County, Ohio.
You would click the little map in the vicinity of the United States and choose “Ohio” from the pop-up box.
At the Ohio research page, you could do a general search of the Ohio collections. Again, this is only searching records that have been indexed.
Instead of using this method, scroll down until you see “Ohio Image Only Historical Records.” Look at all these databases you might have missed!
For our example, continue to scroll down until you see the database titled “Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996” near the bottom. Click on it.
You will notice right away that there is no way to “search” this database.
Many people give up at this point, after all, who has time to search nearly 7,000,000 records. Click on it anyway!
The next screen has been broken down by county name. Choose the desired county name. In this case, I’m selecting “Auglaize.”
You are then directed to a page listing the volumes of records for Auglaize county that have been digitized.
In this example, we are seeing bonds, settlements, wills, estates, and so much more:
It is as if you are standing in the courthouse probate office surrounded by volumes and volumes of the records you need.
Select the volume you want to search by clicking the title.
“Open” the pages of the book and search like you would as if you were flipping the pages of a book or scrolling through a roll of microfilm.
Click the arrow at the top of the screen to scroll through the pages.
Friends, we want you to get excited about all the new records that are coming online, even if they are browse only databases. If you like this tutorial, share this tip with your genie friends so they can do it too.
More Genealogy Gems on Records and Databases at FamilySearch
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If you’re looking for more genealogy records to mine, here are some of our articles. These will help you not only find new records, but also use other valuable genealogy indexes:
Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? This week we cover burials in Cleveland, Ohio; an Oakland, CA newspaper; travelers to the U.S. via Canada, early Vermont pioneers and a register of WWI soldiers’ mothers and widows.
CLEVELAND (OH) BURIALS. The Cleveland Catholic Diocese has posted an index to burials. According to the site, “The following cemeteries have been uploaded into the centralized database: All Saints, Northfield; All Souls, Chardon; Resurrection, Valley City; Holy Cross, Akron; Holy Cross, Brook Park; and St. Joseph, Avon. Work is ongoing on the following cemeteries: Calvary, Cleveland; and Calvary, Lorain.” Registration is required but it is free.
OAKLAND (CA) NEWSPAPER. Nearly 400,00 pages of the Oakland Tribune spanning a full century (1874-1975) is now online at Newspapers.com. Oakland is in Alameda County and became an early terminus for the Transcontinental Railroad.
TRAVELERS TO U.S. VIA CANADA. Nearly 100,000 records appear in a new Ancestry database, U.S., Passenger and Crew Lists for U.S.-Bound Vessels Arriving in Canada, 1912-1939 and 1953-1962. “This collection contains forms, or passenger lists, submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) by airline captains and shipmasters,” according to the collection description. Records are included for the ports of Montreal, Quebec; Saint John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Vancouver, British Columbia; Victoria, British Columbia; Toronto, Ontario and Quebec Ports.
VERMONT PIONEERS. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has a new index online of Early Vermont Settlers to 1784. The collection description states, “This database contains modified Register-style genealogical sketches of every identifiable head of household who has been proven to reside in the present-day borders of Vermont by the year 1784. A list of children, their spouse(s), and all their vital records will accompany each sketch. We have noticed that the head of household occasionally dies outside of Vermont and many of the children live west of Vermont in New York, Ohio, and states westward. This database currently contains 34 sketches, 5,700 names and 2,700 records.”
WWI U.S. MOTHER’S PILGRIMAGE. Ancestry has updated its database of mothers and widows of U.S. soldiers killed in World War I and buried overseas, and were invited by the War Department to visit their loved one’s burial place. “Each record provides the name of widow or mother, city and state of residence, and relationship to the deceased. Additionally, information regarding the decedent’s name, rank, unit, and cemetery is provided.”
Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished June 3, 2014
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 34: Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 1
Did you know there is a gem of a genealogical resource right in your own backyard? Well, at least in your own neighborhood—and also in just about every neighborhood where your ancestors lived. The public library is one of the most underestimated sources of genealogical information around! It’s free. It has better hours than most government-run agencies. There are staff with research skills, knowledge of their locale and knowledge about their collections. I have invited Patricia Van Skaik, Manager of the History and Genealogy Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to join us here on the podcast. In this episode she’s going to give us the inside scoop on the unique genealogical resources that are tucked away in public libraries just waiting to be discovered.
What’s at the library? Each library has unique materials for its locale. Examples include:
- City directories
- Obituary indexes
- Partnerships with local societies and clubs, and organizations (access to databases)
- Unique library expertise
TIP: Check with the public libraries in each location where your ancestors lived TIP: Genealogy holdings vary, and often have to do with what local constituents want.
TIP: Get involved and make requests at your local library if you want more genealogy resources.
How to prepare for your visit
- Determine your questions ahead of time and gather the appropriate ancestor information to take with you.
- See if they have a genealogy area on the website. There are lots of things on the library website that are not in the catalogue (special exhibits, digitized images, and databases) Don’t just jump straight to the catalogue.
Search the online catalog and identify the books and resources you want
- Look for the geographic area, not the person’s surname (town, county, geographical area)
- Use the Advanced search – “you don’t have to be an advanced researcher to use the advanced search!”
- Don’t use the word “genealogy” in your search. It’s pretty useless.
4 more tips from Lisa and Patricia
Email in advance – ask some questions ahead of time:
- Is the website up to date?
- Reconfirm hours of operation
- What’s the best time to come for more service?
- Is wi-fi available?
- Do you need change for copy machines?
- Are there any special collections you should know about?
- Do they offer orientations?
Plan a group visit: Some libraries will make special accommodations for a group visit. Ask if they will provide a tour geared to genealogy. And they may have a meeting room where you can have lunch or meet. It’s a small investment in time and money to make sure that you’re going to get the most of the time you’re going to spend there.
Get their expertise! Librarians don’t just know the collection, but they also know research strategy, collection contents, all the questions that have come before, and local area resources.
Phrase your questions for success: Pose questions in terms of a query. For example: “I’m trying to find evidence of someone’s death during this time frame. What materials do you have that may help?” (Don’t just ask specifically for obituaries or government death records—they may not have one but they may have other resources you’re not thinking of.)
Tune in next week to Episode 35 to learn more about researching at the public library, like tips for advance searching those online card catalogs, thinking like a librarian, unique collections at librarians and the types of questions you can ask your public library staff.
Republished August 8, 2013
by Lisa Louise Cooke
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
In this episode, I chatted with Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland, California Family History Center. Her own family history journey started in her 20s with a visit to a relative’s house. She didn’t even know what to talk about! But it was a start. Years later, she visited the Northern Ireland home of her great-grandmother, and felt like she’d come home. Learn her tips for getting started and two inspiring stories of “genealogy serendipity.”
In the second half of the show, you’ll learn why choosing a database for your family tree is your first essential step. Hear about some of my favorite databases—both free resources and products you can pay for. Don’t spend too much time fussing about software: I’ll tell you why you should just pick something and go with it.
Choosing a Genealogy Database
Whether you want to build an elaborate family tree, or just want to know who your direct ancestors were and some of the stories about them, the place to start is to get yourself a family history database. You don’t have to be highly computer savvy to use one. They are VERY intuitive and user friendly. Basic data entry skills is all you need.
Now I know you’re anxious to get started finding out about the folks who came before you and contributed to putting you on this planet. But this step is key to long term success and enjoyment. I know too many people who have gotten all excited and jumped in, getting all kinds of information about their family, but without a database they very quickly end up with huge stacks of paper and stickie notes. With all this chaos they often end up duplicating efforts they forgot they already did which is a waste of precious time. And worst of all, when someone shows an interest in what they are doing, it’s impossible to coherently pull out the information from the jumbled stacks in order to share it.
Having a family history database will keep all of your findings organized, with proper background information on where you found the data, as well provide a place to pull together photographs, documents and everything else you discover along the way. It’s like painting a piece of furniture. A little prep work goes along way to a really nice finish.
Now there are lots of family history software programs out there, but you only need ONE, and all of them will serve your basic needs. So I’m going to give you my top choices. It’s you’re decision how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be.
If FREE is your price range, and you’re looking for a place to stay organized with streamlined screens to work in without a lot of startup time, then Family Tree Legends Online is perfect for you. (Family Tree Legends Online is now Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage.
Don’t let FREE fool you into thinking it won’t do the job. Legends offers lots of family history charts; custom reports; helps you share your data and pictures on a CD or DVD; allows you to back up your files to CD or DVD; and includes genealogy programs for Palm handheld devices and the Pocket PC. I’ve used it and it’s great. You can download the software FREE at the above link.
If you’re a PC user and are willing to spend $30-40 dollars, there are several really good and easy to use options available. You can order the product or purchase a digital download which will save you some money. And frankly, I really don’t think you need to the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. And all of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.
The top seller is Family Tree Maker which is from the folks at Ancestry.com which is the largest online records website which we’ll be talking a lot more about in future episodes. Click on its name to learn more about Family Tree Maker. This is probably the most commonly used database out there.
If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share then RootsMagic is a great choice. It’s available as a digital download from their website at RootsMagic.
Some of the differences you’ll find between these products is the types of reports and charts they produce. So if that’s important to you, you can try the demos and see which you like. But again, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these products. They are all well established and fully supported.
And I want to stress, it’s just important that you take the steps and get started. Don’t get bogged down in analyzing software forever. If you really want to change to a different program down the road you can always do that. But the important thing here is that you have a place to put the information that you find and be able to retrieve that information so you can share it with others.
Now if you’re a Mac user I have two solid programs you could use. Again, both of these programs offer free demos if you want to test drive them:
- iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95.
- Reunion 9 is fairly pricey at $99.95. If you’re interested in Reunion 9, I highly recommend that you listen to Episode 51 of my more advanced Family History show called The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by my contributing partner Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist, who’s an expert on everything Mac for family historians. And if you want to compare iFamily against Reunion to see what you’re getting for your money, you can also listen to Ben’s review of iFamily in Genealogy Gems Episode 53.
Now when you fire up your new software database it’s going to ask you to fill in information about yourself, then your parents and so on. In family history we always start with ourselves, and then work our way backward. So enter everything you know. By just enter data on you and your parents, you’ll very quickly get a feel for how the program works. And once you get everything in there that you know, go ahead and try and print out a pedigree chart.
And there’s our first family history term: “pedigree chart.” You’ve probably heard the term used for pure bred dogs, but pedigree just means lineage or ancestral line. It shows your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. No aunts, uncles or siblings. Just the folks you directly descend from.
Another type of chart your database can print is a descendant chart, which shows all the people who descend from one person. So if you had two kids, your descendant chart would show you at the top, and two children directly under you. This comes in real handy when you want to have a reunion of all the descendants of let’s say your great grandpa Marvin. You would go to Marvin’s card in the database, and then print the descendant chart from there. It would then include Marvin, all his kids, his grandkids, his great grandkids and so on. But it wouldn’t show the kids spouses, or Marvin’s parents. It’s just going to tell you who was born directly as a result of Marvin.
So enter what you know, and once you’ve got all that in there, play around with your new database by printing out a pedigree chart and a descendant chart. And next week we’ll start uncovering more clues to your family history.
Here’s a final thought for today: A famous idea taken from one of Shakespeare’s plays is that what is Past is Prologue. It seems to me that a key to moving forward in your life is to look back and see what’s come before. How things were done. What worked, and what didn’t. It can inspire you to continue family traditions or give you the motivation to create something new for the next generation.
Up next: Episode 2: How to Interview Your Relatives.