Dr. Brian Gurrin is a specialist on Irish censuses and census substitutes and author of such books as Pre-census sources for Irish demography and The Irish religious censuses of the 1760s.
In this week’s video premiere he joins me for a discussion of the incredible story of the repository that held early census records and much more: the Public Record Office of Ireland.
Dr. Gurrin will take us back through the history of the building and the surprising and ironic catastrophes that destroyed countless valuable records. Then he will share the truly inspiring ways that records are being restored, some of which will be available soon!
Video Player (Live) – Watch video premiere at the appointed time in the video player above.
On YouTube (Live) – Click the Watch on YouTube button to watch the YouTube premiere with Live Chat at the appointed time above at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Log into YouTube with your free Google account to participate in the live chat.
Video Player above (Replay) – Available immediately after the live premiere and chat.
If you’re looking for Irish records that were created prior to 1922, and you’re in the right place, today, we are talking about the Beyond 2020 to Ireland project, which may just be the best hope for Irish research in a long time.
Dr. Brian Gurrin is a specialist on Irish census records and substitutes. He’s also the author of the books Pre-census sources for Irish demography and The Irish religious censuses of the 1760s and he’s here today to tell us about this exciting project.
Lisa: What was held at the Public Records Office of Ireland prior to 1922? What kind of records would somebody have found there?
Dr. Gurrin: The Public Record Office (PRO) opened its doors in 1867. Prior to that the Irish records, the various state records, records of Parliament and so on, they were dispersed around in various repositories, around Dublin and around the country. Many of them were stored in locations that were unsuitable for maintaining records in good condition. The records were getting damaged, some records were getting damaged by damp and so on.
So, when the PRO opened, they started to take in records from these unsuitable repositories. There were a vast quantity of records available. Our earliest census records, our first census was held in 1813. That wasn’t a particularly successful census. And then are our next census was the first time that Ireland was fully enumerated by statutory census in 1821. And thereafter, we held censuses every 10 years on a year to terminal digit one. So, we held our census in 1821m 1831, 1841, 1851, and so on, right up to 1911, which was the last census that was held in Ireland, when Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.
And so, they were very important, very important for genealogists. And an interesting thing about the census: when the Public Record Office opened, and it just goes to show how research is changed, they published annual reports every year, the Deputy Keepers Reports. And when they opened, one of the earlier reports, I think it might have been the second report or the third report, made a comment about the census records. It talked about that the census records were just clutter taking up space and that they weren’t very important. And that they were just taking up taking up an enormous, inordinate amount of space in the Public Record Office. They didn’t want to receive any more census records because there were just basically clutter. And when you think about the census and how important the census is for genealogical research and family history research now, it just goes to show how historical research has changed, and how these records are vital records for historical research and historical study.
Overview of the background and contents of Public Record Office of Ireland:
Public Record Office of Ireland opened to public in 1867.
National repository for records:
Census returns (1813-5, 1821, 1831, 1841 & 1851)
Parliamentary records (Ireland had its own parliament until 1800).
County records; accounts, administration; grand juries.
The building destroyed on 30 June 1922; and almost all records lost.
So it was a really vast collection and it built up from 1867 right up to 1922 when it was still receiving records into the record office.
Let’s just go back and talk about the 1821 census. Again, Ireland’s first census. When that census was held, the census recorded the names of all householders in the country, but also the act that initiated the census specified that at the each of the individual counties where to make a copy of the census as well to hold locally as their own local copy of the census. But then when the county records came in after 1891, after the fire, in the Cork courthouse, all those copies of the 1821 census also came into the Public Record Office as part of the county records collection. In 1922 the Civil War the civil war commenced, and the public record was on the north side of Dublin City in the Four Courts complex, just north of the River Liffey on the north bank.
The anti-treaty IRA occupied the Four Courts complex. We’re not sure what happened. There are two schools of thought. One is that the Anti-treaty IRA deliberately mined the building and blew up the building when they were evacuating it to destroy the records which were primarily records of British administration in Ireland. So, it was a great strike for Irish republicanism, destroying the records of the British administration in Ireland. The second thought on it is that when the anti-treaty IRA started shelling the Four Courts complex to drive out anti-treaty Republican forces there, a shell went in into the Public Record Office, exploding munitions that were stored in the Public Record Office.
Whatever happened, it was quite a disaster for Irish record keeping the beautiful fantastic archive was destroyed. It was explosions that occurred on the 30th of June 1922. It was a catastrophe for Irish history. The building was destroyed, this beautiful archive was destroyed. Records going back 800 years were blown up. The records were scattered around Dublin City. Records were blown on the wind over 10 miles out around Dublin. People were picking them up and handing them back in. There were very little handed back in. It was a catastrophe for Ireland and a really great tragedy. So that’s the backstory.
There was two parts to the records office. In designing this, they were really careful to try to ensure that nothing, no catastrophe, could happen that these records could be destroyed. There were two parts to the building. There was a squarish type building (on the left in the photo).
Ireland Public Records Office
That’s called the Record House. That’s where the researchers went. If you want to access records, you went into the Record House, (it was like the Reading Room of the archive) and you filled out a form. You filled out the details of the record you wanted.
The building on the right was called the Record Treasury. It was called the Treasury because these were Ireland’s treasures. This was where Ireland’s treasures were store. It was a beautiful archive containing beautiful records of Irish history over 800 years.
If you look up towards the roof, between the two buildings, you can see a gap. This was a fire break that was that was installed because it was thought that if any fire broke out, it wasn’t going to break out in the Record Treasury, it was going to break out in the record house where the where the public came in and where the heating systems were. So, they wanted to ensure all the collections of records that were in the Record Treasury were going to be protected from fire. So that building isn’t actually joined together. That’s a false wall there. That firebreak gap between the two buildings was to ensure that there was no possibility that a fire could spread from the Record House into the Record Treasury and destroy the records.
The great irony is that when the fire broke out, when the explosions occurred, the explosions occurred in the Record Treasury. That meant that the firebreak operated in reverse protecting the Record House from the Treasury. And by coincidence, whoever was working on records on the day that the record office was occupied, those records were moved from the Treasury to the Record House for them to access. Those records remained in the Record House. So, a small quantity of records survived just by pure accident because people were using them in the Record House at the time. So, the firebreak operated in reverse, protecting the Record House from the fire that was in the Record Treasury even though it was designed with the idea that it would protect the Treasury from any fire that was going to occur in the Record house.
Lisa: Did you say that there was actually munitions stored there?
Dr. Gurrin: Just to take up on the first question that yes, they did. They were really careful to ensure that no damage could come to the records. It wasn’t just that they installed a firebreak, but they also made sure that there was no wood in the Record Treasury to ensure that there was no possibility. So everything was metal. Initially there were wooden shelves in there. But then, maybe 10, 15 years in, the Deputy Keepers annual report says, that’s it, there’s no wood left in here, We have it perfectly protected, so there is no possibility of fire occurring in here.
A view inside the Record Treasury:
(enhanced and colorized photo)
There were six floors in that building. You won’t see any wood at all.
These people are called searchers. So, you go into the Record House:
The Record House
You’d sit down in one of those benches down the back, you’d fill out your document, and you’d hand it up to the clerk behind the desk. They give it to one of the searchers who then goes in through those double doors. That’s the way in between the firebreak and the link into the Record Treasury. They wander up to the steps to whichever floor the record was on and find the record, and bring it back down into the Record House for you.
Now we do have a great knowledge of what was in the Record House.
record treasury chart
There was a kind of a central aisle down. On either side there were what were called “bays”. There were six floors to it. This chart is giving you an indication of what was in the Record Treasury and what type of records were in the bays.
Public Record Office inspection document:
Tennyson Groves was a great hero of mine. He was a genealogist who sat in the Public Record Office and transcribed vast amounts of information from various census records. A lot of what we have surviving now are transcripts that were transcribed by Tennyson Groves.
Lisa: You mentioned the copies of records that were often made. We see that in genealogical records around the world that sometimes copies get made, and then the original set may go to a central location, and then they would keep a set locally. You mentioned that with some of the census records they actually sent the second set into the public records office as well. Do you have a sense of how many duplicates are out there? I mean, how much hope is there that there are copies of some of the things that were in the building and lost that day?
Dr. Gurrin: That’s a really good question.
Once the fire occurred in the courthouse in 1891 in Cork, they said, ‘right, we cannot have, we can’t have a situation where local records are stored in unsuitable accommodation like this. They can’t be destroyed. We have a perfectly fireproof location here. So, we’re going to take them all in.’
So, whatever records counties produced, like as I said, the 1821 census, they were required to make copies. Not all counties produced copies, and not all counties produced complete copies for their county, but many counties did. And many counties produced partial copies. All of those went into the Public Record Office after 1891 as per instructions of the Public Record Office. They all went in except for one county, which is county Cavan. About 40% of the census records survive for Cavan. They were the only county that didn’t send in their local copies into the record office. All the others transferred.
If the fire hadn’t occurred in Cork, maybe the Public Record Office would have let the records stay locally, and they would have survived. In terms of survival of records, Cavan is the only county that copies of the 1821 census survived. Now there are four volumes of 1821 census original volumes that survived. Some bits of partial sets of records have survived. That’s four out of 480 original volumes that existed. So, it’s like 1% of the original volumes from 1821 to survive. But for Cavan 40% of the county is covered by copies that were made under the terms of the census act.
Then there are transcripts for various parts from genealogists and local historians. Prior to 1922, they made copies. But in terms of survival there’s probably about, I suppose, 50 or 60,000 names surviving from 1821 and transcripts. Now that’s 50 or 60,000 names out of the 6.8 million names that were enumerated in 1821. So it’s really, really tragic.
And it’s even worse as you go as you go to the next census for 1831, the survival rate is even lower. And for 1841, it’s very low as well. And there are about two and a half thousand civil parishes in Ireland. And for 1841, there is only one parish that the original record survived. The scale of the losses is just catastrophic.
We are very lucky in that we do have census substitutes. In some instances, we have a wonderful land value taxation valuation that was conducted in the 1860s or in the 1850s called Griffiths Valuation, which is effectively a census substitute. But that’s what we’re down to as Irish genealogy. We’re down to using census substitutes in a lot of instances because unfortunately, this wonderful census records were lost.
There was one other very interesting census that was conducted in Ireland in 1766, a religious census. And that’s a real focus of our project now. It’s a magnificent survey that was conducted that is in the second book of mine that you mentioned. Some original records survive from that as well. So, that’s a really interesting focus of our project, which I could talk for hours!
Lisa: How has this loss of records been coped with over the last 100 years? Were there efforts to try to reconstruct them and fill it back in?
Dr. Gurrin: There were. As soon as the Record Office was reconstructed they did put out calls for records or records transcripts that were taken before 1922. Those came back in and were donated back into the facility. They did make efforts to recover them.
A lot of the records like the charred remains of records that were picked up around the streets of Dublin and in the vicinity of the Four Courts were collected and boxed and cataloged. Many of those records weren’t accessed again until our project started.
The National Archives has been cataloging those records that were picked up almost 100 years ago on the streets of Dublin, and they’ve been cataloging them they’ve been trying to recover them to try to treat them to make them accessible again.
There were various efforts made and donations came in from genealogists like we had a lot of genealogists who transcribed records previous to 1922. If genealogical transcripts came up in auctions the government was very active in trying to secure those. They did as much as they could do, I think, to try to recover the losses, but it was only going to be a drop in the ocean in comparison with what was there.
Lisa: Now you’ve got a brand new project called Beyond 2022. Tell us how this gets started. And what’s your end goal?
Dr. Gurrin: It’s part of the decade of the decade of Centenaries in Ireland. There were a lot of things happening around 1916, with an Easter Rising around 1918, with a general election, which saw Sinn Fein’s win the majority of the seats. It saw the War of Independence, the Civil War, and then the government of Ireland enacted the partition of Ireland. So, it was a lot of things happening around there.
Beyond 2022 really fits into that as a part of the Decade of Centenaries. It’s a two year project that’s been going on with the intention of identifying material that still exists in archives around the world and local archives here in Ireland. It’s an effort to recover it to make it freely available digitally online. They’re being digitally imaged as high-quality digital images. They are being transcribed as much as possible. And that’s not being hand transcribed. This is a transcription package, which is reading the handwriting and trying to transcribe that handwriting into searchable text.
At the end of it, it is the intention of the project to make 50 million words available and searchable through the Beyond 2022 website. So you will be able to enter a name, enter a name, enter a townland name, enter a place name, enter free text and search these documents and come back with whatever we have. The launch date is June 30, 2022.
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history. (scroll down to watch the video)
Genealogy Consultation Provides a Strong Hypothesis
My 45-minute consultation with a genealogy expert Kate Eakman at Legacy Tree Genealogists broke things wide open on my Irish family lines and gave me the information and resources I needed to make all of the progress I shared in this episode. It’s the best investment I’ve made in my genealogy in a long time. They have experts in all areas. Learn more about how easy it is to book a consultation here.
After my consultation I needed to update my research plan and get to work collecting more genealogical evidence.
Let’s quickly recap what happened when I started working on my brick wall last week in episode 18:
Margaret Lynch’s death certificate said her parents were James Scully and Bridget Madigan.
Her obituary said she was born in Limerick Ireland.
There was one couple by those names in Limerick, having children and the right time. There is a gap in the records where Margaret should be.
Her husband Michael Lynch dies in Stillwater MN. St. Michael’s Catholic church. Found their marriage record in Stillwater. It was a large booming town, and a good place to focus. The Lynch family had a farm across the river in Farmington, Wisconsin.
My research question: Was this couple we found, James Scully and Bridget Madigan, who married in Kilcolman, Limerick, Ireland in 1830, the parents of Margaret Scully?
What Kate Eakman of Legacy Tree Genealogists helped me do in my 45-minute consultation:
Become acquainted with a variety of excellent Irish research websites
Located the indexed marriage record for James and Bridget
Located the original marriage record for James and Bridget
Located the indexed baptismal records for all of the children who had James and Bridget listed as their parents.
A Genealogy Research Plan for Collecting Evidence
After the consultation I developed a new research question: Are the children that we found records for in Ireland the siblings of my Margaret Lynch?
My research plan included:
Verify if there were any other couples by the names James Scully and Bridget Madigan married in Ireland, particularly in the time from of circa 1830. (Location of source: RootsIreland.ie)
Search in the U.S., starting in the area where Margaret lived, for each child. I’m looking for records that name these same parents, and show the child at an age that correlates with the baptismal date.
I identified several sources I believed would help me accomplish my goals.
Marriage Records – I conducted a search for James in Bridget in all counties in Ireland. I discovered that the couple Kate found during my consultation is the only couple in the RootsIreland database with those names married in Ireland. This gives me more confidence that I have the correct couple.
U.S. Records – Armed with the names and ages of the children of James and Bridget, it was time to return to America. I needed to search U.S. records to see if any of the children came to America (perhaps living near Margaret) and if these parents were named.
Records to look for:
U.S. Federal Census (Ancestry, FamilySearch), and State Census (Minnesota Historical Society, Ancestry, FamilySearch)
Death records (Minnesota Historical Society, FamilySearch.)
Before I began my search I created an excel spreadsheet to capture the information. I included columns for what their ages should be in each census.
Using a spreadsheet to track my findings.
Now I was ready to start the genealogical hunt!
Search each sibling one at a time in the census.
Focus on Washington Co., Minnesota (marriage and death location for Margaret & Michael Lynch)
Move on to Polk County Wisconsin, and greater Wisconsin.
Search both U.S. Federal Census & State Census
Top locations identified for this search: Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org, Minnesota Historical Society
Found individuals matching the sons in Stillwater and Baytown (Washington County)
Found Bridget Scully (Mother) living with various sons in various census records.
Immigration years listed for some of Margaret’s siblings.
Found in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census: James, Thomas, Daniel and Bridget.
I created folders for each sibling marked MAYBE and collected the records on my hard drive.
Learn more about hard drive organization in Elevenses with Lisaepisode 8.
Searched FamilySearch and the Minnesota Historical Society for a death record for each son.
Found Thomas and James.
James Scully and Bridget Madigan listed as parents
Next step: order the death certificates
Next I searched the Minnesota Historical Society website for newspapers.
Two obituaries for Bridget Scully! (8 children, immigration year, husband died in Ireland implied)
Found James Scully working with his brother and his obituary
Research Tip: Look at a map and identify nearby towns and larger cities. Expand your search to these areas.
I found a James Scully in the 1860 census with Bridget and his brothers, and working with Thomas in many newspaper articles.
Bridget’s obituary said she came to America with 8 children. 7 had baptismal records in Ireland. James and Margaret were not found in the baptismal records but were confirmed in U.S. records to have the same parents. That would be a total of 9 children. It’s possible one of the daughters that have not yet been found in U.S. records may have died in Ireland prior to their leaving for America.
I then combed back through my Lynch binder – I might spot something that I marked as unsure, or that might jump out at me now that didn’t 20 years ago.
Found History of the St. Croix Valley I had photocopied a section. Names Daniel Scully (who I have since found in the census, newspapers and death records) and says his parents are James Scully and Bridget Madigan!
Looked the book up in Google Books. It’s fully digitized. Now I can extensively read and search it.
Tech Tip: Clip and combine newspaper clippings with SnagIt software
Clipping and saving newspapers poses a unique challenge for genealogists:
Clipping a small portion of a very large digital newspaper page can result in a low resolution file.
If you clip an article you don’t always capture which newspaper and issue it came from
Articles often continue in different locations on the page or pages, making it impossible to capture the entire article in one image.
I use SnagIt software to clip my newspaper finds. I can then save them to Evernote or archive them on my hard drive. SnagIt can save your clippings in wide range of file types and can even clip video. You can get your copy of SnagIt here. It’s a one time fee and download – no subscription! (Thank you for using my link – it financially supports this free without any added expense to you.)
How to combine multiple clippings with Snagit:
Clip the paper title and date
Clip the article
Clip any additional applicable sections of the article
In the SnagIt menu under Image click Combine Images
Drag and drop the clippings into the desired order
Click the Combine button
Save the combined image: In the menu File > Save As (you can select from a wide variety of file types)
Research Tip: Using Street Addresses in Google Earth
When you find a street address, whether in a newspaper, city directory, census or other genealogical record, use it to find the location in the free Google Earth software program. You can then save an HD quality image of the location.
How to find a location in Google Earth (on a computer):
Type the address into the search field in the upper left corner
Click the Search button
The map will automatically “fly to” the location and a pin will mark the general spot.
Hover your mouse pointer in the upper right corner of the to reveal the navigation tools. Click the plus sign to zoom in closer.
How to view the location with Street View:
Zoom in relatively close so that the street and buildings are distinctly visible.
Just above the zoom tool you will find the Street View icon (the yellow “peg man”). Click on the icon and drag it over the street in front of the building / location. Don’t release your mouse. It may take a second or two for the blue line to appear indicating that Street View is available in that location. If no blue line appears street view is not available.
When the blue line is visible, drop the Street View icon directly onto the blue line in front of the location you want to view. by releasing your mouse. If you miss the line and the picture looks distorted, click the Exit button in the upper right corner and try again.
Once on Street View, you can use your keyboard arrow keys to navigate. You can also click on further down the street to move forward that direction.
How to save an image of a street view location:
Position yourself in the best view of the desired location using your mouse and keyboard arrow keys as described above.
In the toolbar at the top of the screen, click the Image icon (it looks like a portrait-oriented page, near the printer icon)
A Title and Description box will appear at the top of the screen beneath the toolbar. Click it and type in a title and description for your image if desired.
You can adjust the size (resolution) of the image you will be saving by clicking the Resolution button above the title box.
When you’re ready to save the image to your hard drive, click the Save Image
Learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy in Elevenses with Lisaepisode 12.
Order the video training series at the Genealogy Gems Store featuring 14 exclusive step-by-step video tutorials. The perfect companion to the book The Genealogists’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke.
After a week of post-consultation research:
Question: Who were the parents of Margaret Scully born in Limerick Ireland on approximately July 9, 1840?
Answer: James Scully and Bridget Madigan, married in Limerick, Ireland June 13, 1830. (Though I feel confident about this, I still have additional records I want to find in order to further solidify this conclusion.)
Question: In what Parish was Margaret Lynch born?
Answer: Most likely Kilcolman based on the baptismal locations of her siblings.
My Next Research Steps:
Browse search through the baptismal parish records at NLI 1839-1842 for Margaret, and 1834-1836 for James Scully.
Look for marriages of Margaret’s female siblings, and family burials.
(Contact St. Michael’s church, Stillwater, MN.)
Go through newspapers.com – there are several Minneapolis and St. Paul papers running articles from Stillwater.
Resume my search of passenger list records with the newly revised date of c. 1851.
Search for the death record of Bridget’s husband James at RootsIreland and NLI.
How to Book a Genealogy Consultation
My 45-minute consultation with a genealogy expert Kate Eakman at Legacy Tree Genealogists broke things wide open on my Irish family lines and gave me the information and resources I needed to make all of the progress I shared in this episode. It’s the best investment I’ve made in my genealogy in a long time. They have experts in all areas. Learn more about how easy it is to book a consultation here.
For more step-by-step instructions for using Google Earth read my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox available at the Genealogy Gems Store.
Recommended Genealogy Gems Premium Member Videos with downloadable handouts:
Barry Landau Sentenced to 7 Years for Thefts From National Archives, Other Institutions
Washington, DC . . . U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake yesterday sentenced Barry H. Landau to seven years in prison, and three years of supervised release, for conspiracy and theft of historical documents from cultural institutions in four states, including the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York.
The items stolen from the Roosevelt Library, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration, were seven “reading copies” of speeches that Roosevelt delivered. They contained his edits and handwritten additions, along with his signature. They have all been recovered.
Landau’s co-conspirator, Jason Savedoff, will be sentenced at a later date.
Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said he was pleased that Judge Blake “recognized the seriousness of this crime and meted out an appropriate punishment that will serve as a warning to others who may contemplate stealing our nation’s history.”
“There is a very special bond that forms between researchers and research institutions. It’s kind of like an insider’s club. We speak the same language, share the same interests, explore the same minute details of historical knowledge that will eventually fill in the fabric of our shared history as a nation,” the Archivist added.
“When a researcher turns out to be a thief and steals the documents that are the very underpinnings of our democracy, our trust and respect for the community is shaken. Barry Landau is just that thief. Dressed in the guise of a scholar, he ingratiated himself with our staff and stole priceless documents from the Franklin Roosevelt Library. In essence he robbed from all of us—our collective history. And he did far worse damage to numerous other research institutions around the country.”
The Archivist said that because of incidents such as those involving Landau, the National Archives and other research institutions around the world have become more vigilant over the last few decades. They have instituted a number of measures aimed at preventing theft, such as closed-circuit cameras, clean research room rules, exit searches, and increased staff surveillance.
“When a theft does occur, we rely on the Office of the Inspector General and the Justice Department to build a case and bring the perpetrator to justice,” he added. “I want to thank them for their hard work.”
Lynn Bassanese, Acting Director of the Roosevelt Library, recalled that when Roosevelt dedicated his library on June 30, 1941, he declared it an “act of faith” in the American people.
“Barry Landau and Jason Savedoff violated that faith by taking advantage of the trust and confidence that the Roosevelt Library’s staff has for its researchers,” she said.”With the successful return of the stolen documents, the Roosevelt Library renews its commitment to protect and preserve the records of the Roosevelt Presidency and to make them accessible to the American people for generations to come.”
According to Landau’s plea agreement, the “reading copies” of Roosevelt’s speeches were stolen when he and Savedoff visited the Roosevelt Library on December 2, 2010.
“Reading copies” are the actual copies of the speeches from which the President read. They contain edits and handwritten additions made by him and bear his signature.
Four of these “reading copies” of speeches were sold by Landau on December 20, 2010, to a collector for $35,000. Three other “reading copies” of inaugural addresses delivered by Roosevelt, valued at more than $100,000 each, were recovered from Landau’s apartment in New York City during court-authorized searches, including the water-stained reading copy of the inaugural address Roosevelt delivered in a steady rain in 1937.
Judge Blake also ordered Landau to pay restitution totaling $46,525 to three dealers who purchased the stolen documents from Landau, not knowing they were stolen. She also ordered Landau to forfeit all the documents recovered during searches of his New York apartment.
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of our nation, government, and the American people.
Discover the essential search strategies that every genealogist should be using when searching for records at FamilySearch.org, the popular free genealogy website. In Elevenses with Lisa episode 64 Lisa Louise Cooke discusses:
Wild cards you can use when searching FamilySearch
Search strategies to help you get more results
Advanced Search strategies
Episode 64 Show Notes
FamilySearch.org is a free genealogy records and family tree website. You will need to be logged into your free account in order to search for genealogy records.
In this video and show notes I will outline strategies for searching for people by name in genealogy records. You can then apply these techniques to your genealogy research plan. Knowing what you’re specifically looking for will give you a better chance at success.
Elevenses with Lisa episode 64 – Share on Pinterest
Starting Your Search at FamilySearch
In the menu go to Search > Records (then use the form).
Start with a broad search.
Search results ignore the order of first names but will preserve name order if there are two last names.
Click the Exact Match box to start narrowing in on specific names and spellings.
Even if you are confident that you know exact names and places try variations. For example, add or remove a name and turn on and turn off Exact Match.
Strategies for Searching Names FamilySearch:
Add or remove middle names.
Try searching for nicknames.
Try spelling variations. Use the AlternateName You can search up to four alternate names at a time. Try clicking the Exact Match box for each alternate name.
example of Alternate Name search at FamilySearch
Try spelling the name as it would have been spelled in the old country. (Example: Sporan / Sporowski / Sporovsky / Sporowski)
Use wildcards to help with search variations.
Asterisk (*) replaces zero or more characters.
Question mark (?) replaces a single character.
Use cluster research techniques by searching on relationships.
A few words about searching on relationships: Try searching only with your ancestor’s first name and a known relationship such as a spouse, parent or other relative. In addition to specific people, try searching for a surname associated with the family.
Over time the spelling of a last name can change in a family. It’s important, even if you receive initial successful results, to try all variations, including language variations.
In the case of women, records will be under the last name they were using at the time the record was created. Therefore, try searching for them using their maiden name and then their married name (or names if they were married multiple times.)
Try leaving the last name field blank. This can be particularly effective when searching for female ancestors. This strategy works well in conjunction with entering additional information, such as the names of the spouse or parents.
Try just surnames, unique first names, and Other Person
Here’s an example of a search log I created using Snagit. You can add custom text, symbols, highlighting and much more to create exactly the log that works for you.
Search log created with Snagit
Here’s how to quickly capture and keep a research log of your FamilySearch searches:
Run your search as usual.
Use Snagit to clip the number of results and the terms searched at the top of the results page. (Set Snagit to “Region” to precisely clip that portion of the screen.)
Continue searching and clipping. When done, go back to the Snagit Editor.
Click Control (Win) or Command (Mac) and click to select each clipping you made in order. You can also select all of your clippings by clicking to select the first clipping and then hold down the shift key on your keyboard and click the last clipping.
Right-click on the selected clipping to access the menu. Click Combine in Template.
In the pop-up Combinein Template box, select a template. I like to use Custom Steps for a research log.
Click the Next
Give your combined image a Title. (You can edit this again later.)
Select the font and canvas color as desired.
The NumberImages box will probably be selected. This will place a “step” number in front of each clipping showing the order in which you clipped. You can deselect this box if you don’t want to number your clippings.
Click the Combine
Edit the combined image as desired. You can click to select items to move and resize them. You may need to ensure you’re not in Text mode – click the Arrow at the top of the screen and then you’ll be able to click on items like the numbered steps and move them around. Grab the edges and drag them to crop if needed.
Save your image: File > Save As.
Search Strategy: Events
Try searching on known life events such as:
Click the type of life event you want to include in your search. Enter the place and year range.
Life Events Search Tips:
Try your search with different events.
Try your search with no events.
Use the Residence option to find records identifying where a person was living. Some records contain an address or last place of residence. Birthplaces, marriage places, and death places are not the same as residence places.
Use the Any Event if you know a date and place for an event other than birth, marriage, death, or residence. For example, a search with an Any event can find dates of military enlistment or immigration.
Search Strategies: Places
In the place field try searching at a more or less specific place level. If you searched for a town, try the county, state, district or country.
Try using wildcards in place-names. (Enter * to replace zero or more characters. Enter ? to replace one character.)
Search Strategies: Years
In the year fields try adding a year before and a year after.
In the year fields, try searching with no years first, and then filter the results to narrow your search by year.
Advanced Search Strategies
Include multiple events in your search when you are looking for a record that likely contains all the events.
Death records – try searching with both birth and death events.
Birth record, include only a birth event, since birth records usually do not contain death information.
To search for a child’s birth records, enter the child’s name, then click Parents. Enter the parents’ names. If needed, try variations such as these:
Both of the parents’ full names.
The father’s full name only.
The mother’s full married name only; then her full married name only.
The father’s full name with the mother’s first name.
The mother’s full maiden name with the father’s first name.
To find all of the children in a family, leave the first and last name fields blank.
Then click Parents and conduct your search using only parents’ names. Try all the variations.
Searching for Marriage Records
To search for a marriage enter the name of one person in the first and last name fields. Click Spouses, and enter the name of the spouse. Try variations: the spouse’s first name and the wife’s maiden name. To limit your search results to marriage records only, click Type, and click the Marriage checkbox.
Search Best Practices
Have a specific search goal.
Start with a broad search. You do not have to enter information in all search fields. You often can get better results when you leave most blank, and then filter down.
FamilySearch doesn’t support Boolean Operators like Google does.
Expect records and indexes to contain errors, spelling variations, and estimations.
Try your search several times with variations.
Even if your ancestors had easy-to-spell names, expect spelling discrepancies. Anderson could be Andersen in some records. Try Anders?n in the Last Names search box.
Always look at the image, if possible. It often has more information than the index alone.
FamilySearch.org added new, free, historical records this week from Benin, Brazil, England, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Africa and the United States including 2 million North Carolina birth, marriage, and death records (1800 to 2000).
Search these new genealogical records and images by clicking on the collection links below.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 5,000 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
What Did You Find in the New Online Records?
We’ve got our fingers crossed that you are able to unearth some new genealogy gems from these new updates. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know, and then share this post with your friends.