A free FamilySearch account gives you access to more historical records and customized site features than you’ll see if you don’t log in at this free genealogy website. Here’s why you should get a free FamilySearch account and log in EVERY time you visit the site.
This post is part of our ongoing commitment to help you get the most out of the “Genealogy Giants:”
In this post, I comment on a recent announcement from the free giant everyone should be using: FamilySearch.org.
Why you should have (and use!) a free FamilySearch account
FamilySearch.org has always allowed free public use of its site. But beginning on December 13, 2017, the site will now actively prompt visitors to register for a free FamilySearch account or to log in with their existing accounts. Anyone can continue to search the catalog and user-submitted genealogies, explore over 350,000 digitized books, learn from the Wiki and the learning center, and even view user-contributed photos and stories. But by requesting you to log in, FamilySearch wants to remind you that this is your path to even more free records and services on the site.
Here are my top three reasons to have and use a free FamilySearch account:
1. Access more free historical records on FamilySearch.
We’ve talked a lot in recent months about best strategies for accessing digitized and off-line historical records at FamilySearch. Some of the digitized records on FamilySearch are there courtesy of a partner organization, which may restrict record access to those who log in on the site.
One woman had an “ah-ha” moment of realization after reading FamilySearch’s announcement. She posted in the comments, “Though I have had a free account for some time, I did not realize that FamilySearch was not giving me full access to information in record searches just because I had not logged in. Maybe I need to redo my past searches as a logged-in account holder.”
2. Participate in the global Family Tree.
As I more fully describe in my quick reference guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites, FamilySearch’s online family tree is different than the tree systems used at the other major family history websites. Instead of creating your own personal tree, you participate in a collaborative, unified family tree of the world. As a logged-in visitor, you can enter your information, then that of your parents and their parents, etc. until you connect to deceased individuals who are already on the tree. (Information about living individuals is always privacy-protected.) Then you may, with other descendants, contribute what you to know to an ancestor’s profile.
Anyone may make changes to these public profiles, which may at times be frustrating. But it also allows for more focused collaboration. This is a great place to see a virtual compilation of others’ research on particular ancestors without having to search others’ personal trees individually, as you do on other sites (remember to look for their source citations and verify what others say). The Family Tree on FamilySearch is also a great place to digitally archive family documents and photos where other researchers may see and appreciate them for free. As you can see in the screenshot below, logging in also helps you see how others have identified the folks you see in your search results:
3. Get customized help.
Those who log in with a free FamilySearch account have access to one-on-one assistance through the website. If you have a question about using the site, accessing records, finding additional records about your ancestors, or even how to understand the records you’re looking at, you can email or call a live support person for help. Your login also sets you up to receive customized alerts and seasonal messages (like “Did you know your ancestor fought in the War of 1812?”) and a dashboard experience with at-a-glance reminders of record hints awaiting your review, where you left off in your last online session, tips about what to do next, and more. Here’s what the dashboard looks like:
How to get (or recover) a free FamilySearch account
See Registering to use FamilySearch.org for information about creating a free account. FamilySearch accounts have always been free and, the site assures us, will continue to be free. You will need to provide your first and last name, a username, a password, and an email or mobile phone number.
According to FamilySearch, your login and other personal information:
- enables collaboration in the Family Tree and Memories areas of the site (you control how much information is shared)
- “allows you to send in-system messages to other users without revealing your personal identity or email address”
- “allows FamilySearch to send you emails and newsletters (you can specify how many emails, if any, you receive)”
- enables communication when you contact their online support team for help
- will not be shared “with any third party without your consent”
If you’ve already got a FamilySearch account but have forgotten your username, click here. If you’ve forgotten your password, click here.
Genealogy Gems Brings You Genealogy Giants
Each of the “Genealogy Giants” has so much to offer family historians around the world! But it’s hard to keep them straight, compare their top features, and get the most out of them without some inside help. That’s why we published the must-have quick reference guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites, your personal comparative tour of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage.
This inexpensive guide can save you hours of wasted time hunting down the records you need. It can save you hundreds of dollars by helping you invest in the genealogy websites you most need to use right now–because your research needs change right along with your growing family tree! The guide is available for your immediate reference as a digital download or get a handy, high-quality printed copy you can keep with your genealogy research files.
The Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
It’s finally here – the 200th episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast, also celebrating its 10th year.
In this special episode, Lisa invites Professor Mark Auslander to share his discoveries about a mother and young daughter separated by slavery. Learn how he pieced together their story from a poignant family heirloom found at a flea market.
Throughout the episode, you will hear from several listeners, past podcast guests, Gems staffers and supporters in the genealogy industry with congratulations, memories, stories, and favorite Gems tips. Listen for the DNA success story of an adoptee who never gave up his search for his biological roots.
Thanks to all listeners and friends who sent congratulations! Among them are:
Allison Dolan, Publisher, Family Tree Magazine. She mentioned the Family Tree Magazine Podcast
Bruce Buzbee, RootsMagic family history software
DearMYRTLE, veteran online genealogy educator and author of the award-winning DearMYRTLE blog. She mentioned Lisa’s Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast; her all-day seminars at societies; and classes at her booth during conferences.
Geoff Rasmussen, Legacy Family Tree webinars, and author of Kindred Voices: Listening for Our Ancestors
Jim Shaughnessy, Findmypast.com
Mary Tedesco, host and genealogist on PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow, founder of Origins Italy, co-author of Tracing Your Italian Ancestors and a guest on Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #175, talking about Italian research and her work on Genealogy Roadshow
Steve Luxenberg, author of Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret. Listen to Lisa’s conversation with him in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episodes 120 and 121. This book and interview planted the seed for the Genealogy Gems Book Club!
Yev Pusin, Social Marketing Marketer, Backblaze online computer backup service, also celebrating its 10th anniversary
MAILBOX: LISA AND SUNNY
The following were mentioned in listener emails and voicemails:
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. This is a FREE step-by-step series for beginning genealogists?and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. One listener mentioned the series on naturalization records in episodes 29-31.
The Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. Monthly episodes?and the full archive of past episodes?are available to Genealogy Gems Premium website subscribers. This podcast takes what you love about the free Genealogy Gems podcast and goes deeper, broader and more exclusively into topics of interest for U.S. and international audiences.
The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.
Using Evernote to organize your family history research: free tips and great resources to help you make the most of this free app (or its Premium version) to keep all your genealogy research notes and links organized and at your fingertips.
Netvibes computer dashboard tool and mobile apps for genealogy
Computer backup story from Kathy: “I was robbed! They took the computer AND the backup drive!”
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
DNA WITH YOUR DNA GUIDE DIAHAN SOUTHARD
Diahan’s series of how-to videos, available to Gems fans for a special price.
Diahan’s series of DNA quick guides, available in print or as digital downloads
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search WebHints on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. Soon RootsMagic will also be able to search records and even sync your tree with Ancestry.com, too.
MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your buy medicine online worldwide ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.
INTERVIEW: MARK AUSLANDER
Mark Auslander is an Associate Professor and Museum Director at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA and the author of The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding An American Family.
“Slave Mother’s Love in 56 Carefully-Stitched Words”
Mark’s path to the probable family of this artifact used these techniques:
Look closely at all clues from the artifact: the fabric, stitching, colors, facts conveyed in the text, etc. Look at both the historical clues and the artistic or symbolic aspects of it.
Create a profile for the people mentioned based on what is known. Probable age for Ruth Middleton in 1921, etc.
Use contextual and social history clues to hypothesize a scenario. The inclusion of “South Carolina” hints that the seamstress didn’t live in South Carolina, so he guessed that she was part of the Great Migration of millions of African-Americans in the early 1900s who headed from the rural South to the industrial Midwest and other urban cities.
Take advantage of unusual clues. Rose is a common name for an enslaved woman, but not Ashley.
Look through all available records. Possible census listings for Ruth Middleton in 1920 didn’t seem likely candidates. He dug through marriage records for Northern states until he found a woman named Ruth who married a man named Middleton who fit the profile he’d created.
Use specialized sources for African-American research, especially records created by and about the slaveholder that relate to the holding, sale or transfer of enslaved people.
Mark says that some researchers describe the search process as “guided by some force larger than yourself that keeps you going through those endless hours in microfilm rooms or online. But it does connect us all in very profound ways to those who came before and those who come after?.Through genealogical work, in a sense we can triumph over death itself and we can move back and forth in time in the most remarkable way.”
Coming up next month in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 201: An interview with Angela Walton-Raji on finding African-American ancestors. She shares tons of resources! Even if you haven’t found any African-Americans on your family tree, the challenges and rewards of African-American genealogical research are both fascinating and moving to learn about.
Legacy Tree Genealogists provides expert genealogy research service that works with your research goals, budget and schedule. The Legacy Tree Discovery package offers 3.5 hours of preliminary analysis and research recommendations: a great choice if you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and could use some expert guidance. GENEALOGY GEMS EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Go to www.legacytree.com/genealogygems and use coupon code GEMS100 to save $100 off your purchase of research services (expires 4/30/17).
CONVERSATIONS WITH MORE GEMS
Amie Tennant, Gems Content Contributor: see the Genealogy Gems blog
Lacey Cooke, Gems Service Manager
Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer and Audio Editor; she mentioned a favorite Genealogy Gems Book Club title and interview were with Chris Cleave, author of Everyone Brave is Forgiven
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB
The Truth According to Us by internationally bestselling author Annie Barrows
It’s the summer of 1938, and wealthy young socialite Miss Layla Beck is now on the dole as a WPA worker, assigned to write a history of the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia. As she starts asking questions about the town’s past, she is drawn into the secrets of the family she’s staying with?and drawn to a certain handsome member of that family. She and two of those family members take turns narrating the story from different points of view, exploring the theme that historical truth, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.
Click here to read an introduction to using WPA records for genealogy.
Annie Barrows is also the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This novel takes place after World War II in a London recovering from the Blitz and an island recovering from German occupation. At the heart of Guernsey is an unlikely love story and the inspiring tale of a community that took care of each other in their darkest days with humor, compassion and good books.
Click here to see more Genealogy Gems Book Club selections and how you can listen to Lisa’s upcoming exclusive conversation with author Annie Barrows about The Truth According to Us.
Music from this episode is from the band Venice
The song played at the opening was “We’re Still Here,” from the album Born and Raised.
The song played at the closing was “The Family Tree” from the album 2 Meter Sessies; click to purchase the album or download the song as a single.
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Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 208
with Lisa Louise Cooke
In this episode:
- A free webinar!
- Great comments from you: An inspiring Google Books success story, how one listener gets her shy husband talking about his life story, and a listener’s own version of the poem, “Where I’m From”
- The Archive Lady talks to us about historical scrapbooks at archives that may be packed with genealogy gems for us
- A genealogy hero who saved a life story
- Your first look at RootsTech 2018
FREE GENEALOGY WEBINAR
“Reveal Your Unique Story through DNA & Family History”
Googling and Making Videos with Lisa Louise Cooke
Newspaper Research Worksheet from Lisa Louise Cooke
Genetic Genealogy: Here’s What You Need to Know from Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard
NEWS: FIRST LOOK AT ROOTSTECH 2018
Going to RootsTech for the first time? Read this RootsTech Q&A.
MAILBOX: PAT INTERVIEWS HER SHY HUSBAND
“Remembering Dad” video
Pat’s tip: When someone is shy about sharing life stories, interview them informally while traveling. Pat uses her iPad to transcribe his responses, then polishes it up when she gets home and transfers it to her own computer. “Eventually we will have enough to write the story of his life, with lots of pictures. And it’s completely painless.”
MAILBOX: GOOGLE BOOKS SUCCESS STORY FROM KIM
Click here for another inspiring genealogy discovery using Google Books?with how-to tips and a free video preview of Lisa Louise Cooke’s Premium video tutorial, “Google Books: The Tool You Need Every Day”
MAILBOX: “WHERE I’M FROM” POEM SUBMISSION
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 185: Learn more about the “Where I’m From” poetry project and hear a conversation with the original author, Kentucky poet laureate George Ella Lyon.
THE ARCHIVE LADY: HISTORICAL SCRAPBOOKS
Scrapbooks are one of my favorite record sources to do genealogy research in and to also process in the archives. There are all kinds of scrapbooks; each and every one is unique and one-of-a-kind. They were put together with love and the hope that what was saved and pasted onto those pages will be remembered.
The origins of scrapbooking is said to go back to the 15th century in England and it is still a hobby enjoyed by many today. Most archives, libraries, historical and genealogical societies have scrapbooks in their collections. They will most likely be found in the Manuscript Collection as part of a specifically named collection.
Scrapbooks contain all kinds of wonderful genealogical records, photographs and ephemera. There is even a scrapbook in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives that has candy bar wrappers pasted in it. This particular scrapbook is one of my absolute favorites. It was compiled and owned by Evelyn Ellis and dates to the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Among the normal newspaper clippings and event programs are interesting pieces such as a Baby Ruth candy bar wrapper with a handwritten note by Evelyn that reads “Always remember June 11, 1938 at Beach Grove at the Ice Cream Supper.” There is also an original ticket pasted into the scrapbook from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee where Evelyn Ellis visited and recorded her comments on April 1, 1939.
There are scrapbooks for just about any subject. Aside from personal scrapbooks, you can find war scrapbooks, obituary clipping scrapbooks and scrapbooks that collected and recorded local or national events. The obituaries found in scrapbooks could be a real find because sometimes they are the only pieces of the newspaper that survive and can be a treasure trove for any genealogist. Many scrapbooks contain one-of-a-kind documents, photographs and ephemera.
To find scrapbooks in an archive, ask the archivist if they have any scrapbooks in their records collections. Many times scrapbooks are housed with a particular manuscript collection and will be listed in the finding aid. Some archives have a collection of just scrapbooks that have been donated to them and can be easily accessed. Most scrapbooks will not be on research shelves and will be stored in back rooms at the archives and will have to be requested. You should also check the archives online catalog for any listings of scrapbooks before you jump in the car and drive to the archives.
I encourage all genealogists to check with the archive in the area where your ancestors were from and see if they have any scrapbooks in their archived records collections. Scrapbooks are like time capsules: you don’t know what will be found in them until you open them up.
BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is a PDF with tips for what to do if your own scrapbook gets wet. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.
Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.
MyHeritage 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.
GEM: SAVING A LIFE STORY
Original story on SWVA Today: “String of Pearls: Marion’s Bob White Shares Family History Collection” by Margaret Linford, Columnist
Smyth County Public Library Local History webpage
Genealogy Gems how-to resources to help you:
Video record a loved one telling their life stories
How to video record a fantastic family history interview
How to create a family history video with Animoto
Digitize and share your research and your own life story: Interview with Larsen Digital in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 183
How to Start Blogging series in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast (episodes 38-42) and this article: 3 Ways to Improve Your Genealogy Blog
RootsMagic family history software has publishing tools (for print and online publishing):
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. RootsMagic is now fully integrated with Ancestry.com: you can sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.
A BRILLIANT WAY TO “MEET” YOUR ANCESTOR
Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard shared this story from Christine:
“Friday night I brought out large cut out of my Grandmother, Christine Doering, sitting in an easy chair so it looks like she is talking with you, and I played a recording done in 1970’s of her talking and giggling about coming to America in 1896 at the age of 9. For some they had never heard her voice before.”
Subscribe to the free Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor
Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
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