Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Family History Hints, Part 14

More on the services of FamilySearch: When we started the research for Genealogy Roadshow, none of the staff was aware of the free website run by the Mormon Church. Education was needed and here is how I explained one of the best resources we used (yup, it's true that some of the best things in life ARE free).

FamilySearch, on-line: A free database (or set of databases) that gives us answers to the oddest questions

This website is open to anyone and everyone. People are asked to sign-in (though much can be done without that step). There are a number of different sections to this site and I am going to talk about them and their advantages over the next few reports. The first, and probably most used by those of us doing research, is the Historical Record Collections (HRC).

In my last post I mentioned that the Family History/FamilySearch Centers provide a place for people to view the microfilms they order from the Family History Library in Salt Lake. But some of the microfilms and microfiche have been digitized and put up on line for viewing, for free, from our own computers. Records from all over the world are among those that can be viewed. When I have spoken of the difficulty of reading these (some of which are searchable, some of which require browsing - see earlier post), these are often the records we are looking at. Let's see what I’m talking about.

Let's say I need to work with the records of Massachusetts from the 1800s. Here is how the search goes:

I went to and chose “United States” from the home page. Then I selected the record collections from Massachusetts:

This is just a partial list of their holdings, but since I am looking for a birth record, I select the second option above (the little camera to the left of the listing means that there are images of the actual records there; those without the camera have only transcriptions on-line). As you can see, there are over 4 million records, but since it doesn’t say “Browse” (as two of the choices have up there), it means that those 4 million+ images are indexed and searchable - Yay!

I enter the name of the person I am trying to find: Rebecca Anna Davis; I am led to the page that includes that entry (but it’s up to me to find it):

Can you find her? She’s on line 43. Her name is spelled in the old style: Rebekah. But it lists her parents and birth date and that’s what I need.

This is really an easy one. Handwriting is legible and the information is entered in pre-determined spots (a template). But not all records are like this. One of our researchers, Linda, has great difficulty in reading the old style writing in old documents (in Spanish). Paper can be in poor shape. Trying to translate from a vernacular that has changed greatly over the years (different idioms) is a challenge. I don’t work in Spanish, but I do work with German document and here is a typical record (in Latin) that I work with:

My ancestor is Maria Trapschug/Trapschuh. Yes, I can read this. She is 5th from the bottom.

This is the sort of thing Linda works with. It takes a lot of time. Often we have to look at how a letter is formed and try to find another example of that letter on the page (written by the same person) to figure out if we are looking at a T or an F, etc.

The moral of the story: our eyes get so tired by the end of the day . . . and yet we keep coming back for more. Indeed, we’re nuts. 

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