– It’s Fun and It’s Free

So you’ve read all the blogs so far, and you’re wondering where I got all the information.  A lot of it came from other family researchers, some from visits to town or county clerks, but a lot from the Internet.  One of the most popular genealogy sites on the web is Family Search, (FS) the site hosted by the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints.  Why do Mormons do genealogy?  The short answer specific to their religion is to identify ancestors and arrange for baptism and other ordinances to be performed for them.  But beyond that, as other people believe, by learning more about our ancestors, we learn more about ourselves.  We learn about physical characteristics, personality traits, and medical histories.  To encourage everyone who wants to work on their family history, the LDS church hosts the website Family Search.  It is open to everyone, and it is free.  They also provide free downloadable software called Personal Ancestral File (PAF) to use for tracking the records, so if you aren’t sure you want to dive in and buy the latest version of commercial software like Family Tree Maker, you can test the free PAF. 

FS has been undergoing some changes, and while I was disappointed at first, I have to say they get a thumbs up from me now!  If you’d like to check it out yourself, here are a few quick tips. 

If you click on the link above, you’ll get the main opening screen.  You can type in a name, place, and year span, click on search, and see what you get.  The best matches will show up at the top.  The search will automatically use “sound-ex” so searches farther down will have alternate spellings.  Chances are you’ll get a lot of results.  You just have to sort out which person is yours.

There are other ways to narrow down the search.  To get back to the main search page, click on the FamilySearch logo in the upper left – the one with the tree.  Scroll down and you’ll find a “Browse By Location” section in the lower left.  The world is divided up by continent, mostly. Click on the “USA, Canada, and Mexico” section. You’ll find a “Historical Record Collections” list, alphabetical by title, how many records that collection has, and when last updated.  The titles that have little cameras are the ones that have actual images.  The rest have just an index. 

You can click on the title, then search just that set of records.  For example, if you pick the New Hampshire Marriage Records with the actual images, and type in Albert Hodges, you’ll find Albert Warren Hodges marrying Lillian Adams Richardson.  If you click on Albert’s name, you’ll go to the next screen, and get the information that has been extracted from the record – names, dates, parents, etc.  You can also click on the image to see the record.  In this case, you see an index card with the information about the bridge and groom.  In the lower right corner is a “zoom” slider on the thumbnail, so you can zoom in to read better.  Some records have more than one card, and if you read the fine print at the bottom of this one, you’ll see that the record is continued.  Click on the right arrow in the upper right corner above the thumbnail image.  The parent information is on the next page.  If you want to save this images to your computer, click on the Save button below the title of the collection (in this case, NH Marriage records).  Save the image (both pages) into your family history collection.  But here’s an important hint.  FS doesn’t automatically put .jpg at the end of the file name, so you have to do it manually.  If you forget, the image won’t open on your computer, but you can right-click and “rename” the file to add .jpg later, to view the record.  To go back to the first card, click the left arrow in the upper right corner of the FS pane.  To go back to the list, use the “Back” arrow in your Internet Browser.

Something you should know about these images: some are the actual birth, death, or marriage records.  But some, particularly the VT and NH index cards, are just that – cards created from the original town clerk records.  So to get the originals, you still may need to contact the town clerk – but at least you now know what town to contact. 

So you’ve gone through all the states, and found all the records for your family.  Here’s another quick tip for finding what’s new.  From the main page, scroll down and click on the USA/Canada/Mexico button.  When you get the alphabetical list, go to the right column where it says “last updated”.  Click on those words, and the list will sort itself with the newest records on top.  If you want to go back to alphabetical, click on the “Title”.


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