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Friday, August 7, 2009

A Misunderstood & Underutilized Resource

Lots of folks tend to be misinformed about LDS genealogy resources. Many changes have been going on in the past few years, which have included major revamping of the LDS genealogy website I’d like to just mention a few of the resources available from the website that I feel are invaluable - and even better than (because they’re free!)

From the website’s main page, you can still download a free genealogy organization program for your computer (Personal Ancestral File), and also search the billions of names in the IGI (a database comprised of both personal submissions and extracted names from vital records), Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File (both databases of user submitted names). As with any user-submitted records, there are always the possibilities of error and incorrect data. But you can often at least get an idea of what direction to take your own research to prove or disprove these pedigrees. Honestly, these name databases are my least favorite part of the FamilySearch website, which now also includes many original records and images.

The tabs that run across near the top of the webpage in blue are your gateway to valuable genealogical records. From the “Search Records” tab, you can browse or search through thousands of digitized books - local & family histories, genealogies and journals - by choosing “Historical Books”.

Also under the “Research” tab, by choosing “Record Search Pilot”, you can search through thousands of newly indexed records from the FamilySearch Indexing program, where volunteers are indexing vital records microfilm from the Family History Library collection. Many of the search results include access to the actual images associated with the record - birth, death or marriage certificates, census images or church record images from the US and around the world - all for free. This incredible resource is continually being updated and added to so check back from time to time to see what the latest additions are. Or better yet, sign up under the “Index Records” tab and help out yourself - also getting access to the records before they are posted for everyone!

Under the “Research Helps” tab you will find articles and research guides for every state in the US and every country in the world (or at least most of them...) These guides include records availability, repository information and in the case of foreign research, often language help and word guides. These resources will give you direction and guidance on how to proceed with your research in any given location, and are a great place to start.

The “Library” tab includes information on the Salt Lake Family History Library, but also includes free online research classes under “Education”. Classes include Research in England, Germany, Italy, Hispanic (in Spanish), Russia and US.

One of the best features under the Library tab is the access to the Family History Library Catalog. From “Library Catalog” you can search or browse through the millions of books and microfilm available for rental from your local Family History Center. If you are lucky, when you locate a film that interests you, the Film Notes will include the phrase (in red) “To view a digital version of this item click here” - and you can have instant access to the film online!

The microfilm & microfiche collection include the actual images from courthouse and other records from the United States, and church parish registers from around the world. I’ve “read” through parish registers from tiny churches in England, handwritten in Latin going back to the 1500s. Absolutely amazing! And all available as close as my local LDS Family History Center. (You can determine which films you are interested in online, but the films need to be ordered & viewed at a Family History Center or library with FHL privileges, for a small rental fee of about $5.50).

The website can be an invaluable help for your genealogical research, for both locating and viewing original documents relating to your ancestors. I've only touched on a few of the available resources. Spend some time there today yourself!

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