October 23, 2016

FamilySearch Indexing in Another Language: A Call to Arms

According to an article on the FamilySearch blog, 90% of all indexed records on FamilySearch are those for English-speaking countries. While this is super exciting for me and my family tree, many of my friends are unable to trace their family histories past their great-grandparents. Why? Because the records in their native country have been digitized, but not indexed.FamilySearch indexing international records

FamilySearch Indexing in These Easy Steps

I have been indexing at FamilySearch for years and you can join me! Just follow these simple steps:

  • Go to www.familysearch.org.
  • Sign-in and click on Indexing and choose Overview fromFamilySearch indexing icon the pull-down menu.
  • Click on Get Started, which will direct you to the Get Started page. You will need to download the indexing program directly to your device.
  • From your desktop, open the FamilySearch Indexing program by clicking on the icon.
  • Sign-in again and click Download Batch at the top left corner.
  • Choose a project to work on.

If you feel you need some further instruction, watch these helpful videos below:

FamilySearch Indexing: How to Start

FamilySearch Indexing Training: Video 1

FamilySearch Indexing in Another Language

FamilySearch indexing French records

Training for French Language

FamilySearch is looking for three kinds of people:

  • Fluent, native speakers of non-English languages living in their native county or in an English-speaking country.
  • People who have extensive training in a non-English language.
  • English speakers who are willing to learn how to index specific types of non-English records.

I know what you are thinking…you hardly passed French 101 in high school! But, you can do it.

There was recently a very successful Italian indexing training initiative in the U.S. It more than doubled the worldwide number of individuals working on Italian records. You can be a part of the growing need for French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese record sets.

Training guides and videos have been created for the French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian languages. As we accomplish the work for these places, FamilySearch will add more languages. The videos and guides will help volunteers to learn how to index specific types of records. Click here to learn about this language learning initiative and to get started.

What Else Can You Do for FamilySearch Indexing?

If you have friends or family who are fluent in another language, ask them to join you. Share this post with your friends on Twitter and Facebook to get the word out. Does your teen need some service hours for graduation, Girl/Boy Scouts, or other organization? This is a unique service project that even teens can do and that will be meaningful to many.Facebook_Logo

We would love to hear your stories of successes in indexing. Leave a comment below or post to our Genealogy Gems Facebook page.

More Gems on Indexing

Volunteer Gem: He Indexed Milwaukee Journal Obituaries Himself!

Want to Help Index De-Classified CIA Records?

FamilySearch Indexing Event July 2016 – 72,000 Global Volunteers Wanted

familysearch indexing event for the worldThe FamilySearch indexing event is coming up in July! It is a rewarding volunteer activity for yourself or your family. Here’s how to participate in this event–and how to get started indexing genealogy records for FamilySearch.

You may have heard a lot of people talk about indexing, but have no idea what it is. In a nutshell, indexing is when a person views a digital image of a record and then types (abstracts or transcribes) the information they see. For example, if you were indexing Ohio birth records, you would see an entire page of a birth ledger.

Then, you would read the lines and type the name, date of birth, sex, and parents’ names into a spreadsheet that is provided to you. Now, the Ohio birth records are searchable by name, date, and other criteria. This is a great help for researchers all over the world and anyone can easily find the records they need without the hassle of traveling or ordering microfilm.

familysearch indexing event of Ohio birth recordJoin the FamilySearch Indexing Event

This year’s FamilySearch indexing event will be held Friday, July 15th through Sunday, July 17th. The goal is for 72,000 people all around the world to come together and index at least one batch of records during that 72 hour period.

To participate, go to www.familysearch.org and sign-in. If you haven’t created an account, go ahead and do that now. It is free and you don’t have to worry about spam email and unwanted solicitations.

Next, click on Indexing at the top right of the screen and choose Overview from the pull-down menu.

step one of familysearch indexing event

You are directed to a new screen. Now, this next step is important. In the near future, you will be able to participate in browser-based indexing. However, it is not available right now. Instead, you will need to download the indexing program to your computer by clicking Get Started.

You will see the Download Indexing button. Go ahead and click it. The program is free. Follow the directions and then open the program on your device.

You will need to sign-in again, then click on Download Batch at the top left corner of the screen. A pop-up window will appear with a list of projects that need to be indexed. Scroll through and find one that interests you. You might notice that there is a project name, description, level, and points column. The project name and description are self-explanatory. The level indicates how difficult the records might be to index. You can choose projects that are listed for beginners, intermediates, or advanced. The points column is also based on the difficulty level. Points are adjusted for degree of difficulty (since some projects are much more challenging than others.) All records receive at least one point, but more difficult indexing projects may give anywhere from two to ten points per record. Points provide a way for you to track your personal indexing contribution to FamilySearch as well.

familysearch indexing event projects

Once you have completed indexing your batch, you will be prompted to run a review. This is just a way to make sure you didn’t forget anything or make a typing error. Now that the batch is reviewed, return your batch by clicking File and choosing Submit from the pull-down list. Congratulations! You have completed indexing your first batch!

Join the FamilySearch Indexing Community

For even more support and tips in your indexing endeavors, you can “Like” the FamilySearch Indexing Facebook Page and for a quick and easy overview of why the FamilySearch indexing event is important, watch the video below.

Share this fun project with your friends and family. We hope that many of you will join us as we make this indexing event one for the record books!

Volunteers neededMore Genealogy Volunteering Gems

Volunteer Gem: He Indexed Milwaukee Journal Obituaries Himself!

Want to Help Index De-Classified CIA Records? National Archives Citizen Archivist Projects

Help Index Old Maps: British Library and David Rumsey

Browse Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

browse only databasesBrowse only databases at FamilySearch are easy to use and may hold the key to the genealogy brick wall you have been working on. Don’t be scared off because the records haven’t been indexed. Let us show you how to take advantage of these great records!

Each week, we bring you our We Dig These Gems! New and Updated Genealogy Records series. Sometimes, we include FamilySearch databases that are not yet indexed. These collections are referred to as browse only. Have you been disappointed when you realize the database you are most interested in is only able to be browsed?


Browse Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

You may be thinking, “Good grief! I can’t possibly browse thousands of records!” and we don’t expect you to.

Browse Only Databases are Easy to Find

Most of us search for genealogy records at FamilySearch by typing in some key information at the home page.

How to Browse Database

When you use this method, you are only searching for records that have been indexed. In other words, there may be thousands of records you want on the site, but you won’t find them. They have not been indexed by a searchable name. Instead, you need to go in the virtual “back door.”

Let’s imagine you want to search probate records in Auglaize County, Ohio. You would click the little map in the vicinity of the United States and choose “Ohio” from the pop-up box.

How to Browse Database

At the Ohio research page, you could do a general search of the Ohio collections. Again, this is only searching records that have been indexed. Instead, scroll down until you see “Ohio Image Only Historical Records.” Look at all these databases you might have missed!

For our example, continue to scroll down until you see the database titled “Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996” near the bottom. Click on it.


You will notice right away that there is no way to “search” this database. Many people give up at this point, after all, who has time to search nearly 7,000,000 records. Click on it anyway!


The next screen has been broken down by county name. Choose the county name “Auglaize.” You are then directed to a page listing the volumes of records for Auglaize county that have been digitized.

Bonds, settlements, wills, estates, and so much more! It is as if you are standing in the courthouse probate office surrounded by volumes and volumes of records you need. Pick the volume you want to search by clicking the title.


“Open” the pages of the book and search like you would as if you were flipping the pages of a book or scrolling through a roll of microfilm.


Friends, we want you to get excited about all the new records that are coming online, even if they are browse only databases. Share this tip with your genie friends and for more tips and tricks to help you in your genealogy journey, sign-up for our newsletter by entering your email address on this page.

More Genealogy Gems on Records and Databases at FamilySearch

We Dig these Gems! New Records for Australia, Philippines, and Iowa and Indiana

We Dig these Gems! New Records for California, England, Australia, and Italy

Using the U.S. Public Records Index for Genealogy

The Secret to Pairing FamilySearch and Pinterest for Family History

Pinterest for family history link pins to FamilySearch treeFamilySearch Family Tree plus Pinterest for family history adds up to cousin bait like you’ve never seen. Here’s a little-known technique to utilize both sites together for great results.

There is a little known secret: Pinterest and FamilySearch Family Tree can work together to reel in new cousin connections.

Pinterest is a free, online bulletin board where you can collect content that you find on the web. It’s a kick-back to the old days when we found pictures of our favorite home decor or recipes and tore out the pages of the magazine. Do you remember doing that? No longer do we need to tear out pages and file pictures and articles of our favorite things in old binders. You can use Pinterest to keep all of your items organized and accessible at the click of the mouse.

Pinterest is not a piece of software or something you download. All you need to do is go to www.pinterest.com and sign-up using your email or Facebook to create a free account.


FamilySearch Family Tree works similarly with their “Memories” section. The Memories section allows users to collect and store family photos, documents, stories, and even audio. But that is just the beginning! Pinterest provides you with a way to put these items to work for you. Photos, documents, and stories you post on a FamilySearch memories page can be pinned to your Pinterest board.

Why is this so groundbreaking, you ask? When potential cousins Google your common ancestor, the list of results will include your Pinterest board, like the search example below that finds my own Pinterest pins:

Pinterest for family history google search results

Then, when they click that great photo of grandma or the WWII story of great-grandpa on Pinterest, they are automatically directed back to your FamilySearch Family Tree where they can see your pedigree chart…for FREE!

(You don’t need an account to see, use, or search within the FamilySearch Family Tree. If you were to try this technique using images you have uploaded to a subscription site such as Ancestry, those clicking from Pinterest would simply land on the log-in page to Ancestry. Without a paid subscription, they go nowhere. How frustrating!)

How to Connect Your FamilySearch Family Tree with Pinterest Pins

1. If you haven’t already set up a Pinterest account, you will need to do that first.
2. Create a board specifically for the purpose of family history. I chose to create a board for each of the surnames that I’m actively researching. I would love to make some connections with other genealogists on these! “Bowser Family of Clark County, Ohio” and “Cole Family of Lee County, Virginia” are two examples. (Notice, I added a county name and state. I wanted to be sure I attracted people who searched by surname and/or place name.) Do not add any pictures to your boards yet.

Pinterest_CousinBait_4 pinterest for family history
3. Create or log in to your free FamilySearch Family Tree with names and dates of your ancestors.
4. Click on an ancestor for whom you want to add a memory. At the “Person” page, click on “Memories” near the top. This will take you to the memory page where you will upload the photos, documents, and so forth for your specific ancestor.

Pinterest_CousinBait_2 pinterest for family history

5. Add a title and an accurate, thorough caption. An example of a title might be a full name or a story title like: “When Her Baby Died.” A caption needs to include more details: “Lillie Amanda West, Clark County, Ohio. Wife of George Henry Bowser and daughter of Edmund West and Lavina Wilson. Picture taken ca. 1897.”

6. Once you have uploaded everything you wish with your titles and captions, go back to the FamilySearch Memories gallery page by simply clicking on “Memories” again. If you hover your cursor over a picture, document, or story you uploaded, a little “Pin It” box will pop up. (Important Note: FamilySearch reviews all items uploaded to the Memories section for inappropriate content. Because of this, you may have to wait a few minutes before your items are able to be pinned.) Now, click “Pin It” and follow the prompts to pin the item to the Pinterest board of your choice. You will need to copy and paste or create a new caption for your pin. Click the little pen below the picture to edit the caption. (Remember, this caption will be what you want to be Google-searchable, so pack it with names and words that you think your long-lost cousins might type into the Google search box when searching for those ancestors. (Need help with Google search terms? Lisa Louise Cooke’s book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd Edition is your go-to resource.)

Pinterest_CousinBait_3 pinterest for family history

Cousin connections often bring to light new and exciting pieces of your family’s story. Try using Pinterest and FamilySearch Family Tree today as cousin bait to find long-lost family members anywhere in the world.

mason_jar_custom_15822More Gems for Pinterest for Family History

Lisa Louise Cooke’s Pinterest Board: Family History Craft Projects

The Sears Catalog is On Ancestry.com: Use Images in Your Family History

Use Pinterest for Family Reunion or Wedding Ideas

The Power and Preservation of Oral History

tribal quest oral historyHow can you preserve a family’s history when it exists only in the memories of tribal storytellers? Visit the tribe and capture its oral history, as MyHeritage is doing with its Tribal Quest initiative.

MyHeritage recently announced a new global initiative to record and preserve the family histories of tribal people living in remote locations around the world.

Their first project is in Namibia. Next they plan to move on to Papua New Guinea. Check it out in this brief video:

MyHeritage is even recruiting volunteers who want to travel to these places and help out. You can learn more at TribalQuest.org.

FamilySearch published an article a few years ago about similar work they’ve done in several African nations. “Most African tribes have a designated ‘storyteller’ who is responsible to memorize the tribe’s oral traditions, including names of ancestors going back six to thirty generations,” it says. “FamilySearch works with chiefs and local volunteers to visit these storytellers and record the information they have been charged to remember in their heads. Sometimes the interview is audio or video recorded.” FamilySearch enters what they learn into a GEDCOM (the universal family tree file format) and put it on FamilySearch.org for others to use.

How far have YOU gone to capture your family’s oral history? Probably not to a remote tribal home! Why not use the resources below to help you with your next oral history project?

More Oral History Gems

ancestors have so much to say oral historyRecord and Share Oral History with Free MyHeritage App

Easy Family History Writing Project: Publish a Q&A (Oral History)

Premium Podcast 134: Lisa’s Tips for Recording Oral History Interviews on Your Mobile Device (Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription required)



New Videos Can Help You Find African-American Family History in Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch has posted a series of new videos aimed at helping people trace their African-American family history with Freedmen’s Bureau records.

Marriage records created by the Freedmens' Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Marriage records created by the Freedmens’ Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

FamilySearch’s YouTube channel has published several new videos to help researchers better understand how to trace African-American ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau records. As we explain more fully in this article, the Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed and posted online for free at FamilySearch and at DiscoverFreedmen.org. (Read the article we refer to above to see how you can help.) Now it’s time to teach everyone how to USE these records and to begin to share success stories. That’s the purpose behind these videos:

Telling a Story with the Freedmen’s Bureau with the Reverend Dr. Cecil L. Murray:

Research the Records of African-American Ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau with Kimberly Freeman:

Uncover Information about your African American Heritage wih the Freedmen’s Bureau with Judy Matthews:

Discover Stories from Your Ancestry with Insights from the Freedmen’s Bureau Project with John Huffman:

Use Freedmen’s Bureau Records to Demystify Your Family History with George O. Davis

Enrich Your Family History with Information from the Freedmen’s Bureau with Ambassador Diane Watson

Additional Resources

Free Database on Civil War Soldiers and Sailors  (African-American sailors)

Missing Birth Record? Here’s How to Track It Down (Special tip for African-American births)

DNA Helps Scientists Identify Homeland of Caribbean Slaves

New! Map for Freedmen’s Bureau Resources

thank you for sharingWho do you know that will want to learn more about the Freedmen’s Bureau and African-American family history resources? Thank you for sharing this article with them.

Update Now! RootsMagic Update for FamilySearch Compatibility

Rootsmagic upgradeIf you use RootsMagic to work with FamilySearch Family Tree, you must install a RootsMagic update (version to continue working with it after July 30, 2015!

FamilySearch will be making changes to its own site on July 30, 2015. These changes require RootsMagic to change their own code a little, so RootsMagic users can stay fully compatible with FamilySearch Family Tree.

Here’s the scoop from a RootsMagic press release:

“If you are running RootsMagic 7…. If you haven’t already downloaded the update, look for the “Update Available” indicator in the lower right corner of your RootsMagic 7 program screen, and click on it.  You will then be able to continue working with FamilySearch Family Tree as if nothing has changed.

If you are running RootsMagic 6….To continue working with FamilySearch through RootsMagic, you have 2 options:

  1. Order the upgrade to RootsMagic 7 [it’s $19.95] OR
  2. Download the free RootsMagic 7 Essentials and install it (leave your RM6 installed as well). RootsMagic 6 and 7 have the same file format, so you can switch back and forth between them with your same database. You can use all the features in your paid RM6, and use RM7 Essentials when you need to work with FamilySearch Family Tree.

For the full scoop on what’s new with this update, click here. Please share this important post with other RootsMagic users!

Read these articles next for more on RootsMagic:

Best Family History Software (And Why Use It!)

Why I Use RootsMagic Family History Software

Free RootsMagic Magic Guides

Free Support for RootsMagic Users

RootsMagic + MyHeritage = Heritage Magic!


Join the Family History Relay Race: FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event

FS Worldwide Indexing Event 2015The FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event: It’s like a big, happy relay race for family historians: a display of skill with record-setting accomplishments and the coming together of a community for a cause.

Last year, 66,511 FamilySearch indexers helped set a new record for the most people indexing in a 24-hour period. Their efforts resulted in more than 5.7 million records being processed in a single day!

This year, we encourage you to participate in FamilySearch’s Worldwide Indexing Event from August 7-14, 2015. “You have one week to participate by indexing at least one batch in the language of your choice,” said FamilySearch in an invitation to current indexers. “If you are fluent in French, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish-our focus languages for 2015-please help index records in one of those languages. Let’s help our friends in other countries to find their ancestors too! All it takes is one batch indexed sometime during the week to be counted.” (Special training is available.)

I’ve learned that indexing for others feels great, but I get something out of it, too. I use indexing to become more familiar with different record types, like naturalization records, border crossings or church registers (my favorite record type) from different places or time periods. I become better at reading old handwriting and picking out genealogical details from old documents–great skills that help me in my own research!

Last year, more than 18,000 new indexers joined the fun during the 24-hour challenge. Why not do the same this year? Click here to learn more about FamilySearch volunteer indexing or read the articles below to learn about other indexing opportunities out there.


how to start a genealogy blogFind Your Ancestor in Freedmen’s Bureau Records–Or Help Others Do the Same

Want to Help Index De-Classified CIA Records?

Volunteer Gem: He Indexed Milwaukee Journal Obituaries Himself


Find Your Ancestors in Freedmen’s Bureau Records–or Help Others Do the Same

freedmens bureau announcementThe more I learn about U.S. history and records, the more I appreciate the challenges faced by those researching their African-American roots. In addition to the emotional toll of learning about their ancestors’ hardships, today’s researchers face the practical challenges of finding kin in records that mostly ignored their existence.

That’s why I’m super excited that the Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed. Scattered records are already transcribed (see the Freedmen’s Bureau Online). But there hasn’t been a comprehensive index of its 1.5 million state field agency documents. These include military pensions, marriage records, property claims, hospital records, trial summaries, labor contracts, school rolls, registers and censuses. Many of the four million African-Americans freed from slavery are mentioned, as are many white Southerners.

FamilySearch indexers began quietly indexing Freedmen’s Bureau records in 2009: the state of Virginia’s records are already searchable. Last week, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday (which celebrates emancipation), FamilySearch issued a call to action. They asked for help indexing the rest of the Freedmen’s Bureau within the year.

“Records, histories and stories will be available on DiscoverFreedmen.org,” says a release. “Additionally, the records will be showcased in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and expected to open in late 2016.”

freedmens bureau infographicHere’s a quick history lesson: The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

The richest genealogical records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are in the field office records of each state. Click here to download a PDF from the National Archives about these original records.

Find more tips on finding African-American and other Southern U.S. ancestors here on the Genealogy Gems website. Recent posts include:

sign up newsletterReceive a heads-up about posts like these–and get a free e-book on Google searching for genealogy–when you subscribe to the free Genealogy Gems newsletter in the upper right corner of this webpage or our home page.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 180 is Ready!

podcast logo 180The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 has been published!  Click here to enjoy an episode about big names, like Ancestry and Google and FamilySearch. And big numbers, like the possible price tag for Ancestry at auction, AND small numbers, like the small price of a new handheld computer.

In this episode, we’re also talking about researching on road trip tips, an important online Civil War database, a leading Canadian digital archive and EXCLUSIVE tips for using FamilySearch’s free digitized book collection, which now tops 200,000 titles. Because we’ve gotten so much demand for it, we’re also sharing tips for backing up your data at Ancestry–not just your tree but your sources and DNA, too.

Nathan Goodwin logoThis month we also feature a meaty excerpt from our interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist). (Premium subscribers can catch the full interview in Premium episode 124, to be published soon.) He tells us how he got started. We talk about the plot and characters and the challenges of creating genealogical mysteries with dangerous consequences for the present and more!

Mixed in with all this news and how-tos is an assorted cast of listeners-with-questions and an inspiring story about long-lost siblings reunited by radio. Enjoy!