Saturday, February 22, 2014

Using The FamilySearch Wiki To Find Ancestral Records

Family History research tests our knowledge of research methods, tools and resources.  WeFamilySearch_Wiki_Logo sometimes think we know where to look for information about our ancestors only to find that the sources contain little if any information.

How do we know where to look next?

Fortunately, there is an excellent resource called the FamilySearch Wiki that contains 77,000+ articles related to genealogy research tools, links and tips.

If you have ever looked at Wikipedia, you know how to use the FamilySearch Wiki.  Both are based on the same software, each with their own unique ‘skin’ or look.

Here are some examples of how to use the site to find information about an ancestor.  I’ll use, Eli Farrar, one of my ancestors from Yorkshire, England as the target person.

Birth Record

I want to find when and where he was born in Yorkshire. I know that two of his sons who immigrated to America were born there so I’ll guess that he was too.  Based on the birth years of his sons, I’ll guess that he was born around 1797.

In the search frame on the Wiki, I entered:  England, Yorkshire, Births  The information on the site is organized by the largest political subdivision down, hence the reverse entry.  I could have entered the data the other way around and would have received a lot of hits, but because I’m a FamilySearch Missionary that supports the Wiki itself, I know how the system works and used the search words in the order that will result in the most hits.

The results list 1205 links to review.  They are ordered in with the most probable article results at the top of the list.

The top article, Yorkshire BMD, tells me that birth, marriage and death registrations held by the UK Register Offices in Yorkshire extend back to 1837.  So that even my gggrandather, Thomas Farrar, son of Eli, isn’t listed in them because he was born in 1820.  The article goes on to tell how District and Subdistrict were organized so I understand how to apply that knowledge to additional research.  At the bottom of the article, several links take me to additional articles about Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes for the area  and below that are links to three corresponding tables that show each subdistrict specifically with the years they kept records, the district code and where the registers are physically located in the UK.

The next article in the search request gives me additional information about Yorkshire jurisdictions, civil districts and parishes along with links to maps, other articles and even other pages on the web that talk about these and other related topics in Yorkshire.

I continue reviewing the articles until one of them tells me to look at the indexes on FamilySearch for the England Births and Christenings, 1538 - 1975.  When I looked there, I spotted the birth record for Eli. 

name: Eli Farrar
gender: Male
baptism/christening date: 03 Sep 1797
baptism/christening place: SOWERBY NEAR HALIFAX,YORK,ENGLAND
father's name: David Farrar
indexing project (batch) number: J10784-2
system origin: England-ODM
source film number: 990617

I know that this is my ancestor because of other research I’ve done that has narrowed down the search parameters.  They are too lengthy to list here.   His birth record lists his fathers name, so now I have a new research target.  Additionally, I’ll look for other children in the same source that were born in that area to a ‘David Farrar’.   Hopefully, one or more of them will list the name of his wife so I can find her too.

The search for other children resulted in 11 children born to David Farrar.  Several list the mother’s name as ‘Martha’.   What was Martha’s surname?

Marriage Record

I searched through the Yorkshire marriage records on FamilySearch and found this entry:

Groom's Name: David Farrar
Bride's Name: Martha Hemmingway
Marriage Date: 15 Jan 1794
Marriage Place: Halifax,York,England
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M00749-3
System Origin: England-ODM
Source Film Number: 990597
Collection: England Marriages, 1538– 1973

Great!  Now I know grandma’s name too!  The quest continues as look for their parents.  I also got their names and the names of their children approved for temple work knowing that I have solid information to support their respective names, dates, birth and marriage locations.

The articles on the Wiki have also given me a great deal of insight and knowledge about further research in Yorkshire and England in general.  They cover a wide ranging series of topics from the conversion numbers of old microfilm rolls at the Family History Library to the contents and locations of many branch libraries around the world.

The articles were and are written by folks from all over the world who are willing to share their research knowledge, tips and links with the rest of us.  You can write articles for the Wiki too.  In fact, you are encouraged to share your subject matter expertise with the rest of us via an article or articles you post on the Wiki.

When you sign in using your regular FamilySearch credentials, you’ll be allowed to start writing.  Wiki Support personnel will follow behind you and vet the accuracy of your articles, links, etc., and will help clean up formatting, linking and other issues that may exist.   Take the Wiki for a spin.  I’m confident that you’ll be delighted with this tool.