How to Navigate the FamilySearch Wiki (and find what you need!)

Show Notes: The FamilySearch Wiki is like an encyclopedia of genealogy! It’s an invaluable free tool that every genealogist needs. However, many folks get frustrated when they try to search the Wiki. In this week’s video premiere I’m going to help you navigate with ease.

how to navigate the FamilySearch Wiki

Video and Show Notes below

You’ll learn: 

  • what the Wiki has to offer,
  • how to access the FamilySearch Wiki
  • how to navigate the FamilySearch Wiki effectively
  • and how to overcome the number #1 reason people get frustrated when searching the Wiki!

Watch the Video 

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout  (Premium Membership required)

How to Access the FamilySearch Wiki

(00:42) There are two ways to access the FamilySearch Wiki. The first is to visit the website direction at https://www.familysearch.org/wiki. This will take you to the home page of the Wiki. Although you can sign into your free FamilySearch account on this page (in the upper right corner) it isn’t necessary in order to use it.

The second way to access the Wiki is to go to the FamilySearch website. You will need to log into your FamilySearch account or sign up for a free account if you don’t already have one. Once you’re signed in, then in the menu under Search click Research Wiki. This will take you to the same FamilySearch Wiki home page. However, you will see that you are signed in and able to use some of the additional features like participating in discussions, posting and creating watchlists.  

FamilySearch Wiki known as Research Wiki

On the FamilySearch website: Search > Research Wiki

Searching the Wiki by Location

(01:21) On the home page, what you see a map of the world. This is a great way to search the Wiki because in genealogy, it’s really all about location. We need to know where geographically we want to search for ancestors, and from there we can narrow down the timeframe. Typically, you’ll have a sense of at least in which country you need to be researching. So, the map is typically the best way to start.

familysearch wiki

The FamilySearch Wiki Home Page

You’ll notice also on the home page, there is a search by place or topic search field. You could bypass using the map, and just start by typing in a place. If you do, you’ll notice that it starts to prompt you on the kinds of things that are commonly searched for. This could be kind of nice if you are really focused on a particular thing such as Italian census records. You can just start typing Italy and see if census is one of the prompts. If it is, simply click it and it will take you right there.

However, generally speaking, the map is the best way to search for records and information that is rooted in a location. Start by clicking the button for the continent, such as North America. Notice that if you go to click on the map itself, it isn’t an interactive map. You’ll need to actually click the button.

From there, select the county from the menu, such as United States, then drill down by state. This will take you to the Wiki entry for that state.

You’ll notice that the FamilySearch Wiki is a lot like Wikipedia. It’s like an encyclopedia of information. But the exciting part is that it’s genealogy specifically! This means you don’t usually have to worry about including the word genealogy in your searches. 

Location-based FamilySearch Wiki Pages

Oftentimes, our research ends up taking us to a new location where the next set of great grandparents came from. If we’re not familiar with that location, let alone familiar with what’s available from a genealogical standpoint, that can pose a real challenge. You might be asking questions like when did they start recording birth records? Or did that state conduct a state census? Every state, every country, and every county has different types of records available.

Start your orientation over on the right-hand side of the wiki page. There you’ll typically find an overview box.

(04:15) This is a great place to quickly see what’s available here, and what you could dig into further. If you’re really new to research in this particular area, you might want to start with the guided research link. You may also see links to research strategies, and a record finder.

In the next section of the box you’ll find record types. This is going to be different depending on the area that you’re researching. For example, if they don’t happen to have any military records available you might not see that listed under record types. You should expect to see the most commonly used records included in the list. Click the link to the page for more information on that type of record. It will provide more details on record availability, and where you access the records.

Further down the box you’ll find links to background information on the area. It’s really easy to skim over this in excitement over records. But if you don’t want to get stuck at a brick wall, getting to know the place that you’re researching can make all the difference. Learning the background of an area can help you prepare the right questions to ask. It can help prevent you from looking for something that doesn’t exist or that wasn’t applicable to that area. You may find links to more reading, gazetteers and maps, migration patterns, periodicals, and the law. Understanding the law is going to help you understand why records were created, and who they affected. For example, if your ancestor was under 18 there might be certain records that don’t apply to them. Understanding the parameters of who was affected by the law will help guide you through the records themselves.

Next you’ll see cultural groups that you might expect to find in this area, and links to more specific information about researching them.

Under Resources you’ll find links to archives, libraries, societies, and the family history centers that are available in this particular area.

At the top of the main part of the page you’ll find the Getting Started section. Here you’ll find links to beginning step-by-step research strategies and some of the most popular records for that location such as vital records.

(08:35) You might be wondering who is putting this information together. Well, it starts with experts at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. These are people who have worked the reference desks and found answers to thousands of patron questions.

Locating and Using the County Wiki Page

(09:22) Back on the state landing page scroll down further to the map of counties. Navigating by location is still important, even when we’ve narrowed it down to the state. Unlike the map on the homepage, you can hover your mouse over each county and click.

Find county page at FamilySearch Wiki

County map on the state wiki page

The county pages are where the real magic happens because many records such as birth, marriage, death, and court records are typically available at the county level. Here you’ll find out how to contact or visit the current county courthouse.

One of the most common questions new genealogists ask is “should I be looking at the county where the town is located today, or the county that it was when my ancestors lived there?” Counties certainly do change over time. The answer to the question is that we go to the county at the time that are ancestors lived in the area. In fact, the Wiki page provides the history, or genealogy, of the county. Look for Boundary Changes on the page.

Because these pages are often quite long and dense, use your computer’s Find on Page feature by pressing Control + F (PC) or Command + F (mac) on your keyboard. This gives you a nice little search box at the top of the page. Type in a keyword like Boundary and it will highlight all the locations on the page where the term appears. This is a great way to make quick use of the Wiki. This is also a good trick to use when you don’t see the record type or keyword that you’re looking for in the page’s table of contents. It may be called something else there, but if you search the page for your keyword, it should find it for you. An example of this is that you may not see Birth Records in the TOC because they list Vital Records. However, in the Vital Records section further down the page they definitely mention birth records.

Finding the Dates that Records Began

(14:45) Here’s another reason the wiki is so helpful, and it makes things go so quickly. Remember, we talked about that location is key, but also timeframe. Well, if we are looking for genealogical records, we don’t want to look for a record in this county before they actually started creating those records. The wiki typically provides a nice little chart on each county page showing then some of the most important civil records such as birth, marriage and death were first created.

How to figure out when birth records started

County record dates at FamilySearch Wiki

Often times civil records began much later than church records. Sometimes you will see an asterisk indicating when statewide registration for these civil records began and then another date indicating when general compliance was enforced. All of this is guiding us to success in finding genealogy records, and it’s saving the headache of investing time looking for records that did not yet exist.

(17:42) Further down the page you’ll find links to places. These may link to town pages on the Wiki, but more likely they will take you to Wikipedia where this information already exists. There will be a small icon indicating that the link will open in a new tab and take you to another website.

Next you’ll likely see a Timeline section which gives you a sense of when the first people settled in the county and who those people were. Again, it provides you more context to better understand the records.

In addition to all these individual records, many of them linked over to FamilySearch, Ancestry or MyHeritage, we see Research Facilities. Why is that so important? Because not all records are going to be online. When we’ve exhausted online records and resources we need to go offline, and there are lots of resources here on the wiki to work with: county archives, family history centers in the local area, libraries, museums, and genealogical societies. The wiki provides contact information and links to their website where you may be able to see a listing of what they have onsite so you can plan your visit.

Other website links may take you sites like USGenWeb which is a fantastic free genealogy website. It’s organized by location much like the FamilySearch wiki website. Drill down to the state and then the county. You may also see links to the State Archive, or the state’s Memory project, and, of course, the FamilySearch catalog.

How to Overcome the #1 Search Problem

(22:01) The wiki really should be one of your first stops when you’re going to be starting research in a new area. Let’s wrap up with a quick conversation about the wiki’s search box. You could go ahead and put a topic in there. Many people will come in here and they’ll type in marriage records, Randolph, County, Indiana, and they will get a list of results. They don’t look as clear cut as Google results, and they may not all be on topic. This is where we can get lost. I think probably the number one reason why people give up on the wiki is they get these kinds of search results. They realize, wait a second, this isn’t even Indiana, it’s talking about Kentucky! Why am I getting all these? It can be frustrating.

familysearch wiki search results

The wrong way to search at the FamilySearch Wiki

This happens because we tried to do it ourselves, with our own keywords. Remember, like most search engines, they’ve indexed their content to make it searchable, so that means they’ve already decided how they want to talk about a particular topic. Rather than just addressing marriage record first, the wiki focuses on the location. Where is this marriage record? So, focus first on the place unless you are just looking for general information on a general genealogy topic such as genealogy software.  

Pay attention to the pre-filled suggestions as you type because the wiki is going to suggest what it has in the format it has it. Again, you may want to first go to the country, state or county level page and then look for the record type.

What if you’re looking for marriage records but you don’t see them listed? Well, it might be that the word marriage isn’t the keyword the wiki uses. Or it might be that the type of record you’re looking for is a state or federal record. That’s another reason why the find on page feature (Ctrl + F) is so helpful. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see what you want listed in the table of contents. It may just be a keyword issue. Let the work that they’ve already done in organizing their materials guide you. You’ll be more successful and also avoid frustration. The FamilySearch Wiki is just too good of a resource to miss.

Learn more about using Family Search at Genealogy Gems

Videos at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel:

Visit the Genealogy Gems website.  There you’ll find videos, articles and podcast episodes and you can sign up for my free weekly email newsletter. 

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

 

Episode 145 – Blast From the Past Episodes 5 and 6

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In this episode I’ve got another blast from the past for you.  We have reached deep into the podcast archive and retrieved episodes 5 and 6.

In Episode 5 we touch on using the video website YouTube for genealogy, and then I walk you through how to Bring Sites Back From the Dead with Google. Then we wrap things up with a cool little way to Spice Up Your Genealogy Database.

In episode 6 I have a gem for you called Cast a Shadow on Your Ancestors, and we cover the free genealogy website US GenWeb

Episode: # 05
Original Publish Date:  March 25, 2007

MAILBOX

Email this week from   Mike O’Laughlin of the Irish Roots Cafe: “Congratulations on your podcast!  I am sure it will help many folks out there. I was glad to see the fine Irish families of Scully and Lynch on your latest show notes!”

GEM:  You Tube Follow Up
Note: The Genealogy Tech Podcast is no longer published or available.

  • YouTube in the news – the concern was raised by Viacom this month about YouTube benefiting from their programming without compensating them, which could mean copyright infringement.  While the course of YouTube could change depending on the outcome of this suit, the attraction for family historians remains strong because of the nature of the content.
  • Software mentioned:
    Pinnacle.  Final Cut for MAC.  Limits with Movie Maker
  • I posted 2 videos – A Nurse In Training Part 1 & 2

Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel  Click the Subscribe button to receive notification of new videos

 

GEM:  Bring Sites Back From the Dead with Google                                                    

When you get a “File Not Found” error when clicking on a link, it doesn’t mean the information is always gone forever.  You may be able to find it in the Cache version.

Google takes a snapshot of each page it examines and caches (stores) that version as a back-up. It’s what Google uses to judge if a page is a good match for your query.  In the case of a website that no longer exists, the cache copy us a snapshot of the website when it was still active hidden away or cached. 

Practically every search result includes a Cached link. Clicking on that link takes you to the Google cached version of that web page, instead of the current version of the page. This is useful if the original page is unavailable because of:

1.      Internet congestion

2.      A down, overloaded, or just slow website – Since Google’s servers are typically faster than many web servers, you can often access a page’s cached version faster than the page itself.

3.      The owner’s recently removing the page from the Web

 

Sometimes you can even access the cached version from a site that otherwise require registration or a subscription. 

 

If Google returns a link to a page that appears to have little to do with your query, or if you can’t find the information you’re seeking on the current version of the page, take a look at the cached version.

 

Hit the Back button and look for a link to a “cached” copy at the end of the URL at the end of the search result. Clicking on the “cached” link should bring up a copy of the page as it appeared at the time that Google indexed that page, with your search terms highlighted in yellow.

 

If you don’t see a cached link, it may have been omitted because the owners of the site have requested that Google remove the cached version or not cache their content.  Also, any sites Google hasn’t indexed won’t have a cache version.

 

Limit:  If the original page contains more than 101 kilobytes of text, the cached version of the page will consist of the first 101 Kbytes (120 Kbytes for pdf files).

 

Really looking for an oldie but a goody?  Try the Wayback Machine

It allows you to browse through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.

To start surfing the Wayback, type in the web address of a site or page where you would like to start, and press enter. Then select from the archived dates available. The resulting pages point to other archived pages at as close a date as possible. Keyword searching is not currently supported.

GEM:  Spice up your database

  • Search Google Images, then Right click and save to your hard drive.
  • Use Silhouettes
  • Find something that represents what you do know about that person.  It really does help you see them more as a person and less as an entry in your database – their occupation, a reader, a sport, etc.

Episode: # 06
Original Publish Date: April 1, 2007

You can learn more about Jewish roots at the 350 Years of American Jewish History website JewishGen, The Home of Jewish Genealogy

GEM:  Cast a Shadow on Your Ancestors

In the episode #5 I shared a little gem that would spice up your genealogical database – adding silhouettes and artistic images to the file of an ancestor when you don’t have a photograph.

Probably the most famous silhouette these days are the silhouettes used by Apple for advertising the iPod digital music and audio player.  It may surprise your teenager or grandchild to learn that the first silhouettes were done hundreds of years ago.

Back then silhouettes (or shades as they were called), they paintings or drawings of a person’s shadow. They were popular amongst English royalty and the art form quickly spread to Europe.  A silhouette can also be cut from black paper, and was a simple alternative for people who could not afford other forms of portraiture, which, in the eighteenth century, was still an expensive proposition.

The word took its name from Étienne de Silhouette, but it’s uncertain as to whether his name was attributed because he enjoyed this art form, or as the story goes because the victims of his taxes complained that they were reduced to mere shadows.

Either way, the popularity of Silhouettes hit new heights in the United States where they were seen in magazines, brochures and other printed material. But they faded from popularity as Photographs took over in the 1900s.

As a follow up, I want to share with you a simple technique for creating your own silhouettes. You can use ordinary snapshots to create a visual family record.

  • Take a photo of a person in profile against a neutral background. 
  • Blanket the photo background with white acrylic or tempera paint
  • Fill in the image with a heavy black permanent marker, curing the shoulders down for a classical pose. 
  • Add fun details like cowlicks, eyelashes, hats, and jewelry that express the person’s personality with a fine felt-tip pen.
  • Photocopy the doctored photos onto quality art paper.  Since glossy papers work print best, you could also use your computer scanner to scan the image into your hard drive.  From there you can add it to your database, or print it out onto glossy photo paper for mounting.

To represent folks in your family tree, create a silhouette of your father to represent his Great Great Grandfather, and add a farmer’s hat and rake to represent his profession of farming.  Chances are dad has inherited some of his profile anyway.  Have fun with it and be creative.  But of course be very sure to label to silhouette appropriately as a creative interpretation rather than a literal rendering.

You can also do silhouettes of your family including extended family and arrange the portraits together on a wall.  Use black painted frames in a variety of shapes and sizes and hang in a way that represents the family tree / relationships.

Check out the Art Café Network website for a Short History of Silhouettes by Katherine Courtney.

For More detailed how-to information, they have additional pages on cutting visit http://artcafenetwork.net/meet/kat/silhouette/cutting.html

2 Silhouette books to turn to:

Silhouettes%20:%20Rediscovering%20the%20Lost%20Art<img%20src=”http:/www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=genegemspodc-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0970115105″%20width=”1″%20height=”1″%20border=”0″%20alt=””%20style=”border:none%20!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;”%20/>%20″ >Silhouettes: Rediscovering the Lost Art

by Kathryn K. Flocken

Old-Fashioned Silhouettes (Dover Electronic Clip Art) (CD-ROM and Book)

 

GEM:  GenWeb Pages

Last year the website celebrated its 10th Anniversary.  The USGenWeb Project consists of a group of volunteers working together to provide Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. The Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free access for everyone. Organization within the website is by state and county.

You can go to the homepage of the website and click on the state of your choice from the left hand column.  From the state page you can select the county you wish to search in.  However, when I know they name of the county I want to search in,  I’ve found it’s often quicker just to search at google.com and do a search like  “genweb sibley county mn”  The choice is yours. 

Remember to use the Google search gem that I gave you in episode one (see episode #134  http://www.genealogygemspodcast.com/webpage/episode-145-a-blast-from-the-past ) to quickly search within the county website.   Many don’t have search engines of their own, and so that’s when I first really started using that search technique.  These county sites are often very rich though, and after a focused search, it’s rewarding just to wander the site.  It will help you become more familiar with the county!

You’ll likely find databases of Births, Deaths, Marriages, townships histories, plat maps, surnames, and a host of other topics. Because each county has its own volunteer coordinator, the information you will find varies from county to county.  And as always, info is being added regularly, so you need to book mark them and return on a regular basis to see what’s new.

Be sure and share your resources as well.  That’s the power behind the GenWeb project – volunteers.  Volunteering your county resources will enrich other’s experience and will likely lead to connections that will continue to further your own research.

Book Mentioned in this episode:
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Genealogy, Second Edition
by Rhonda McClure

Check out this episode

Episode 194 Free Podcast Episode

The Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke

This blast from the past episode comes from the digitally remastered Genealogy Gems Podcast episodes 11 and 12 (originally recorded in 2007). They are now interwoven with fresh narration and updated show notes.  Topics include: Google Images; Top 10 Tips for finding Graduation Gems in your family history;  Display your family history with an easy to create Decoupage plate.

blast from the past podcast episode

Did you know you can use Google to help identify images, to find more images like them online, and even to track down images that have been moved to a different place online? Find these great Google tech tips in this episode, along with 10 tech-savvy tricks for finding an ancestor’s school records. You will also hear how to create a family history photo decoupage plate: a perfect craft to give as a gift or create with children.

Youtube genealogy tech tip videos reviews

This “blast from the past” episode comes from the digitally remastered Genealogy Gems Podcast episodes 11 and 12 (originally recorded in 2007). They are now interwoven with fresh narration; below you’ll find all-new show notes.

Google Image searches: Updated tips

Click here to watch a short new tutorial video on using Google Images to find images for your genealogy research.

Conduct an initial search using the search terms you want. The Image category (along with other categories) will appear on the screen along with your search results. For images of people: enter name as search term in quotes: “Mark Twain.” If you have an unusual name or if you have extra time to scroll through results, enter the name without quotation marks. Other search terms to try: ancestral place names, tombstone, name of a building (school, church, etc.), the make and model of Grandpa’s car, etc.

Click on one of the image thumbnails to get to a highlight page (shown here) where you can visit the full webpage or view the image. If you click View images, you’ll get the web address.

To retrieve images that no longer appear at the expected URL: Click on View image to get the image URL. Copy the image’s URL (Ctrl+C in Windows) and paste it (Ctrl+V) into your web browser to go to that image’s page. When you click through, you’re back in Web view. The first few search results should be from the website with the image you want. Click on a link that says “cache.” A cached version is an older version of the website (hopefully a version dated before the image was moved or removed). Browse that version of the site to find the image.

NEW Tip: Use Google Chrome to identify an image and find additional images showing the same subject, such as a place, person or subject.

From the Google home page, click Images.

In the Google search box, you’ll see a little camera icon. Click on it.

If you have an image from a website, insert the URL for that image. If you have an image on your computer, click Upload an image. Choose the file you want.

Google will identify the image as best it can, whether a location, person, or object, and it will show you image search results that seem comparable.

Click here to watch a free video tutorial on this topic.

 

GEM: Decoupage a Family Photo Plate

Supply List:

  • Clear glass plate with a smooth finish (available at
    kitchen outlet and craft stores)
  • Sponge craft brush
  • Decoupage glue
  • Fine paper-cutting scissors (Cuticle scissors work well)
  • Small bottle of acrylic craft paint in a color you would like for the back
  • A flat paintbrush
  • Painter’s tape
  • Brush-on clear acrylic varnish for a glossy finish on the back of the plate
  • A selection of photos (including other images that complement the photos)

Assembling your plate:

  1. Lay out your design to fit the plate
  2. Add words if desired. You can draw directly on the copy or print it out and cut it to fit.
  3. Put an even coat of glue on the front of each photo. Don’t worry about brush strokes, but be careful not to go over it too many times which could cause the ink to run.
  4. Apply the photos to the back of the plate, working in reverse order (the first images placed on the plate will be in the foreground of the design). Glue the edges firmly. Turn the plate over to check the placement of images. Smooth using craft brush.
  5. Brush glue over the back of each photo.
  6. Turn the plate around so you can see the image from the front and work out the air bubbles.
  7. Continue to place the images until the entire plate is covered. Let it dry 24 hours.
  8. Use painters’ tape to tape off the edges before you apply the acrylic paint to the back of the plate. Paint the back and let dry. Apply a second coat. Let dry.
  9. Apply an acrylic varnish for a glossy finish on the back. Let dry.

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. And it is in the works for RootsMagic to be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze.com/Lisa, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems.

 

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB

Our current book is Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Follow the story of Mary North, a wealthy young Londoner who signs up for the war effort when the Great War reaches England. Originally assigned as a schoolteacher, she turns to other tasks after her students evacuate to the countryside, but not before beginning a relationship that leads to a love triangle and long-distance war-time romance. As her love interest dodges air raids on Malta, she dodges danger in London driving ambulances during air raids in the Blitz.

This story is intense, eye-opening and full of insights into the human experience of living and loving in a war zone?and afterward. Everyone Brave is Forgiven is inspired by love letters exchanged between the author’s grandparents during World War II.

Video: Chris Cleave on the U.S troops coming to Europe in World War II

Click here for more Genealogy Gems Book Club titles

 

GEM: Top 10 Tips for finding Graduation Gems in your family history

  1. Establish a timeline. Check your genealogy database to figure out when your ancestor would have attended high school or college.
  2. Consult family papers and books. Go through old family papers & books looking for senior calling cards, high school autograph books, journals and diaries, senior portraits, fraternity or sorority memorabilia and yearbooks.
  3. Search newspapers. Look for school announcements, honor rolls, sports coverage, end-of-year activities and related articles. Updated tips and online resources:

Ancestry.com has moved the bulk of its historical newspaper collection to its sister subscription website, Newpapers.com.

Search your browser for the public library website in the town where your ancestor attended school. Check the online card catalogue, look for a local history or genealogy webpage, or contact them to see what newspapers they have, and whether any can be loaned (on microfilm) through interlibrary loan.

Search the Library of Congress’ newspaper website, Chronicling America, for digitized newspaper content relating your ancestor’s school years. Also, search its U.S. Newspaper Directory since 1690 for the names and library holdings of local newspapers.

FamilySearch.org online catalog

Contact local historical and genealogical societies for newspaper holdings.

  1. Consult the websites of U.S. state archives and libraries: click here to find a directory of state libraries
  2. State historical and genealogical societies. In addition to newspapers, state historical and genealogical societies might have old yearbooks or school photograph collections. For example, the Ohio Genealogical Society library has a large (and growing) collection of Ohio school yearbooks. Local historical and genealogical societies may also have school memorabilia collections.
  3. RootsWeb, now at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Check the message board for the county and state you’re looking for. Post a message asking if anyone has access to yearbooks or other school info.

TIP: Use Google site search operator to find mentions of yearbooks on the county page you’re looking at. Add site: to the front of the Rootsweb page for the locale, then the word yearbook after it. For example:

  1. Search for online yearbooks at websites such as:

Yearbookgenealogy.com and the National Yearbook Project, mentioned in the show, no longer exist as such

  1. US GenWeb at www.usgenweb.org. Search on the county website where the school was located. Is there anyone willing to do a lookup? Is there a place to post which yearbooks you’re looking for?
  2. Call the school, if it’s still open. If they don’t have old yearbooks, they may be able to put you in touch with a local librarian or historian who does.

TIP: Go to www.whowhere.com and type the school name in “Business Name.” Call around 4:00 pm local time, when the kids are gone but the school office is still open.

  1. ebay: Do a search on the school or town you’re looking for to see if anyone out there is selling a yearbook that you need. Also search for old photographs or postcards of the school. Here’s my extra trick: From the results page, check the box to include completed listings and email potential sellers to inquire about the books you are looking for.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask ? ebay sellers want to sell!  And if all else fails, set up an ebay Favorite Search to keep a look out for you. Go to and check out Episode #3 for instructions on how to do this.

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

 

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House Photo Identification – How to Find Who Lived at an Address

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 28

Original air date: 10/8/20
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

watch Elevenses with Lisa episode 28

In this episode we’re going to take many of the things we’ve learned in past episode of Elevenses with Lisa and apply them to one of your genealogical problems. My goal isn’t to find the answer myself, but rather to provide a toolbox of strategies that you can use to experience the joy of the discovery yourself when researching a home or location, as well as in a wide variety of other genealogical situations! Keep reading for notes that accompany this episode.

Cynthia Owens is a regular viewer and participant in the Live chat each week during Elevenses with Lisa. She emailed this photo and wrote “This picture was with my mother’s belongings…photo of a house in Omak, Okanogan, Washington with only an address written on it. 308 S. Main, Omak, WA. I have hundreds of photo’s (B & W) that have no information on them and a lot of people who I don’t know.  I have a gold mine and no idea how to mine it.”

Cynthia's photo of a house

The house photo in Cynthia’s family collection.

Cynthia said that so far she has found the names of the last two owners in county records and some directories. She also determined that the house was built in 1928. She writes, “I have a lot of family on both sides of my parents who could have owned it.”

Formulate Your Research Question

The research question in this case boils down to: Who owned the home at 308 S. Main, Omak, WA in the 1930s?

Compile Known Family Names

We start by compiling a list of family surnames that we will be on the lookout for. These are families who are known to have lived in Washington state during that time frame.

Cynthia’s mother’s family names:

  • Woodhead
  • Patience

Cynthia’s father’s family names:

  • Tucker
  • Stubbs
  • Tonks

Answer the Question Does the house still exist today?

To answer this question, we turn to the free Google Earth Pro software. By simply searching the for the address and using Street View we are able to determine that yes, it is. Google Earth also allows us to obtain a high-quality image.

The house in Google Earth's Street View today

The house in Google Earth’s Street View today.

Google for Land Records

I conducted a simple Google search: Okanogan County Land Records

The results:

 

Locating Land Records

Special Guest: Kathy Nielsen, Librarian
Kathy Nielsen is a reference librarian and an educator.   She has a masters degree in History and in Library Science.  Kathy is currently a popular genealogy speaker on  California’s Monterey Peninsula.  She incorporates her skills as an historian, a storyteller and a librarian in her search for her family’s history. Kathy Nielsen stopped by to offer suggestions on obtaining land records. Watch Elevenses with Lisa episode 20 on House History featuring Kathy Nielsen.

The FamilySearch Wiki

Visit the free FamilySearch Wiki here. Search for the county in the wiki and then click on Land Records.

County Auditors Department

  • Where land records are located.
  • You can do a title search.
  • The records may not be online.
  • Email or call and inquire what the options are to access the records or have a search done.
  • Access varies by county.

Follow the chain of ownership back in time:
Grantee = the person who bought the property
Grantor = the person who sold the property.

Real Estate Websites

  • Trulia.com
  • Zillow.com

These sites don’t provide owner names but do show you recent transactions.
Result: The house was sold in 1997. It went on the market briefly in 2013.

Assessor’s Office (Tax Records)

These are typically only available to the current owner.

More Places to Look for Real Estate Related Information

City Directories

City directories are usually published yearly. Look also for Reverse Directories that allow you to look up the address in order to find who lived there. Kathy suggests contacting the local public library staff to inquire about City Directories and other records. Many libraries are currently staffing online reference chat.

State Libraries

Kathy recommends expanding out from the local area library to nearby communities, and the state. The Washington State Library is also currently answering questions. They have a genealogy department and city directories.

WorldCat.org

WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services. The online catalog that itemizes the collections of 17,900 libraries in 123 countries and territories.

National Register of Historic Places

According to the website: “The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resource.” Click here to learn more about and search their digital database.

Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (Washington State)

From the website: “On this site you will find information on historic buildings, the archaeology of Washington State, how to navigate our regulatory processes and how to nominate properties to the State and National Register of Historic Places.”

Neighbors

Contacting and talking to neighbors is often one of the quickest and easiest ways to gain information. The 411.com website offers a free reverse address lookup. The results will give you the name of the current owner and residents, and even plot nearby neighbors (with names) on a map.  

Researching the Home from Home

If you’re unable to research in person, make significant headway with these online resources.

Historical Societies

Google to find the official website of the historical society located in the area where the house is located. These sites may include searchable databases and information on how to contact them for resources and lookups. 
Result: The Okanogan County Historical Society features a searchable database.

Facebook

Search Facebook for the name of the county historical society in the area where the house is located. Facebook pages often include more up to date information than the official website.

Old Maps

Depending on the town and area, you may be able to find an old map from the approximate time frame that includes details on homes. Two excellent free resources are:

  • Davidrumsey.com
  • Historical maps in the Layers panel of Google Earth Pro

Search at Genealogy Records Websites

Searching for various combinations of the address, town and surnames from the family tree may lead you to an answer. Here are a few examples of searches run at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch. (Your results may vary depending on the date you are searching):

Keyword: (address) 308 Main St, Omak (exact)
Results: 25 (These were not all exact)

Residence: (town) Omak (exact) and Keyword: (address) 308 Main St. (exact)
Results: 5

Search each surname in Okanogan County at Ancestry.
Results for Cynthia’s mother’s family names:
Woodhead (Paul Woodhead married in Okanogan in 1941)
Patience (No results)

Cynthia’s father’s family names:
Stubbs (results from the 1970s)
Tonks (None)
Tucker (8 results)

FamilySearch.org

Run the same at the free FamilySearch.org genealogy website. Search each surname with Omak (exact) & 1920-1940 (restricted to) U.S. On the day I searched, the only surname from the list with results was Tucker. Cynthia’s next step would be to compare the results to her known family tree.

Search the Census Specifically

You can search the census by using the search fields and using variations of names, town, county and specific address. If you don’t find the specific address that way, brown the records of the town, looking for addresses written in the left margin. At Ancestry, look for the link to a map of the location found in a census.
Results: 1930 Census: 104 West First St., Omak (Jess Tucker)

Use Google Earth to determine if the addresses found are the same today. Plot each finding on the map using placemarks.
Result: 1930 Census Address: 104 West First Street, Omak = not there today

A search in the 1940 for Jess Tucker found him still living with his mother. She was recorded as “Frances Write” living at 504 Main St., Omak, close to the house in question. When searching the census be sure to look at the pages on either side of the results page. In this case Jess is found on the next page living at “no number” as a renter at his mother’s home.

1940 Census Enumeration District Maps

Ancestry has a collection of 1940 Enumeration District Maps from the National Archives (where they can also be found here along with additional helpful search strategies.) Enumeration districts are geographic areas that were designed to allow an enumerator (the census taker) to visit every house in the district within a two-week time period. A month was allowed in more wide-spread rural areas. These maps vary in the amount of detail provided. They may or may not indicate house numbers.

Go the Ancestry Card Catalog and search for the 1940 Census Enumeration District Maps collection. In the search fields for this collection, enter the enumeration district number which can be found in the upper corner of the 1940 census page.

State Census

State Censuses were often conducted every ten years in years ending with “5” which makes them a great supplement to the U.S. Federal Census. They also sometimes include information not gathered at the federal level. Therefore, an important question to ask is “was a State Census taken in this approximate time period?”

Here’s a State Census list from the National Archives.
Results for Washington state: No state census taken after 1898.

Card Catalog Include Useful Unique Sources

Not all useful records will surface with a straight-forward search. Dig into the Card Catalog of your favorite genealogy records website to find unique and useful collections that may include addresses.

Example: Search the Ancestry card catalog for Okanogan County, WA
Found:  Washington, Postmaster Indexes, Prior to 1965
Strategy: Browse the alphabetically organized Okanogan cards for each family name.

Another unique record type that often includes address are Draft Cards. Search by location then surname. Also try Keyword searches. Not all cards include complete addresses but many do.

The Future is Bright

Here’s a summary of the wide variety of genealogical research strategies we’ve covered in this episode:

  • FamilySearch Wiki (by county)
  • FamilySearch Card Catalog (by location)
  • County Auditor’s Dept. for land records
  • com for most recent purchase
  • City Directories (including reverse)
  • Local, County, and State libraries)
  • org
  • National Register of Historic Places
  • Neighbors
  • Historical Society (website and Facebook)
  • Old maps
  • Search Genealogy sites by address & surname
  • Census / State Census
  • Unique Records (Draft cards, Postmaster Index)
  • Plot in Google Earth for perspective
  • Census Enumeration District Maps

Resources

Premium Video & Handout: Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases(This video features using Google Photos.) Also watch  Google Earth for Genealogy  and download the handout.
Bonus Download exclusively for Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member today. 

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