A free FamilySearch account gives you access to more historical records and customized site features than you’ll see if you don’t log in at this free genealogy website. Here’s why you should get a free FamilySearch account and log in EVERY time you visit the site.
This post is part of our ongoing commitment to help you get the most out of the “Genealogy Giants:”
In this post, I comment on a recent announcement from the free giant everyone should be using: FamilySearch.org.
Why you should have (and use!) a free FamilySearch account
FamilySearch.org has always allowed free public use of its site. But beginning on December 13, 2017, the site will now actively prompt visitors to register for a free FamilySearch account or to log in with their existing accounts. Anyone can continue to search the catalog and user-submitted genealogies, explore over 350,000 digitized books, learn from the Wiki and the learning center, and even view user-contributed photos and stories. But by requesting you to log in, FamilySearch wants to remind you that this is your path to even more free records and services on the site.
Here are my top three reasons to have and use a free FamilySearch account:
1. Access more free historical records on FamilySearch.
We’ve talked a lot in recent months about best strategies for accessing digitized and off-line historical records at FamilySearch. Some of the digitized records on FamilySearch are there courtesy of a partner organization, which may restrict record access to those who log in on the site.
One woman had an “ah-ha” moment of realization after reading FamilySearch’s announcement. She posted in the comments, “Though I have had a free account for some time, I did not realize that FamilySearch was not giving me full access to information in record searches just because I had not logged in. Maybe I need to redo my past searches as a logged-in account holder.”
2. Participate in the global Family Tree.
As I more fully describe in my quick reference guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites, FamilySearch’s online family tree is different than the tree systems used at the other major family history websites. Instead of creating your own personal tree, you participate in a collaborative, unified family tree of the world. As a logged-in visitor, you can enter your information, then that of your parents and their parents, etc. until you connect to deceased individuals who are already on the tree. (Information about living individuals is always privacy-protected.) Then you may, with other descendants, contribute what you to know to an ancestor’s profile.
Anyone may make changes to these public profiles, which may at times be frustrating. But it also allows for more focused collaboration. This is a great place to see a virtual compilation of others’ research on particular ancestors without having to search others’ personal trees individually, as you do on other sites (remember to look for their source citations and verify what others say). The Family Tree on FamilySearch is also a great place to digitally archive family documents and photos where other researchers may see and appreciate them for free. As you can see in the screenshot below, logging in also helps you see how others have identified the folks you see in your search results:
3. Get customized help.
Those who log in with a free FamilySearch account have access to one-on-one assistance through the website. If you have a question about using the site, accessing records, finding additional records about your ancestors, or even how to understand the records you’re looking at, you can email or call a live support person for help. Your login also sets you up to receive customized alerts and seasonal messages (like “Did you know your ancestor fought in the War of 1812?”) and a dashboard experience with at-a-glance reminders of record hints awaiting your review, where you left off in your last online session, tips about what to do next, and more. Here’s what the dashboard looks like:
How to get (or recover) a free FamilySearch account
See Registering to use FamilySearch.org for information about creating a free account. FamilySearch accounts have always been free and, the site assures us, will continue to be free. You will need to provide your first and last name, a username, a password, and an email or mobile phone number.
According to FamilySearch, your login and other personal information:
- enables collaboration in the Family Tree and Memories areas of the site (you control how much information is shared)
- “allows you to send in-system messages to other users without revealing your personal identity or email address”
- “allows FamilySearch to send you emails and newsletters (you can specify how many emails, if any, you receive)”
- enables communication when you contact their online support team for help
- will not be shared “with any third party without your consent”
If you’ve already got a FamilySearch account but have forgotten your username, click here. If you’ve forgotten your password, click here.
Genealogy Gems Brings You Genealogy Giants
Each of the “Genealogy Giants” has so much to offer family historians around the world! But it’s hard to keep them straight, compare their top features, and get the most out of them without some inside help. That’s why we published the must-have quick reference guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites, your personal comparative tour of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage.
This inexpensive guide can save you hours of wasted time hunting down the records you need. It can save you hundreds of dollars by helping you invest in the genealogy websites you most need to use right now–because your research needs change right along with your growing family tree! The guide is available for your immediate reference as a digital download or get a handy, high-quality printed copy you can keep with your genealogy research files.
Adoption of Washington State Native Americans records are now available for genealogical research. Also this week you can fill up on North Carolina school books, California land dockets, Florida newspapers, Canadian Aboriginal Peoples records, Lower Canadian census for 1825, and new additions to historic British newspapers.
United States – Adoption of Washington State Native Americans
Washington, Applications for Enrollment and Adoption of Washington Indians, 1911-1919 is now available at FamilySearch.org. This collection consists of records created during the creation of the Roblin Rolls of Non-Reservation Indians in Western Washington. The enrollment and adoption proceedings of Indian tribes in Western Washington that were not on tribal census records makes this collection unique. It is arranged by tribal name claimed by the applicant, and then by applicant’s name.
Records may contain:
- English name of the primary individual or family members
- Indian name of the primary individual or family members
- Birth, marriage, or death dates
- Birth, marriage, or death places
- Place of residence
- Number of children in the family
- Other biographical details about the family or individuals such as migrations
- Tribal affiliation
- Religious affiliation
- General information about the tribe
United States – North Carolina – School Books
North Carolina Digital Heritage Center features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of sources from across North Carolina. This week, the archive has added almost 90 years worth of “BlueBooks” from St. Mary’s School in Raleigh. The years covered are 1911-2000.
St. Mary’s School was both a high school and a college. In particular, the Student Blue Books could be especially useful for genealogists or historians, as they document the names, activities, and some addresses of the students.
United States – California – Land Docket
Ancestry.com has California, Private Land Claim Dockets, 1852-1858
available online. This record collection includes case files regarding private land claims in California. They are based on historical Spanish and Mexican land grants that took place before California became part of the U.S.
California, Private Land Claim Dockets, 1852-1858 for José Abrego at Ancestry.com
The purpose of these records was to show the actions taken regarding the claims after they were confirmed valid. Additional items within these case files include: notices and evidence of claims, certificate or plats of survey, affidavits, deeds, abstracts of titles, testimonies, appeals, and letters.
Each record in the index usually includes the name of the landowner, their docket number, and the record date.
United States – Florida – Newspapers
Do you have ancestors from Florida? Newspapers.com now has the Palm Beach Post. With a basic subscription, you can see issues of the Palm Beach Post from 1916 through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access earlier years and additional issues from 1922 to 2016.
Florida’s Palm Beach Post first began publishing in 1908 with the name Palm Beach County, and in 1916 (by this time called the Palm Beach Post) the paper made the switch from running weekly issues to daily.
Canada – Aboriginal Records
Library and Archives Canada added over 600 documents from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recently. These records can be viewed at the Library and Archives Canada website.
These records include transcripts of more than 175 days of public hearings, consultations and roundtables; research studies by academics and community experts; and submissions by non-governmental organizations. Until now, patrons could only access this collection in person at LAC’s downtown Ottawa location, or by submitting a reprography request. This is a wonderful asset to the many helpful collections online for Canadian researchers.
Lower Canada – Census
The Lower Canadian Census of 1825 from Findmypast contains over 74,000 records covering modern day Labrador and southern Quebec. Each search result will provide you with an image of the original document and a transcript. Information may include the language your ancestor spoke, where they lived, and with how many people they lived. It does not name each of the inhabitants in the home by name, but they are marked by age.
1.2 million Irish immigrants arrived from 1825 to 1970 according to Wikipedia. The peak period of entry of the Irish to Canada in terms of numbers occurred between 1830 and 1850, when 624,000 arrived. Quebec was a port of entry. So, if you have Irish immigrants who you think may have come to Canada by 1825, this might be a great census for you to look at.
Britain – Newspapers
Over 1.5 million new articles have been added to the military publications available at Findmypast in their historic British Newspapers. The Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service are two of the new titles added. Additional articles come from the Army and Navy Gazette.
More on Native American Research Collections
This week’s records featured Adoption of Washington State Native Americans. But whether you are searching for your Native heritage in Canada, the Western United States, or the Southeastern United States, we know you want the best in education and helpful tips. We have created a three-part series regarding how to use the Native American collections on Fold3.com here:
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
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!”
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.
Common surnames can make genealogy research more challenging. But learning more about your last name (including how common it is) can also enrich your family history. Check out 4 free online tools for learning more about your family’s surnames. Then share what you learn the next time your relatives get together!
If you have common surnames on your family tree, you may have become frustrated at times trying to determine whether the “John Williams” or “Elizabeth Smith” you’re looking at in a record belongs to your John or Elizabeth. Would it make a difference if you discovered they lived in an area where there very few folks by those names during that time period? It would. Furthermore, it would probably also be nice to know things like where else in the world–or within England, for example–that surname is found now (or was in the past).
The enormous amount of census, vital records, and family tree data now online is making it easier to answer questions like these. Below, find free online tools for mapping common surnames (and less-common ones, too) across time. They include surname search tools hosted by a couple of our Genealogy Giants, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com. What can you learn from the following sites? Do they agree with one another? Check them out!
Your surname in the 1990 and 2000 U.S. censuses
The US Census Bureau has created databases of last names that appear in recent censuses. You can look at the results a couple of ways:
- Click here to search for your surname among the most common 150,000 surnames from the 1990 and 2000 censuses. These surnames cover about 90% of those who participated in the census.
- Click here to view a list of all surnames that appear 100 or more times in the 2000 census. (Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller and Davis all top a million occurrences!) According to this webpage, the top 15 surnames have remained fairly steady in the most recent three censuses with one exceptional trend: Spanish-origin surnames are starting to make the lists.
Common surnames of England and Wales
Find out how common your surname is today in England, Wales, and the Isle of Mann. The Surnames of England and Wales – the ONS List has a searchable database of almost 270,000 surnames shared by 54.4 million people (it excludes surnames occurring fewer than 5 times in the total database of nearly 60 million people). The list compiled between 1998-2002 does have some duplication and misspellings: “experience suggests that multiplying the result for your surname by 0.93 will give a good idea of the living population for your surname.”
What’s in a name? Ancestry.com answers
Ancestry.com hosts this fun and free tool for those with roots in the U.S., England, Scotland, and Wales:
Remember, it’s not a precise genealogy research tool. But it can prove interesting. When I ran this search for the married surname of our Genealogy Gems DNA expert, Diahan Southard, I was shown (among other things) this interesting map illustrating how the Southard family was spread across the United States in 1920:
Surname directory at MyHeritage
MyHeritage.com hosts a searchable surname directory taken from data found on its site. To search the surname directory, choose the first letter of the last name from the alphabet shown below the search screen. (If you enter a name in the blue search boxes, you’ll be taken into their record-searching area, which isn’t the same):
You won’t find all names surnames here, though you may find variant spellings of yours. (I never knew McClellan could be spelled in so many different ways!) Here’s a map of how they find my husband’s surname, Morton, scattered across the globe:
Looking for more surname distribution maps? Click here to find a list organized by country.
Next Steps: Try this with your common surnames
If you’ve taken a DNA test…Thousands of people are compiling their same-surname DNA test results into surname projects. Click here to learn more about how to “social network” your yDNA test results in a surname project.
If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium subscriber…you can watch Lisa Louise Cooke’s fabulous video tutorial, Common Surname Google Search Strategies. Use her tips to find even your most commonly-named relatives online! (Not a Premium member? Click here to learn more–for one low price, you’ll get a year’s access to hundreds of Premium videos and podcast episodes!)