FamilySearch has billions of records for us to use in our genealogy. But there are 5 often-overlooked sections of the website that can be beneficial to our genealogy research.
1. FamilySearch Research Wiki
The first thing that you might be overlooking on FamilySearch is the Research Wiki.
Don't let the word "wiki" freak you out. I know a lot of people have kind of a negative feeling toward wikis. A wiki is something that is collaborative; people can change it, add to it, and correct it. While we've all heard horror stories about things being edited on Wikipedia, the collaboration on the FamilySearch Research Wiki makes things better.
You can get into the research wiki when you're on familysearch.org and you hover your mouse over where it says Search and then just click on "Research Wiki." That will take you to the main page where you can find more than 88,000 different research articles about a variety of topics. I use the research wiki on almost a weekly basis.
Has your research moved to a new county or a new country? Look up that location on the Wiki. You'll get dates that major record groups began in that location, links to resources, information about societies and libraries, and all kinds of valuable information.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to these location pages in the family search research Wiki is that it isn't just the United States. You can find information for locations around the world.
Be sure to check out the Genealogical Word Lists on the Wiki. Let's say that you are doing research in Swedish records. Chances are if those records were created in Sweden, there were probably written in Swedish, and if you're like most of my friends, you probably don't read Swedish. You can look up a Swedish genealogical word list right there on the Research Wiki.
The research Wiki also includes articles about general research topics. If you are doing any native American genealogy research, you want to take a look at the page called "American Indian Genealogy." There are so many resources that it points you to information on how to get started, how to continue the research. It's just a phenomenal resource.
Literally, no matter where your genealogy research takes you, you can get something out of the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
2. FamilySearch Family Tree
Have you used the FamilySearch Family Tree? Some people shy away because it is all one big tree. If an ancestor that I'm uploading seems to match somebody who's already in the tree, I should merge them into one person into one entry. The ideal is to have one profile per person.
Because the tree is collaborative, anybody who has a free account on FamilySearch can make changes. The drawback is that people can make changes which might be wrong. But there are benefits to having data in the FamilySearch Family Tree. [Note: I don't recommend having the FamilySearch Family Tree be the main/only place where you keep your online family tree.]
The first benefit is that it can act as cousin bait. Each profile has a link to the person who created it. Also, anytime that a change is made to a profile, such as adding a photo or a source, their profile is attached to it. I've had numerous instances of people contacting me because of profiles I've created or edited.
The second benefit is the collaborative nature. As I was preparing to record this podcast and I happened to look at the profile of my third great grandmother, Mary King Murnahan and I noticed an exact date of death. However, the only death date that I had for her in my "main" tree was "After 1900," based on finding her in the 1900 census. But on the FamilySearch Family Tree, someone added not only her exact date and place of death, they also added a link to her death record, allowing me to confirm that it was the right person.
The "Genealogies" section is similar to the Family Tree, but with some important differences. (You can find this section by hovering over "Search" and then clicking "Genealogies" from the drop down menu.) The data that's in the Genealogies section has come from a variety of sources, such as the Guild of One-Name Studies, the old Ancestral File, and the old IGI (the International Genealogical Index). Some of the data has also come from oral genealogy projects that FamilySearch is working on. The data in Genealogies is not editable.
4. The FamilySearch Catalog
Why explore the catalog if you're not going to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City? Because there are digitized collections that aren't linked on the search page. You can only find them through the catalog.
To find the catalog, hover over "Search," then click "Catalog."
I like to explore by place first.
When you find an item of interest, click on the title. If it has been digitized, it will have one of two icons. A camera icon means that it's viewable by anyone. If it has a camera with a key over it, it means that it is viewable only at a Family History Center or at an affiliate library.
More and more public libraries are becoming FamilySearch affiliates. To find an affiliate library or Family History Center near you, go to the Contact Us page on FamilySearch and enter your zip code or town in the locator box.
5. Family History Books
FamilySearch has partnered with several institutions, such as the Allen County Public Library, the Houston Public Library, and the University of Florida to digitize genealogies, family histories, local histories, gazetteers – basically, anything that would be of benefit to genealogists. To date, they have digitized more than 350,000 books.
To find this collection, hover over "Search" and click on "Books."
Two good ways to discover materials is to search for a location or by a surname (with the word family after it).
Some of these titles are restricted to Family History Centers and affiliate libraries, but many are available from anywhere.
Have you used any of these sections before? What did you find? What do you want to try next?