Monday, August 17, 2015

Find Unique Ancestral Records on FamilySearch

FamilySearch offers so many records on its site, it is easy for users to quickly35 develop a research ‘rut’ in their minds and never fully address the wealth of information it offers.

I hadn’t considered the fact that students in my classes and support groups were using all the search tools on FamilySearch until FamilySearch included a simple “Find” tab on their site.   The word “Find” in this case is deceptively simple when compared to the search power it brings into play.

The power of Find is so great is because FamilySearch applies the “Find” search on the “Find photos and stories” to all of the user submitted images, documents and stories in FamilySearch Tree.  

When I’ve explained this to people, they respond by saying, “So?”  “Why is that such a big deal?”    The answer is that it’s an immense “deal” because users of Tree are now submitting a significant number of these types of attachments to the records of their family in Tree and the level of participation is growing almost exponentially. 

When we make these attachments of our photos, stories and documents, we are almost exclusively adding information about the related person that we have personally vetted, meaning that no matter how good the search algorithm is written and used by any company, the human mind is still significantly better in identifying and validating the data in its relationship to a specific person.   

It doesn’t matter what the “Find” search results contain, because in almost every case the results belong to the person for whom you have searched or a person with the exact same name if you have wrapped your search terms in the Boolean operator of quote marks (“ “).

I won’t dwell on the “I wish great grandma had a more distinctive name than “Elizabeth Smith” argument because I’d get more refined search results, but at least we are getting results in this case from person records on Tree which have attachments that actually belong to an “Elizabeth Smith” and her record includes details that identify her specifically.   Users of Tree have already filtered the attachments to the correct Elizabeth Smith.  She may not be our Elizabeth but she is one of the significantly fewer Elizabeth Smiths in Tree because users have filtered the rest out of our results by not attaching anything to their respective records. 

That will change over time as more images, documents and stories are added to Tree by users but even then the results are linked to the “exact” person they claim to represent.

Let’s look at a search query on FamilySearch “Find photos and stories” for one of my ancestors without using the Boolean operators of quote marks.   Her name is Rosa Clara Friedlander Logie.  The unfiltered search term told the search engine to include each name as a unique term and to bring back the results for each of her names.   Thus, the results show 16,538 items in Tree that match at least one of those names.




Now, let’s add quotes around grandma’s name:  “Rosa Clara Friedlander Logie” and do the search again.   I’m lucky in that grandma’s name is quite unique, so all 6 of the results belong to her.  But even if there were dozens of Rosa Clara Friedlander Logie’s in Tree, it wouldn’t take me long to click on the results to determine which of them is my Rosa and once I have identified her record on Tree, I only have to click on the memories tab to see all of the other attachments.   Which as I noted earlier, have already been vetted by someone else (or maybe myself and I’ve forgotten about it) as being correct and attached to the correct person record in Tree.




I love this search tool because of the high value results it can contain.  It will also include any recordings that may be attached to our ancestors record as well.  If the recording includes the actual voice of an ancestor, few of us can be restrained from pumping our fist in the air and exclaiming, “Score!”

When we add these often very unique records to the huge number of church, government, website and other records that are found on FamilySearch, our chances of ancestral quest success is very high.

The main page of FamilySearch contains a tab called “Search”.  Mouse over it for a drop down list of the main types of collections on FamilySearch that are available from that position on the site.




While you are exploring, be sure to visit the FamilySearch Obituaries page.  The number of obituaries being added to the obituaries collection on FamilySearch is already immense and will continue to grow almost unabatedly for the foreseeable future.

We all know that obituaries often contain genealogy “gold” because of the amount of genealogy related data that are included in them.  Perhaps we’ll hear you exclaim “Score” too when you find the obituary of someone in your own extended family in the collection.

If you haven’t taken time to explore the depth of the FamilySearch and FamilySearch Tree sites in the past few months, do so now.   It’s already the most resource rich site in existence and its growth continues seemingly unabated thanks to resources dedicated to supporting it by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the hosts of volunteers who index, add their own records and generally support the subscription free FamilySearch site for the benefit of all users worldwide.

Posted 17 August 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog