Obituaries are a staple of genealogical research. Here’s the latest from the folks at Ancestry:
“Ancestry® updated its collection of US obituaries by combing through millions of digital obituaries to key names, relationships and other facts so members can now easily search these records with just one click.
This initiative first announced at RootsTech uses new sophisticated artificial intelligence technology.
The new Newspapers.com Obituary Collection and the upgraded Ancestry U.S. Obituary Collection will expand Ancestry’s unparalleled historical record collections that enable people around the world to uncover their family history, spark their own journey of discovery and inspire meaningful conversations.
Obituary collections include over 262 million worldwide obituaries and death announcements with almost 1 billionsearchable family members
US Obituary Collection, 1930-Current search is the world’s largest, searchabledigital archive, now includes 4x more searchable family members
Newspapers.com Obituary Index includes facts from nearly 200 millionNewspapers.com obituaries
Newspapers.comis the largest online newspaper archive, with over 525+ million pages of historical newspapers, including obituaries, from thousands of printed newspapers across the United States and beyond.
Members with an Ancestry All Access or Newspapers.com Basic subscription have a 1-click option to view the full obituary on Newspapers.com. Some images may require a Publisher Extra subscription as certain newspapers require additional licenses to view their content.”
From the State Archives of North Carolina blog comes a very interesting addition ton an existing Civil War digital collection:
A selection of 12 volumes from the Soldiers’ Home Association have been added to the Civil War digital collection. These volumes document the history of medical care for veterans and the elderly around the turn of the 19th century.”
“These volumes provide recorded information on veterans’ military service, illnesses or injuries that might not have been recorded elsewhere. Some volumes include patients’ requests for their burial and funeral wishes. The volumes included are listed below:
Discover your Scouse ancestor’s address, occupation and who they were living with in 1801. Findmypast now offers over 13,000 new and exclusive early census records. Don’t miss the images because they provide additional information about your ancestor’s abode.
The 1801 census was the first official census to be carried out in Britain. It estimated the population of England and Wales to be 8.9 million, and that of Scotland to be 1.6 million.
The 1801 census comprised two parts:
the first was related to the number of people, their occupations, and numbers of families and houses.
The second was a collection of the numbers of baptisms, marriages and burials, thus providing an indication of the rate at which the population was increasing or decreasing.
Over 75,000 new records covering 52 parishes across the Cornish peninsula are now available to search at Findmypast.
These transcripts reveal 5 key pieces of information:
when your ancestor was buried
where your ancestor was buried
their age at death,
and relatives’ names.
Click here to search the Cornwall Burials collection.
And finally, Findmypast has added 12,000 new records to their collection last week. The majority of these new additions cover Swanscombe municipal cemetery and will reveal where and when your ancestor was buried as well as the names of their spouse and father. Click here to search the Kent Burial records.
New Records Coming Soon
Recently announced on the University of Georgia website:
“Through a new partnership with Google, about 120,000 of the Libraries’ 4.5 million volumes will be digitized, allowing further access to literary, historic, scientific and reference books and journals through UGA’s library catalog as well as one of the largest digital book collections in the world.”
“In addition to more modern materials that will be available for preview online, other examples of volumes available in full text include shipping registers from as far back as 1764 and Atlanta city directories dating back to 1870.
The project also advances a longstanding effort to provide digital access to state and federal government publications, and free digital access will be available to works by Balzac, Sir Francis Bacon, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Hardy and other historically significant authors, thanks to UGA Libraries.”
Did one of these new and updated digital genealogy collections deliver what you’ve been waiting for? Please share your discovering in the Comments below. And click here to subscribe to the free Genealogy Gems newsletter to receive all the latest in new and updated genealogy records for your family history.
If there’s one thing we want to see coming online every single day, it’s new digitized genealogy records! A genealogical brick wall that has been sitting dormant for years can be broken down if just the right records becomes available. And we never know when that will happen.
This week I’m sharing some of the genealogy records that have come online in the last few weeks. These records comes from across the United States. They include wills and probate, police and mug shots, and cemetery records. Perhaps your ancestor’s record is among them.
As confirmed in the introduction of the publication, the Maryland Calendar of Wills was compiled in response to an already “long existent and steadily increasing need for such work, a need not only of genealogists, nor only for Marylanders now living in the State, but also for the large class of persons, whose ancestors are to be numbered among the men and women who took part in the nation-building as begun on Maryland shores, and whose descendants are now to be found in every State of the Union.”
Each record is available in a PDF format. Use the previous and next buttons at the top of the page to browse through the publication.
The General Index of Wills of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, 1633 to 1900 was compiled by Margaret Roberts Hodges from original indices, the collection of records were published by the Carter Braxton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
You can also Search this index to more than 107,000 probate records from Maryland between 1634 to 1777 for transcripts and images of both Prerogative Court and County records. The amount of information listed in each record will vary but looking at images is always recommended.
Preceding the implementation of the first Maryland State Constitution in 1777, two sets of probate records were maintained, probate business was conducted at the capital by the central agency which, for most of the Colonial period, was known as the Prerogative Court.
The Commissary General was the presiding officer of the court and a Deputy Commissary was then appointed for each county. The Deputy Commissary recorded each probate record that was brought into their office, periodically they would send the papers filed in their office to the Prerogative Court where they would be recorded again.
Mugs Shots and More Going Back 150 Years
Records from the Indianapolis Fire Department and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have been digitized and are available online.
Thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, The Central Library in Indianapolis recently unveiled the collection, which includes some items dating back 150-years.
The items have been added to an existing collection of from the Indianapolis Firefighters Museum and include:
historical photos and
prisoner mug shots
IMPD Deputy Chief Michael Spears said “The City of Indianapolis has a police department of which it can be extremely proud. This collection is the most complete and definitive collection of documents, photographs, videos and other exhibits ever compiled.”
“The Indianapolis Fire Department has a rich and proud 160-year history, and through our partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library, we are preserving that history for future generations,” said Tom Hanify, Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana President.
You can search this unique collection for free at http://www.digitalindy.org/ If you have family history rooted in the Indianapolis area, you’re in for a treat because the website include a wide range of historical content!
118,000+ New Cemetery Records Added
From Internment.com: Interment.net added 118,768 new cemetery records since our last report (January 2018), covering 49 cemeteries across 14 states.
Interment.net is one the oldest and largest archives of cemetery transcriptions, since 1997, and is still committed to serving genealogists at no cost.
Contained on our website are tens of millions of records, covering tens of thousands of cemeteries, from across the world.
Our records are obtained from databases direct from cemeteries, churches, libraries, and government offices, as well as from complete works of tombstone transcriptions.
Here’s the list of cemetery records published recently:
Brome County, Saint-Cajetan Cemetery, Mansonville, 722 records
Arthabaska County, Lorne Cemetery, Kingsley Station, 63 records
Arthabaska County, Trout Brook Cemetery, Tingwick, 127 records
Temiscouata, Cabano Cemetery, Temiscouata-sur-le-Lac, 2,117 records
Bruce County, Culross and Teeswater Cemetery, Teeswater, 2,268 records
County Wexford, Ballyhuskard Graveyard, Ballynastraw, 120 records
Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Bayview Cemetery, Ketchikan, 5,291 records
Apache County, St. Johns Cemetery, St. Johns, 1,400 records
Monterey County, Holy Trinity Cemetery, Greenfield, 500+ records
Monterey County, Oak Park Cemetery, Greenfield, 500+ records
Napa County, Pioneer Cemetery, Calistoga, 950 records
Los Angeles County, Fairmount Cemetery, Azusa, 250 records
Genesee County, Garden of Peace Cemetery, Swartz Creek, 56 records
Genesee County, Swartz Creek Cemetery, Swartz Creek, 261 records
Clinton County, Rose Cemetery, Bath Township, 1,442 records
Clinton County, Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Bath Township, 1,806 records
Carver County, Chanhassen Pioneer Cemetery, Chanhassen, 850 records
McLeod County, Oakland Cemetery, Hutchinson, 8,755 records
Anoka County, East Bethel Cemetery, East Bethel, 100 records
Anoka County, Old East Bethel Cemetery, East Bethel, 178 records
Anoka County, Oak Leaf Cemetery, East Bethel, 650 records
New Madrid County, Evergreen Cemetery, New Madrid, 2,500 records (approx)
New Madrid County, Davis Cemetery, Kewanee, 14 records
New Madrid County, East Side Cemetery, New Madrid, 128 records
New Madrid County, Cedar Grove Cemetery, New Madrid Township, 25 records
New Madrid County, A.C. LaForge Cemetery, New Madrid Township, 4 records
New Madrid County, Augustine Cemetery, New Madrid, 2 records
New Madrid County, Byrne-Howard Cemetery, New Madrid, 32 records
St. Louis County, Eberwein Family Cemetery, Chesterfield, 9 records
St. Louis County, Harugari Cemetery, Manchester, 21 records
St. Louis County, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Hazelwood, 1,071 records
St. Louis County, St. Monica Cemetery, Creve Coeur, 801 records
St. Louis County, St. Peter Cemetery, Kirkwood, 3,589 records
St. Louis County, St. Ferdinand Cemetery, Hazelwood, 3,426 records
St. Charles County, Ste. Philippine Cimetiere, St. Charles, 369 records
Jefferson County, St. Vincent Cemetery, Fenton, 33 records
Scotts Bluff County, East Lawn Cemetery, Mintare, 1,900 records
Allegany County, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Houghton, 724 records
Allegany County, Caneadea Cemetery, Caneadea, 430 records
Allegany County, East Caneadea Cemetery, Caneadea, 102 records
Nash County, Rocky Mount Memorial Park, Rocky Mount, 4,192 records
Montgomery County, Happy Corner Cemetery, Englewood, 600 records
Comanche County, Ft. Sill National Cemetery, Elgin, 6,093 records
Elk County, Denison Family Cemetery, Jay Township, 3 records
Anderson County, M. J. “Dolly” Cooper Veterans Cemetery, Anderson, 2,811 records
Richland County, Fort Jackson National Cemetery, Columbia, 5,548 records
Lawrence County, Richardson Cemetery, Centerpoint, 55 records
Swisher County, Rose Hill Cemetery, Tulia, 6,107 records
Hays County, San Marcos City Cemetery, 6,391 records
King County, St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Kent, 760 records
Cowlitz County, Longview Memorial Park, Longview, 17,335 records
Kittitas County, Cacciatori D’Africa Cemetery, Roslyn, 25 records
Klickitat County, Stonehenge WWI Memorial, Maryhill, 14 records
Marinette County, Forest Home Cemetery, Marinette, 22,800 records
Marinette County, Calvary Cemetery, Marinette, 48 records
Marinette County, Woodlawn Cemetery, Marinette, 2,400 records
The Department of Veterans Affairs and National Cemetery Administration has created a new platform that creates digital memorials for all veterans in national cemeteries.
According to the website, the Veterans Legacy Memorial is “an online memorial space for Veterans managed by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). NCA manages 136 national cemeteries as shrine spaces to honor our Nation’s Veterans and extends memorialization of the 3.7 million Veterans interred in NCA cemeteries to this digital memorial space, providing a VLM profile page for each.
To find the memorial profile of a Veteran, please enter the name of your Veteran in the format of First Last with no commas (“John Doe” not “Doe, John”). To search with additional information (branch of service, cemetery name, etc.), please click on Advanced Search.”
Click the video player to watch episode 54 of Elevenses with Lisa about the 1890 census and substitute records. Below you’ll find the detailed show notes with all the website links I mention. Premium Members will find the downloadable ad-free PDF cheat sheet of these show notes at the bottom of this page in the Resources section, along with my BONUS 1890 Census Gap Worksheet.
What Happened to the 1890 Census
The census shows us our ancestors grouped in families, making it a valuable resource for genealogy. Soon the 1950 census will be available, but for now the most current census publicly available in 1940. In it we may find, depending on our age, ourselves, our parents, our grandparents, and our great parents. In many cases it’s quick and rewarding to make your way back in time to the 1890 census which was taken starting June 1, 1890. And that’s where the trail hits a bump. In January 1921 a large fire broke out in the Commerce Building in Washington DC where the 1890 census records were stored, and most were destroyed as a result. Only 6,160 individual names remain in the remnants. (Learn more about the destruction of the 1890 census at the National Archives.)
Prior to the 1890 U.S. Federal Census, the last census taken was in 1880. With about 99% of the 1890 being destroyed as the result of the fire, this leaves a 20 year gap in the census (1880 – 1900.)
Much can happen in a span of twenty years. For example, your ancestors could have been born and reached adulthood. Filling in their timeline for this period requires a bit more effort, but the results are worth it.
In this video and article we’ll cover:
How to find the remaining fragments of the 1890 population enumeration
What you can learn from the 1890 census records
Lesser known 1890 census schedules that can still be found.
The best 1890 substitute records and how to find them.
Surviving 1890 Federal Census Population Schedules
A very small portion of the 1890 census has survived, but it’s more than just the population schedule. Here are the six types of records still available.
List of the locations covered by the surviving 1890 federal census:
Alabama: Perryville Beat No.11 (Perry County) and Severe Beat No.8 (Perry County)
District of Columbia: Q Street, 13th St., 14th St., R Street, Q Street, Corcoran St., 15th St., S Street, R Street, and Riggs Street, Johnson Avenue, and S Street
Georgia: Columbus (Muscogee County)
Illinois: Mound Township (McDonough County)
Minnesota: Rockford (Wright County)
New Jersey: Jersey City (Hudson County)
New York: Brookhaven Township (Suffolk County) and Eastchester (Westchester County)
North Carolina: South Point and River Bend Townships (Gaston County), Township No. 2 (Cleveland County)
Ohio: Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Wayne Township (Clinton County)
South Dakota: Jefferson Township (Union County)
Texas: J.P. No. 6, Mountain Peak, Ovilla Precinct (Ellis County), Precinct No. 5 (Hood County), No. 6 and J.P. No. 7 (Rusk County), Trinity Town and Precinct No. 2 (Trinity County), and Kaufman (Kaufman County)
Questions Asked in the 1890 U.S. Federal Census The following questions were asked by the census taker:
Number of families in the house
Number of persons in the house
Number of persons in the family
Relationship to head of family
Race: white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian
Whether married during the year
Total children born to mother
Number of children living
Birthplace of parents
If foreign born, how many years in the United States
Naturalized or in the process of naturalization
Profession, trade, or occupation
Months unemployed during census year
Able to read and write
Speak English; if not, language or dialect spoken
Suffering from acute or chronic disease (if so, name of disease and length of time afflicted)
Defective in mind, sight, hearing, or speech
Crippled, maimed, or deformed (with name of defect)
Prisoner, convict, homeless child, or pauper
Home is rented or owned by the head or a member of the family
(if so, whether mortgaged)
Head of family a farmer, if he or a family member rented or owned the farm
If mortgaged, the post office address of the owner
2. Schedules for Union Soldiers & Widows
According to the National Archives, “The U.S. Pension Office requested this special enumeration to help Union veterans locate comrades to testify in pension claims and to determine the number of survivors and widows for pension legislation. (Some congressmen also thought it scientifically useful to know the effect of various types of military service upon veterans’ longevity.) To assist in the enumeration, the Pension Office prepared a list of veterans’ names and addresses from their files and from available military records held by the U.S. War Department.
Index and images of schedules enumerating Union veterans and widows of veterans of the Civil War for the states of Kentucky through Wyoming. Except for some miscellaneous returns, data for the states of Alabama through Kansas do not exist. Some returns include U.S. Naval Vessels and Navy Yards. The schedules are from Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration and is NARA publication M123.
Nearly all of the schedules for the states of Alabama through Kansas and approximately half of those for Kentucky appear to have been destroyed before transfer of the remaining schedules to the National Archives in 1943.”
The 1890 Oklahoma Territorial Census lists people who lived in the Oklahoma Territory. The seven counties making up the Oklahoma Territory at the time are listed below. Note the number as they were often listed only by these number on the census.
One of the primary uses of the census by the government is to compile statistical reports using the data gathered. Many of these can be found online at places like Google Books.
The Delaware African American Schedule came about because of one of these statistical reports. According to the National Archives, in 1901 the Chief Statistician for Agriculture wrote a report about agriculture in the state of Delaware. Just before it was to be published, some of the conclusions reached in the report were disputed. The controversy centered around what was then referred to as “Negro” farmers. The results was that additional research was conducted in an effort to find all “Negro” farmers in the 1890 and 1900 Delaware census records. The dust up over the statistical report was fortunate indeed because these records are now available.
The list is roughly in alphabetical order according to surname and contains the following information:
Enumeration District (ED) Number
ED Description (locality and county)
5. Statistics of Lutheran Congregation & Statistical Information for the U.S.
These record collection offers limited usefulness because they don’t name people. However, if you have questions about Lutheran ancestors around 1890 or would like more contextual information about the time period, they might be worth a look.
Statistics of Lutheran Congregation reproduces a list of each Lutheran church or local organization compiled by the Census Office from information submitted by officials of the Lutheran officials.
How to find the records:
The National Archives – Contact the National Archives regarding National Archives Microfilm Publication M2073, Statistics of Congregations of Lutheran Synods, 1890 (1 roll). Records are arranged by synod, then state, then locality.
For each church or local organization, the following information is given in seven columns:
(1) town or city
(3) name of organization
(4) number or type of church edifice
(5) seating capacity
(6) value of church property
(7) number of members.
6. Statistical information for the entire United States
Statistical reports were compiled and analyzed by the Census Office after the 1890 census was completed. These massive statistical reports are available in National Archives Microfilm Publication T825, Publications of the Bureau of the Census.
Now that we’ve scoured every inch of available records remaining from the 1890 U.S. Federal Census, it’s time to go on the hunt for substitute records. We’ll be focusing on the best available and easiest to find resources.
1885 & 1895 State Census Records:
The U.S. federal government was not alone in taking the census. Some states also took their own state census. These were usually conducted in the years between the federal censuses, most commonly on the “5” such as 1875, and 1885. You may find some as far back as 1825 and as recent as 1925, as in the case of the state of New York.
How to find the records:
Look for state census records at state archives, state historical societies, and state libraries. Many are also conveniently searchable online, most commonly at FamilySearch (free) and Ancestry (subscription.)
Lisa’s Pro Tip: Get a Bit More with Mortality Schedules
Do you happen to have someone in your family tree who was alive and well in the 1880 census but nowhere to be found in the 1900 census? Official death records may not have been available during this time frame where they lived, compounding the problem.
The U.S. Federal Censuses from 1850-1880 included a mortality schedule counting the people who had died in the previous year. Since the 1880 census began on June 1, “previous year” means the 12 months preceding June 1, or June 1 (of the previous year) to May 31 (of the census year).
Ancestry has a database of these schedules which fall just before the 20 year time frame we are trying to fill. However, this collection also happens to include Mortality Schedules from three State Censuses: Colorado, Florida and Nebraska. There were conducted in 1885. They weren’t mandatory so there are only a few, but if you happen to be researching in one of these states, you just might get lucky.
While you’re searching, be aware that not all of the information recorded on the census is included in the searchable index. This means that it is important to view the image and don’t just rely on the indexed information.
Ancestry 1890 Census Substitute Database
Ancestry has compiled a special searchable collection of records that can be used to fill in the gaps left behind by the loss of the 1890 census. It includes state census collections, city directories, voter registrations and more.
Find More 1890 Census Substitute Records at Ancestry
This substitute collection is a tremendous help, but don’t stop there. You can also manually hunt for substitute records to see if there might be something helpful that is overlooked in the 1890 census substitute search. This works particularly well if you have a specific research question in mind.
You might be wondering, why would I need to search manually? Many people rely on Ancestry hints to alert them to applicable records, and they figure the search engine will find the rest.
This is a mistake for two reasons.
only approximately 10% of Ancestry® Records Appear as hints.
There may be a record that meets your needs that was not captured in the 1890 Census Substitute Collection. Try going directly to the Card Catalog and filtering to USA and then by decade such as 1890s.
FamilySearch 1890 Census Substitutes
While FamilySearch doesn’t have one massive substitute database, you can find several focused 1890 census substitute collections available online, at Family History Centers around the country and world, and in book form at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
How to find the records: 1. Go to FamilySearch 2. Log into your free account
3. In the menu go to Search > Catalog 4. Click Titles 5. Search for 1890 census substitute 6. If desired, filter down to records available or at a Family History Center near you.
City Directories as an 1890 Census Substitute
Some of the best and most comprehensive substitute records are city directories. If published in your ancestor’s area when they lived there, they can offer a year-by-year record. And that can do wonders for filling in the gap between the 1880 and 1800 census.
How to find the records:
You can find city directories at the big genealogy websites like Ancestry, MyHeritage and FamilySearch, as well as state archives, historical societies and libraries. Google searches also come in very handy in unearthing lesser known websites and repositories. Two of my favorite places to look that are both free and online are Google Books and Internet Archive.
Google Books Search for the state and county. On the results page click the Tools The first option in the drop-down menu will be Any View. Change it to Full View. The third option is Any Time. Click the down arrow and select Custom Range and set it to 1880 through 1890.
Episode 30: Lisa’s 10 surprising things to find at Google Books
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.
Video and Show Notes below
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!
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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 toFamilySearch, 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 USGenWebwhich 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.
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
English parish records top this week’s list of new online genealogy records. More new or updated family history collections: British newspapers, pensions and India records; records for Brazil, Germany, The Netherlands, Peru, and Poland; UK images and deaths; US...