How to Use the FamilySearch Catalog: Your Ultimate Portal to Free Genealogy Records
Every genealogist should know how to search the FamilySearch Catalog, a portal to nearly 750 million FREE historical record images you won’t find anywhere else on the site! These digitized records are being updated DAILY by camera teams who are digitizing records around the world–and digitizing microfilmed collections at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Recently, the free genealogy giant FamilySearch.org announced that its browse-only digital record collections have topped 2 BILLION! About 750 million of these are only searchable from the FamilySearch Catalog. The Catalog is where they put all new images collected DAILY from digitized microfilms or from their digital camera operators around the world. These images may still need some organizing and fine-tuning, but they’re an up-to-the-minute asset you will appreciate when you need them to take the next step in your research.
The Catalog also shows you information about books, maps, compiled family histories and other valuable genealogical resources that aren’t online but are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah or perhaps through Inter-library loan from another library. Yet another reason to search the Catalog! So here’s how to do it….
How to use the FamilySearch Catalog
To use the FamilySearch Catalog, go to www.familysearch.org and log in. (Creating a free login is optional, but you’ll get much better access to records on the site–click here to learn more.)
Under the main Search tab, select Catalog:
Now, search for the family history resources you want. Let’s say I’d like to find birth records for my ancestors who were living in the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I enter that location. FamilySearch automatically gives me options for standard place names (which include the county). I choose “United States, Pennsylvania, Cambria, Johnstown” from the list shown below and click Search:
The FamilySearch Catalog gives me a list of all subject categories relating to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I see “Vital Records.” This includes birth records, so I click where the red arrow points in the screen shot below to open another list of entries, the first of which is shown in the box below:
Click on that boxed item to see its Catalog entry, shown in part below. Scroll down to the list of Film/Digital Notes, and you’ll see information about available formats for each item. That little camera icon on the right means digital images are available for those items (the round icon that looks like an old film reel means it’s still just available on microfilm). Click on camera images to view digitized records.
For any records that aren’t yet digitized, use the Catalog entry link shown below to go to WorldCat.org, a free multi-library catalog with millions of entries. This catalog may lead you to other copies available at libraries near you, or at available through libraries that participate in inter-library loan. (Click here to read an article about using WorldCat for genealogy.)
KEEP UP WITH FAMILYSEARCH AND THE OTHER GENEALOGY GIANTS
Genealogy Gems is your home for learning how to get the most out of the giant genealogy websites: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. Click here to see unique, side-by-side comparisons of these fantastic resources. You may be missing out on resources you need simply because you aren’t aware of them yet!
Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members can check out my in-depth tour of the hinting tools used at all four genealogy giants in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #152. Not a member yet? Click here to learn about becoming one.
About the Author: Sunny Morton
Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.
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