Browse-Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

Browse-only databases at FamilySearch are easy to use and may hold the key to the genealogy brick wall you have been working on.

Don’t be scared off because the records haven’t been indexed. Guest blogger Amie Tennant Bowser show you how to take advantage of these great records!

browse only databases

New Genealogy Records Come Online Every Week

Each week, we report on the latest genealogy records to have come online.

Sometimes in our weekly record update articles we include databases from the free FamilySearch website that are not yet indexed. These collections are referred to as browse-only. Have you ever been disappointed when you realized the database you are most interested in is only able to be browsed?

Browse Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

The highlighted genealogy records in these collections are browse-only

You may be thinking, “Good grief! I can’t possibly browse thousands of records!” and we don’t expect you to. In this article we are going to share strategies that you can use to zero in on the genealogy records you want to browse. 

Browse Only Records Versus Indexed Records

Most folks search for genealogy records at FamilySearch by typing in some key information at the home page. It might be just the first and last name, and the place where that ancestor lived. Here’s an example:

How to Browse Database

When you use this method, you are only searching for records that have been indexed. 

Indexed records are great because they have already been reviewed by one of the thousands of FamilySearch volunteers. They use online software on the FamilySearch website to download images of historical documents. Then, they read the information on the image and transcribe the information.

A second, more experienced volunteer then reviews the transcribed information to ensure accuracy before it is submitted to the website where they can be searched. It’s a huge effort to help genealogists more easily search the online records. 

So, it’s important to understand that not all digitized record images that are on the FamilySearch website have been indexed. This means there may be countless records that will not be retrieved by a name search. 

Unindexed records can only be browsed until they are indexed. So as you can see, there is a very good chance that there are records on the site that apply to your family, but you won’t find them through the search engine.

Instead, you need to go in the virtual “back door” to locate these records. Follow along with me and I’ll show you how. 

How to Find Browse-Only Records at FamilySearch

Let’s imagine you want to search probate records in Auglaize County, Ohio.

You would click the little map in the vicinity of the United States and choose “Ohio” from the pop-up box.

How to Browse Database

At the Ohio research page, you could do a general search of the Ohio collections. Again, this is only searching records that have been indexed.

Instead of using this method, scroll down until you see “Ohio Image Only Historical Records.” Look at all these databases you might have missed!

For our example, continue to scroll down until you see the database titled “Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996” near the bottom. Click on it.

Browse_Only_Database_4

You will notice right away that there is no way to “search” this database.

Many people give up at this point, after all, who has time to search nearly 7,000,000 records. Click on it anyway!

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The next screen has been broken down by county name. Choose the desired county name. In this case, I’m selecting “Auglaize.”

You are then directed to a page listing the volumes of records for Auglaize county that have been digitized.

In this example, we are seeing bonds, settlements, wills, estates, and so much more:

Browse_Only_Database_6

It is as if you are standing in the courthouse probate office surrounded by volumes and volumes of the records you need.

Select the volume you want to search by clicking the title.

“Open” the pages of the book and search like you would as if you were flipping the pages of a book or scrolling through a roll of microfilm.

Browse_Only_Database_7

Click the arrow at the top of the screen to scroll through the pages.

Friends, we want you to get excited about all the new records that are coming online, even if they are browse only databases. If you like this tutorial, share this tip with your genie friends so they can do it too. 

More Genealogy Gems on Records and Databases at FamilySearch

For more tips and tricks to help you in your genealogy journey, sign-up for our newsletter by entering your email address on this page.

If you’re looking for more genealogy records to mine, here are some of our articles. These will help you not only find new records, but also use other valuable genealogy indexes:

Genealogy Problem Solving: Conflicting Birthdates

Show Notes: Learn how to resolve conflicting evidence in your ancestors’ birth dates.

resolving conflicting birthdate genealogical evidence

Lisa’s special guest is genealogist Lindsey Harner.

 

In this Article and Video:

Reasons for Birthdate Discrepancies in Genealogy

5 Questions You Should Ask About Conflicting Birthdates

Birth Record Substitutes

Case Study Strategies for Solving Conflicting Birthdates

Have you ever been frustrated by finding conflicting birth dates for your ancestor? The article called Birthday Wishes appears in the July/August 2020 issue of Family Tree Magazine tackles this challenge. The article’s author, professional genealogist Lindsay Harner is here to share five questions that you should ask yourself when you are comparing birth dates across a variety of genealogical records. These questions will help you get a little closer to the truth.

Resource: Download the ad-free show notes including a printable checklist cheat sheet. (Premium Membership required)

Reasons for Birthdate Discrepancies in Genealogy

Lisa: What are some of the possible reasons that we might come across birthdate discrepancies when we’re looking at a variety of different genealogical records?

(01:08) Lindsay: We’re talking about vital records, birth, marriage and death records.  I think birth records tend to be a little different sometimes, because marriage records would be recorded by churches and in civil records for many, many years and often reported in the local newspaper. Death dates are often carved on headstones. But with the birthdate, nobody can remember their own birth date, right? So, in the days before documentation, a lot of times people had to rely on what they were told by maybe a parent or a relative in terms of what their actual birth date was.

(01:58) Lisa: That’s a good point, it poses a very unique challenge.

5 Questions You Should Ask about Conflicting Birthdates

Let’s jump into your five questions, because I think they will help us find the truth. What is the first thing that we should ask ourselves when we’re seeing a discrepancy?

Question #1: When was the birthdate record created?

(02:16) Lindsay: The first question you should ask yourself is, when was the record created?

Records tend to be more reliable the closer they were created to the actual event. People tend to remember events better when they’re fresher in their minds. We tend to remember things better that happened last week than, say, 10 years ago.

Question #2: Who was the source of the birthdate?

(02:52) The next thing you’re going to want to ask is who was the source of the birth information? Was it someone who could have been present at the birth?  They’re going to be the most reliable sources of information. People such as a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, maybe an older sibling who would have been old enough to remember, an attending physician or midwife if you’re lucky enough to find a record from one of them. People like that would be much more reliable than, say, the person’s child who of course, couldn’t have been present at the birth.

Lisa: A death certificate is a good example. It will often tell the birthdate of the person who died. However, you then look at the informant, and you realize that guy certainly wasn’t there when the person was born and certainly heard about it second or third hand. So that’s what you’re talking about, deciding how much weight to give it?

Lindsey: That’s right. Yes.

Question #3: Can the birthdate be corroborated?

(04:00) The next question you’re going to want to ask is whether or not the birth date can be corroborated with other records. For example, if you have three records that report one birthday, and then you find another record that gives a completely different birthday, chances are the record that differs from everything else is probably not accurate, if you can’t find anything else that matches it.

Lisa: So, you’re saying if one thing stands out as different while everything else seems to be lining up, then we give it less weight. That makes sense. And I imagine that there are some dates out there that just don’t make sense, right?

Lindsay: Yes, that’s right.

Question #4: Is the birthdate plausible?

(04:50) You’re going to want to take into consideration everything that you know about the person when you have conflicting information. Look at all of the records you have related to them in their immediate family. That should clue you in on whether or not a certain birthday is even plausible or makes sense.

For example, if someone is listed in the 1860 census, they couldn’t have been born in 1861 or later. Or if they had an older brother who was born in 1875 their birth date would have to be at least nine months after the older sibling’s birthday.

Lisa: That sounds logical. When you’re in the heat of a research challenge, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of those very simple discrepancies. What else should we be asking ourselves?

Question #5: Is the birthdate inaccurate on purpose?

(06:00) Lindsay: The last question that I recommend you ask yourself is, in this situation, is there a reason that the source would be dishonest? There are a lot of reasons why someone may have lied about their age. I’m sure most of us have heard about boys claiming to be older than they actually were in order to be eligible for military service.

Some people may have lied just for the sake of appearances. For example, I can think of an instance in my own family tree where I have a female ancestor who was about seven or eight years older than her husband. Once they were married, all of a sudden her birth year in census records became much later because she apparently didn’t want people to know she was so much older than her husband, or they just assumed that they were closer in age. So that’s one reason why someone could be dishonest.

Another possible reason for dishonesty could be that they had a financial incentive. My grandfather got his driver’s license when he was 15. He lied about his age for many years. His driver’s license never had the right age on it.

There are all sorts of reasons that people lie. So, you’ll just want to ask yourself, is there a reason? Did they stand to gain something from being dishonest?

Lisa: That’s a very good point. It makes me think back to my first job. If anybody ever finds my first job application, they will find a bit of a discrepancy on the age because I was really anxious to get to work. I was 15, and you had to be 16 to work. But I don’t do that anymore!

Birth Record Substitutes

When we’re looking at these kinds of records, and you were talking about finding additional records to corroborate what we’re finding, what are some of the birth records substitutes that we could be looking for?

(08:15) Lindsay: Yes, fortunately, even in the years before state issued birth certificates, there are a lot of other sources that we can turn to that would give a birth date. Probably the best sources out there would be a family Bible or a baptismal record.  Chances are, they were created very close to the birth, or not very long after.

If your ancestor lost a parent at a young age, there may be guardianship records that would record their birth date.

If your ancestor served in the military, there could be various military records, enlistment records, pension records, or World War One World War Two draft registration cards that would record birth dates. They’re both available on Ancestry.

Older headstones are another source. They might not record a birth date, but I’ve seen many where they’ll record the death date and give the person’s very specific age in years, days and months. And so even if it doesn’t record the actual birth date, you can calculate it.

There are also death certificates and obituaries. There are also many records that we record a person’s age at the time that the record was created. Census records are of course a big one, and marriage records. You can use those to help calculate a range of when their birth may have occurred.

Lisa: As you list those records, I think of so many others too, like a passport application. I know I’ve seen them on Ancestry.com. There are lots of different opportunities to come up with some additional records to help determine the true birthdate.

Case Study Strategies for Solving Conflicting Birthdates

In your article in Family Tree Magazine, you provided a great case study. I always think it’s so interesting when we take the theory behind what we’re doing and really apply it to something. Tell us about the case study dealing with these discrepancies in birth records.

(10:41) Lindsay: I came across this situation a few times in my research, but probably the most interesting and perplexing case is the one I shared in the article. It’s about my great, great, grandfather, named Thomas H. Higgins. He was born in Pennsylvania in the 1850s which was many any years before Pennsylvania started issuing birth certificates. Pennsylvania didn’t start until 1906.

STRATEGY: Find out when your ancestor’s state started issuing birth certificates.

Fortunately, his life is very well documented. I have many records that record a birth date for him. Unfortunately, very few of these records match. I actually found six different birth dates for him. I went through each record and evaluated it based on the questions that we just talked about.

Initially, I believed he was born on December 9, 1856. I got that birth date from what I believe was a very, very reliable source. That birthdate had appeared in a biography my grandfather had written about him. It had also appeared in a school application I found. It also appeared in his mother’s Civil War, widows pension application, so that that date came from his mother!

However, as I continued to research him, I started to find many records that did not match that birthday and that made me start to question the accuracy of the 1856 birth date. I started to find quite a few records that said that he was born more than a year earlier in August 1855. Initially, I didn’t put much stock into some of these records, because quite often he was the source of the information. He actually was not a very reliable source because I also know that he had a history of lying about his age!

As I mentioned previously, quite often, young boys would claim to be older to enlist in the military. But in his case, he actually claimed to be about 15 or 16 years younger than he was in order to be able to enlist in the military. He was in his 60s during World War I, and he claimed to be in his 40s in order to enlist. So, I was skeptical of any record where he was the source. I wasn’t sure whether or not to believe him.

STRATEGY: Collect as many birth records as possible

Then I started to find other records. I found an additional birthdate buried in his mother’s Civil War pension application. I then found a baptismal record. They both corroborated the August 1855 birthdate. And, of course, if he was baptized in March of 1856, he couldn’t have been born in December 1856.

What was the reason for these multiple birthdates? Well, it turns out his parents weren’t married until April 1855, about four months before the August 1855 birth date. So, I believe that he was actually born in August 1855 and his mother fibbed about that in order to hide the fact that he was only born a few months after their marriage.

Lisa: That’s a great example of a reason why somebody might fudge things a little bit.

STRATEGY: Chart out the conflicting birthdates and sources.

I also really liked in the article how you shared a chart, almost like a timeline, but really charted out all the different items. It really helps you see the whole picture of all these conflicting dates, where they’re coming from, when they were created, all those things that you mentioned so that we can try to make a final determination.

The article is called Birthday wishes and it appears in the July / August 2022 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

About Author and Genealogist Lindsey Harner

Where can we learn more about what you’re up to these days?

(15:55) Lindsay: I focus on Pennsylvania and New York research primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries. I’m always busy working on that. And you can find me on my website Lindsay’s Histories. I also have a blog there that you can check out and read more about my research.

Resources

Download the ad-free show notes including a printable checklist cheat sheet. (Premium Membership required)

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How to Document Family History with Shotbox

Documenting family history isn’t just about finding genealogical records. Family history can be found all around our home and the home’s of our relatives. These items need to be documented too. But when you start inventorying what you have – scrapbooks, photo albums, heirlooms and inherited items – it may turn out to be a bigger job than you thought. You could just snap photos with your phone, but you might end up with annoying shadows and glare.

The Shotbox, a handy portable photography studio, solves these problems. I’m using it to document my family keepsakes and even digitize my photo albums. It makes the job much easier and gives me better results, faster.
 
shotbox

Videos and show notes

 
It’s helping me accomplish a goal I’ve wanted to reach for a long time – quality documentation of all the family items that are meaningful to me and that I hope will be meaningful to future generations.

Save on the Shotbox

SHOTBOX SHOP  (thank you for supporting our free channel by using our affiliate link)
DISCOUNT CODES:
GG20 – $20 off the $249 Shotbox bundle
GG10 – $10 off the $199 Shotbox bundle
GG5 – $5 off the Shotbox base unit

Watch the Videos

Watch this special preview unboxing video now to get ready for tomorrow’s live premiere:

Next, in this video you’ll learn how to set up and use the Shotbox to photograph heirlooms, books, old photo albums and more and get stunning results:

Resources

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Show Notes

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Shotbox: Multiple Uses

While this article and video focuses on using the Shotbox for family history, there are many other uses for it. You can also use it to create professional looking photos of items you want to sell online, document items for insurance purposes, and (one of my favorites uses) capture your kid’s and grandkid’s artwork.

Unboxing: What’s Included

I like to know what I’m going to get when I order something, so I’ve created an “unboxing video” for you. Here’s everything that comes in the bundle:

  • SHOTBOX Core Light Box and reversable floor panel
    SideShot Kit – smart device platform with an extra 12″ of LED lighting
  • Backdrop Kit – black, white, green, and blue backdrops
  • Black DELUXE Carry Bag – shock-resistant neoprene. Zipped pockets
  • Power cord extension cable
  • Bluetooth shutter remote
  • Glare shield set
  • Archival spatulas and fingertip covers

Setting up the Shotbox

To open the portable studio, grab one of the square holes on the top (the black panel) and pull up. The box is will pop open.

Next, take the small poles on either side of the opening and pull them down to secure in place. This will make the box rigid and sturdy.

Place the reversable floor panel on the bottom of the Shotbox.

Select a backdrop. You have four to choose from: white, black, blue and green. The blue and green will come in handy as “green screens” that will allow you to easily remove or change up the background of the photo when used in a video.

Carefully unroll the backdrop and hold it by the “Shotbox” tag on the end. With the smooth side facing up, hang the backdrop by placing the holes over the tabs at the top of the back of the box.  Gently use the plastic rod at the other end of the backdrop to move it back into place and secure the rod behind the front lip of the box.

Plug the power cord into the back of the box. Use the round dial in the upper right corner of the front of the box to turn on and adjust the lights.

Shotbox backdrops

Backdrop installed in the Shotbox.

Photographing Items

The Shotbox features several holes in the top of the box. These give you options for placing your phone, camera side down, so that you can photograph flat items such as books, paper and artwork through the hold. You can then reposition your item or your phone for the optimal shot.

You can zoom in on your phone screen to get just the right cropped image or edit the photo afterwards. I like to quickly edit after taking a series of photos. Usually there’s little to do but cropping, but sometimes the Enhance feature or other editing tools in your Photos app will help achieve the final results you want.

Shotobx book

Photographing an ancestor’s journal with the Shotbox

Bluetooth Shutter Remote

Use the Bluetooth shutter remote to speed up the photographing process. You’ll need to pair it with your smartphone. Do this by turning on the Bluetooth functionality on your phone. (On my iPhone I went to the Settings app, tapped Bluetooth, switched it to the on mode.) Press and hold the button on the remote until it flashes and then the device should appear in your list of Bluetooth compatible devices on your phone. Once paired, you can simply press the remote button to snap each photo.

Using the SideShot

When photographing three dimensional items you’ll need the SideShot. It’s a separate piece that allows your phone to photograph from a variety of angles from the front.

To install the SideShot, place the end of the long arm into one of the holes on the top. (I started with the center hole.) Make sure it snaps in place and is sturdy. Next, turn the level to release the tension which allows you to position it and the perfect angle for your shot, then tighten it back up. Turn your phone upside down and point the camera through the hold in the SideShot.

You’ll also find foldable side pieces that allow you to also use a tablet as your camera. It’s also a good idea to use the shutter remote so you won’t risk bumping the camera once in position.

Finally, plug the needle tip cord into the back of the box and the other end (the USB) into the SideShot. As you turn on the power to the Shotbox, the lights on the back of the SideShot will also come on.

shotbox sideshot

Using the Shotbox Sideshot to photograph family heirlooms

Reducing Glare

Glare can be a real problem when photographing items that are framed behind glass. The glare shields that come with the Shotbox dramatically reduce glare.

Each glare shield is fitted with four magnets that fit perfectly on the four screws on the inside of the top of the box on each side. Simple place each shield in position and they will hold in place.

Glare can be further reduced by experimenting with repositioning your camera and varying the amount of light with the on/off dial.

Save on the Shotbox

SHOTBOX SHOP  (thank you for supporting our free channel by using our affiliate link)
DISCOUNT CODES:
GG20 – $20 off the $249 Shotbox bundle
GG10 – $10 off the $189 Shotbox bundle
GG5 – $5 off the Shotbox base unit

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