Why You Should Have a Free FamilySearch Account–And Use It!

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. 

free FamilySearch account

GIANTS GIANTS Big 4 records websites

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

genealogy giants quick reference guide cheat sheetEach 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.comFamilySearch, 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.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Might any of these collections include your ancestors? Today: English and Welsh Quaker vital records, Newfoundland censuses, New York marriage record, Nova Scotia deaths, Queensland wills and Pittsburgh newspapers.

ENGLISH AND WELSH BMD. Quaker birth, marriage and burial records from England and Wales, 1578-1841, are now available to FindMyPast subscribers. Quakers were formally known as the Society of Friends, a nonconformist religious group who practiced their faith outside of the established Church of England during this time.

NEWFOUNDLAND CENSUSES. Over a quarter million indexed records have been added to free existing databases of Newfoundland, Canada censuses for 1935 and 1945 at FamilySearch.

NEW YORK MARRIAGES. Nearly 640,000 images have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of New York marriage records (1847-1848, 1908-1936). The collection is only partially indexed, but you can “scroll through” images online, much like you would on a microfilm reader.

NOVA SCOTIA DEATHS. Nearly 350,000 indexed names and over a quarter million images have been added to free FamilySearch databases of Nova Scotia deaths from 1890-1955 and 1956-1957.

QUEENSLAND (AU) WILLS. More than 45,000 wills from Queensland, Australia are now indexed for FindMyPast subscribers. The database covers nearly a century: 1857 to 1940 and includes name and year of death.

PITTSBURGH NEWSPAPERS. Newspapers.com and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have partnered to put issues of that paper online (1877-1921). “If you take into account the earlier papers that evolved into The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (like The Pittsburg Post, The Pittsburgh Gazette, and others—also on Newspapers.com), you’ll find issues dating back as far as 1786,” says a news release. “That’s 135 years of Pittsburgh history!”

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Here’s a tip: Most databases, even those with thousands of names in them, are incomplete. If you don’t find an ancestor in a record set in which they should appear, double check the record set description to see whether the years you want might not be included. Search on multiple name spellings, nicknames and initials, as well as for the names of other relatives. Page through any images online. Search that same website (and others) for additional record sets that may cover the same time frame and place. Finally, ask yourself why they could be missing from the records and follow up on logical lines of inquiry. This tip comes to you courtesy of the newly-revised and updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, which teaches you how to harness the powerful, free features on Google to find your ancestors.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. Do you see anything you should be searching for your ancestors?

Featured: U.S. – SOUTH DAKOTA CENSUS. The 1945 South Dakota state census collection at Ancestry.com has been updated. According to a FamilySearch.org collection description (where it can also be searched for free), “This 1945 South Dakota State Census is an every-name list of the state’s inhabitants as of 1945. The records are handwritten on printed cards and are arranged alphabetically by surname. People enumerated in the census are recorded individually; the census records do not show individuals in family groups.” It’s wonderful to see census records access pushing past that 1940 blackout!

AUSTRALIA VITAL RECORDS. Findmypast.com has updated collections of birth, marriage and death records for Western Australia. Transcripts for all three record sets appear to be taken from original civil registrations, which began in 1841.

SPAIN MUNICIPAL RECORDS. A free collection of Cádiz municipal records (1784-1956) has been updated with over 155,000 new browsable images at FamilySearch.org. The full collection (some of which is indexed) includes “civil registration records, censuses, military records, and other miscellaneous records microfilmed and digitized at municipal archives in the province of Cádiz, Spain.”

U.S. – LOUISIANA WILLS/PROBATE. Ancestry.com’s collection of wills and estate records for Louisiana (1756-1984) has been updated. Indexed images represent nearly 3/4 of Louisiana parishes.

U.S. – NEW YORK CHURCH. Findmypast.com has updated its collection of New York State Religious Records, 1716-1914. Find indexed images of baptisms, marriages and deaths from dozens of churches from various denominations. You can even search by denomination, church name, county or full text.

U.S. – NORTH CAROLINA MARRIAGES. There’s a new index with over 53,000 entries from North Carolina civil marriage bonds and certificates (1763-1868) at FamilySearch.org. Click here to see a description of the index’s coverage.

U.S. – NORTH DAKOTA FUNERALS. An index to records from North Dakota funeral homes hosted by the Red River Genealogical Society is newly indexed at Ancestry.com and can be searched for free. (Click here to search the index on the host website.)

More Genealogy Record Gems

U.S. State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

3 Strategies for Finding Catholic Church Records

U.S. Passport Applications: Finding Immigrant and Traveling Ancestors

FamilySearch and Ancestry: Billion Record Deal

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch International, the two largest online providers of genealogy data,  just announced an agreement that’s expected to put a billion more historical records from around the world within reach online.

1 Billion Records FamilySearch and Ancestry

FamilySearch and Ancestry: Billion Record Deal

A billion is a LOT of records. If you wanted to count to a billion, it would take you 95 years.

According to an Ancestry.com press release, the organizations will partner “with the archive community over the next five years to digitize, index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault.”

“The access to the global collection of records marks a major investment in international content as Ancestry.com continues to invest in expanding family history interest in its current markets and worldwide,” continues the release. “Ancestry.com expects to invest more than $60 million over the next five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer efforts facilitated by FamilySearch.”

This kind of collaboration (rather than competition) between these two enormous organizations will likely mean fabulous fruits for the genealogist. I love that the emphasis is on worldwide records, too. Though people in certain international markets may be the ones using their records, the ancestors of those folks have come from all parts of the world. As always, stay tuned to Genealogy Gems to hear news like this and for updates as these records start becoming available.

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