Monday, July 22, 2013

Search FamilySearch and View Historical Records by Record Types and Record Collections

In Search Gets Major Feature Enhancements posted today on the FamilySearch Blog, Robert Kehrer announced several enhancements for use of the FamilySearch Historical Records.

The MOST important new feature enhancement, in my view, is the ability to search for a person in all of the historical record collections from the "Collections" Tab on the Search Results page.  The blog post says:

"To help you make better sense of and explore search results, FamilySearch now allows you to view results grouped by collection. When you initiate a search, you will see a new tabbed interface above the search results. The Records tab is the default and gives the actual results of the search, and the Collections tab presents a collection-by-collection summary.

"The ability to see the results of a search grouped by collection helps you see what collections are available. It also guides you to collections with the most matches in a record type and keeps a single collection from being over-represented in the top hits.

"If you click the Collections tab, you will see the collections present in the set of search results, grouped by record type with the five collections with the most hits shown for each type. You can sort the collection lists alphabetically by title or by hit count. If you desire to see all the collections of a specific record type, click Show All in the header for that type.

"Clicking a collection name will take you to the Records tab, with the results on that tab filtered by the selected collection. The Collection filter below the Refine your search form will still show, but it will now display the Collections tab, which replaces its previous fly-out functionality."

Let's see how this works, using the data for Harvey Edgar Carringer (1852-1946):

1)  Here is the Search Results page from my search for Harvey Carringer in the 1880 U.S. Census:

Do you see the two tabs above the "United States Census, 1880" record collection title?  The screen above is on the "Records" tab specifically for the 1880 U.S. Census.

There is a "Collections" tab beside the "Records" tab.

2)  I clicked on the "Collections" tab and saw:

The screen above shows the top of the web page with all of the FamilySearch Record Collections that found a "Harvey Carringer" (with an inexact name search), and listed them by the different Record Types, with the top five collections listed.  To see the rest of the collections, all the user has to do is click on the "Show All" link for each Record Type.

3)  I clicked on the first record collection on the Vital Records list, and saw:

Harvey Carringer is the first one on the list in the California, Death Index, 1940-1997 record collection.

4)  At any time, the user can change the search parameters in the left-hand frame to refine or modify their search results.

A user can now go through the list of Record Collections on the "Collections" tab, and add records and sources to person profiles in the FamilySearch Family Tree one record collection at a time!  I described this in Attach Historical Records to FamilySearch Family Tree.

This is a MAJOR enhancement to FamilySearch - it is similar to the "Categories" match list on  It significantly reduces the search time in indexed databases and the hassle of going back to the Record Collection page after looking in one record collection.  

Of course, a search for "Harvey Carringer" on the FamilySearch Search page would have found entries for my Harvey Carringer in the search results created by that search, but I have to wade through 311 matches to find them all.  I still have to search through all of the record collections in the "Collections" tab, but it's easier to search through 10 to 50 matches for each Record Collection than a list of 311.  Also, I can ignore Record Collectinos that I know don't apply (e.g., the North Carolina Birth Index, 1800-2000.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

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