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.

Navigating the End of FamilySearch Microfilm Lending

Just announced: The FamilySearch microfilm lending service will end on August 30, 2017. Let’s cover what we know so far, how it may impact you, and strategies for getting the information you need. 

WHAT: FamilySearch Microfilm Lending Ends

Most of the Family History Library’s microfilm vault has already been digitized and is online–or will be within a short time. According to the website:

“Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide.”

However, the world’s largest lender of microfilmed genealogical records will be discontinuing the distribution of microfilms to Family History Centers in the near future.

“On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services,” announced the site yesterday. “The change is the result of significant progress in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. Digital imaging has made it easier to find ancestors through the internet, mobile, and other technologies.”

This means the clock is now counting down your ability to borrow microfilmed genealogical records from the Family History Library. The last day you can place an order for delivery to your local Family History Center is August 31, 2017.

It’s a change I’ve seen coming, but it’s still a little disconcerting now that it’s here. But change is the norm in today’s busy world, so let’s break down the details we know so far together.

WHY: Why are they discontinuing microfilm lending before they’re done digitizing?

It’s just too expensive. “The cost of duplicating microfilm for circulation has risen dramatically, while demand has decreased significantly,” says a FamilySearch Q&A. “At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the equipment, systems, and processes required for film duplication, distribution, and access.” FamilySearch wants to redirect its microfilm lending resources to providing more and better electronic record access.

I have personally visited the microfilm distribution facility, and the best analogy I can give you is that it looks a bit like the inside of an Amazon warehouse. It’s a mammoth and expensive undertaking, certainly not something you open or close lightly. I’m thankful that in the decades before the Internet, FamilySearch devoted so many resources to helping all of us gain access to hard-to-find records from around the world.

Photo Credit: Lisa Louise Cooke

WHEN: What will be available online and when

According to FamilySearch, they hope to finish digitizing the records that they have permission to digitize, in 2020. Unfortunately, some films we will not be digitized because of contractual limitations, data privacy, or other restrictions. Look to the Catalog for access details for the records you want.

Microfilm lending familysearch

By Lhsunshine (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

HOW: How to order FamilySearch microfilms between now and August 31, 2017

I encourage you to use the microfilm lending service while it is still available. While most microfilmed records will be eventually digitized, the fate of a small percentage may remain unknown for some time. Follow these steps to view them now:

1. Go to FamilySearch.org and log in, or create a free login. (You’ll need the login to order records.)

2. Under the Search menu, select Catalog.

3. Search by location, listing first the largest jurisdiction (such as the country) and proceeding to the smallest, such as “United States, Illinois, Cook, Chicago.”

4. Review search results by clicking on the record categories and then each entry. Within the entries, watch for interesting items that only list microfilm or microfiche formats.

5. Within record entries, order items you want by clicking the microfilm reel icon on the far right, under Format. Select the lending period and the correct currency. It currently costs $7.50 USD to borrow a microfilm reel for 90 days.

During the order process, you’ll select a family history center near you to receive the item(s). When your order arrives, you’ll be notified. Check the center’s schedule before visiting; most have limited hours. Centers are free to use. When you get there, identify yourself and request your film. Then put it in the microfilm reader and scroll through it until you find the item number and pages you need. (Here’s a helpful article: How to Use a Microfilm Reader.)

What about accessing microfilmed records after August 31, 2017?

You’ll still have several options. Sunny Morton, author of the quick reference guide Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websitessays the FamilySearch catalog will still be a go-to resource:

“At this point, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah still plans to keep on hand microfilmed copies of records that are not yet online. So your options include going to view them in person (since to the best of our knowledge the library won’t be lending them), arrange for someone else to view them (such as through the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group), or use the FamilySearch Catalog to identify the records and then attempt to locate them through other repositories and websites.

To find records you may borrow from other sources, click where it says ‘View this catalog record in WorldCat for other possible copy locations’ [see screenshot below]. This will take you directly to this item’s listings in WorldCat, which is the enormous, free multi-library online catalog. Look either for a copy at a library near you, or a copy at a facility that participates in inter-library loan. (This is the same process you already have to use to find copies of books you can borrow, since the Family History Library doesn’t lend these, either.)”

What about accessing the digitized records?

After August 31, 2017 many genealogists will be turning to the online FamilySearch catalog and Family History Center Portal. (Learn more about the Portal at the FamilySearch Wiki.) As you attempt to view records through the portal, you may be prompted to go to a Family History Center to view the record, and the site will link you to a map of all locations.  It’s important to understand the difference between an official Family History Center and an Affiliate Center. We’ve learned that Affiliate Centers do not have access to what is called the Family History Portal. That portal is only accessible from an officially designated Family History Center.

So how do you know which location on the map is official, and which is an affiliate? I turned to genealogy blogger and friend of Genealogy Gems Amie Tennant for clarification:

The (online) FamilySearch map of Family History Centers is not accurate. With the new changes to microfilm loans, this is going to be a big problem. In other words…if a person assumes all FHCenters are the same and travels to the nearest one, they will be sorely disappointed to realize that this one will NOT have access to all the digitized microfilm. (Researchers) should call ahead to confirm whether the center they see on this map is an affiliate or a full FHC with access to the portal.

I’ve reached out to FamilySearch for additional official information on this and several other important questions that have arisen with the discontinuation of microfilm lending. I’ll report to you here on the Genealogy Gems blog and the podcast as more information becomes available.  Check out Amie’s article for more information on the various levels of access.

What do you think?

The end of the FamilySearch microfilm lending service is a major milestone. It signals exciting future online access, but provides obstacles for the next few years. What suggestions do you have for researchers to gain additional access to essential microfilm? Please share with the Genealogy Gems community in the Comments below.

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 237

The Genealogy Gems Podcast is the leading genealogy and family history show. Launched in 2007, the show is hosted by genealogy author, keynote presenter, and video producer Lisa Louise Cooke. The podcast can be found in all major podcasting directories, or download the exclusive Genealogy Gems Podcast app to listen to all the episodes and receive bonus content. 

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke
January 2020
Download the episode mp3

Download the Show Notes PDF in the Genealogy Gems Podcast app. 

We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Genealogy Gems app. We blazed a new trail back in 2010 when we launched the app – apps were still really new back then.  I loved the idea of having a way to deliver exclusive bonus content to you as well as the audio, the show notes and best of all an easy way for you to contact me and the show.

genealogy gems podcast app 10th anniversary

It’s more popular than ever, and as far as I know we are still the only genealogy podcast app available. If you haven’t already downloaded it just search for Genealogy Gems in Google Play or Apple’s App Store, or get the right app for your phone or tablet here.

In this episode I have two interviews for you on very different subjects. First up will be a follow up to last month’s episode where we focused specifically on the New York Public Library Photographers’ Identities Catalog.

Well, in this episode we’re going to talk to the genealogy reference librarian at the New York Public Library, Andy McCarthy. And as you’ll hear, there are a massive amount of resource available there for genealogists everywhere.

Then we’ll switch gears to Scandinavian genealogy with David Fryxell, author of the new book The Family Tree Scandinavian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

The free podcast is sponsored by RootsMagic

Rootsmagic

GEM: The New York Public Library’s Milstein Division of United States

History, Local History & Genealogy with Reference Librarian Andy McCarthy.

The NYPL is one of the largest public genealogical collections in the country. They have a “wide-angle” approach to providing reference materials for local and US History.

The Top Resources at The New York Public Library

#1 The reference librarians.

Email them at history@nypl.org Ask questions, prepare for your visit.

#2 The online catalog:

Click here to visit the New York Public Library’s Online Catalog.

While they subscribe to many genealogy databases, they don’t host many. Use the catalog to determine what’s available, and what to ask for. See if what you’re looking for exists. Pay close attention to subject headings to identify resources.

#3 The Digital Collections

Click here to visit the Digital Collections at the New York Public Library. 

  • City Directory Collection up to 1933.
  • Manhattan is the largest and is coming soon. This collection was only available previously on microfilm. It is a browse-only collection (not keyword searchable)
  • The 1940 Phone Directory is online.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Map collection is digitized and online.
  • The Map Wharper which is a crowd-sourcing project providing for historic map overlays, and super zooming in views. 

Offline Materials: 

They also have a massive collection available in house of books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc. There are research and photo copying services available.

#4 Research Guides online

Click here to view the New York Public Library’s research guides. 

Before you go:

  • Definitely reach out before you go.
  • Provide them with specific questions and they can help you identify what to focus on while you’re there.
  • Visit the Milstein home page. They also have many public classes. Check to see what will be available during your visit.

One of Andy’s Favorites Collections

The Photographic Views of NYC Collection. Arranged by cross streets

The free podcast is sponsored by MyHeritage

MyHeritage

GEM: Scandinavian Research with Author David Fryxell

David Fryxell’s book on Scandinavian Genealogy

David A. Fryxell is the author of the book The Family Tree Scandinavian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

David is an award-winning author, editor, speaker and publishing consultant. He founded Family Tree Magazine, the nation’s leading genealogy publication. As a writing expert, he wrote the Nonfiction column for Writer’s Digest magazine for more than a decade and served as director of the famous Maui Writer’s Retreat. He has authored countless articles for Family Tree Magazine, and is also the author of additional books including Good Old Days, My Ass and MicroHistory: Ideas and inventions that made the modern world.

David Fryxell Scandinavian Genealogy Author

Author David Fryxell

Here’s a brief outline of my Q&A with David Fryxell on his new book and Scandinavian genealogy research:

Question:

To understand the ties between the Scandinavian countries, and why countries like Finland and Iceland aren’t included, we have to learn about the cultures and languages, right?

Answer:

Scandinavian countries are really tied by language. And at one point all the countries were united. Borders change. The records reflect these various changes.

Question:

What’s the timeline of Scandinavian immigration?

Answer:

The First Wave, 1825–1860

The Second Wave, 1865–1880

The Third Wave, 1880–1924

Question:

What value do you think DNA testing provides, and what should we keep in mind if we do test?

Answer:

DNA results are most helpful to find other relatives who may be able to assist in your research.

Question:

Let’s say we know we’ve identified the ancestor who immigrated. What else do we need to know before we can jump the pond and start digging into Scandinavian records?

Answer:

In the case of Scandinavian ancestors, you may not have to find the U.S. passenger records. They have excellent passenger departure records.

Question:

Tell us about the census in Scandinavia. Is it consistent among all three countries?

Answer:

Norway and Denmark have good census records. You can find them at:

They are increasingly searchable, and much like our census records in the U.S.

Sweden doesn’t really have useful census records. But they have Household Inventory records in church books. They were recorded every year. Turn to websites such as ArchivDigital, and Ancestry.com.

Question:

Let’s dig into the records. Where do you recommend we start?

Answer:

Church records are key. (Vital Records, census, vaccination, etc.) Also Military, Land and Tax.

Question:

I love that chapter 16 is called What to do when you get stuck! Give us an example of a common area where researchers get stuck and one of your favorite strategies for unsticking them.

Answer:

  • Get familiar with and pay close attention to patronymic naming conventions where a man’s name is typically based on the given name of their father.
  • Look closely!
  • Challenge your assumptions!

More Resources from David Fryxell: https://vikinggenealogy.com

Protect Your Precious Genealogy Data

Don’t wait another day. Get the computer backup that I use www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

Backblaze lisa louise cooke

Profile America: First Radio Broadcast

Monday, January 13th. Today is the anniversary of the first radio broadcast to the public. It took place 110 years ago in New York City, engineered by Lee deForest, a radio pioneer and inventor of the electron tube.

Lee de Forest First Radio Broadcast

The 1910 broadcast wasn’t made from a purpose-built radio studio, but from the Metropolitan Opera house. DeForest broadcast the voices of Enrico Caruso and other opera singers. A small but impressed audience throughout the city gathered around special receivers to listen with headphones.

Today, 95 percent of American households have at least one radio.

One-hundred ten years after deForest’s lonely effort, some 5,400 radio stations employ about 92,000 people.

Sources:

Courtesy of Census.gov.

MyHeritage LIVE conference

I’ll be speaking at this conference in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 25 & 26, 2020. Read more here.

RootsTech 2020

I’ll be presenting 4 sessions and look forward to visiting with you at the Genealogy Gems booth at the front of the exhibit hall. Get all the details here.

Read our latest articles at Genealogy Gems:

 

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