Friday, April 18, 2014

Dee Dee King Reports on SSDI/Death Master File Restrictions

If you've kept up with the news about the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) in recent years, you know that public access was threatened.  Recently, a bill was passed by Congress and signed by the President to restrict pulbic access to death information reported to the Social Security Administration for three years after date of death.

Forensic Genealogist Dee Dee King was written a report on her experiences trying to become certified for limited access to the Death Master File (DMF, which we know as SSDI).  She succeeded in becoming certified, and after paying the necessary fees for access, has written up her experiences in a special Forensic Genealgoy News publication:

Demystifying the DMF (

Please read the entire article for a better understanding of how the new law affects genealogical researchers.  My takeaways:

*  The current Social Security Death Index (SSDI) databases can remain on the subscription and free websites with the same information as before.

*  The next public access edition of the SSDI/DMF will probably be released in 2017.

*  Future editions of the SSDI/DMF may contain less information - only SSN, name, birth date and birth place.

We owe a major debt of gratitude to Dee Dee King for her work in explaining and demystifying the SSDI/DMF.  Thank you, Dee Dee!

Interested readers can read all of the Forensic Genealogy News issues at

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Pennsylvania Death Certificates (1906-1924) Now On

I've been looking forward to this record collection becoming available for a long time.  While I don't have any ancestors who died in Pennsylvania who died after 1906, I do have many persons in my database who died between 1906 and 1924.  How I wish had a "Record Match" like feature so I could easily mine this database!

The Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1924, database is at  The database description says:

"Pennsylvania’s Department of Health began keeping birth and death records on a statewide basis on January 1, 1906. This collection includes death records beginning on that date through 1924. Later records will eventually be added to this collection.
"Death certificates recorded the following details:
  • name and residence of the decedent
  • city and county of death
  • gender and race
  • marital status
  • age and date of birth
  • occupation
  • place of birth
  • parents' names and birthplaces
  • date of death
  • dates attended by physician
  • cause of death
  • attending physician and address
  • length of stay in hospital or institution or length of residency for transients or recent arrivals
  • place of burial or removal
  • date of burial
  • undertaker name and address
  • name and address of informant
"Records of stillbirths were required to be filed as both a birth and death record, so you may find records of stillborn children in this collection."

Here is the search page for this database:

I put "carringer" in the last name field and clicked on "Search" and saw:

There were only 24 matches for Carringer, but I think that I have every one of them in my database.  I looked down the list and saw the entry for Mary Jane Feather (Mary Jane Carringer):

I did not have an exact date of birth or date of death or death location for Mary Jane.  I clicked the "view original image" link:

This death certificate for Mary Jane Feather has lots of very useful information, including birth date birth place, death date, death place, parents names, parents birthplace, occupation, cause of death, length of residence, and place of burial or removal.

A source citation for the death certificate of Mary Jane Feather is (using the Vital Records (state, certificates, online) source template in RootsMagic):

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1924, No. 89928 (stamped), Mary Jane Feather entry, died 10 August 1923; digital image, ( : accessed 18 April 2014); citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Eventually, there will be death certificates online up through 1963 in this database.

Now on to do the rest of the Carringers, the Spanglers, the Feathers, the Vauxes, the Remleys and more!  I'll have some genealogy fun this weekend!

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

52 Ancestors Week 16: #23 Amy Frances (Oatley) White (1826-1864) of Killingly, Conn.

Amy Johnson Crow suggested a weekly blog theme of "52 Ancestors" in her blog post Challenge:  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on the No Story Too Small blog.  Here is my ancestor biography for week #16:

Amy Frances (Oatley) White (1826-1864) is #23 on my Ahnentafel List, and is my 2nd great-grandmother. She married #22 Henry Arnold White (1824-1885) in 1844.

I am descended through:

*  their daughter, #11 Julia E. White, who married in 1868 #10 Thomas Richmond (1948-1917).
*  their daughter, #5 
Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962) who married in 1900 #4 Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942);
* their son, #2 Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983), who married in 1942 Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002);
*  their son, #1 Randall J. Seaver (1943-....)

To create this post, I made an Individual Summary report in RootsMagic 6, then saved it into an RTF file.  I then copied and pasted the Person, the Individual Fact List, the Marriages/Children, the General Notes, and the Source Citations into this blog post.  Unfortunately, the source citations superscripts did not survive this process as superscripts, so I put them in brackets in the Individual Facts list below, and without brackets in the Source Citation list.  I have images of many of these records, but have not included them in this blog post due to the length of the post.  Many of them have been transcribed or shown in Amanuensis Monday and Treasure Chest Thursday posts.


1)  PERSON (with source citations as indicated in brackets):

*  Name:                         Amy Frances Oatley [1-2]
*  Sex:                             Female   
*  Father:                         Jonathan Oatley (1790-1872)   
*  Mother:                       Amy Champlin (1798-1865)   

*  Alternate Name:           Amy Oatley [1]  
*  Alternate Name:           Amy F. Oatley [7]
*  Alternate Name:           Amy Frances White [6]
*  Alternate Name:           Amy F. White [5]
*  Alternate Name:           Amy White [4]
2)  INDIVIDUAL FACTS  (with source citations as indicated in brackets):
*  Birth:                         1826, South Kingstown, Washington, Rhode Island, United States [3]
*  Census:                      1 June 1850 (about age 24), Killingly, Windham, Connecticut, United States [4]
*  Census:                      1 June 1860 (about age 34), Killingly, Windham, Connecticut, United States [5]
*  Death:                       12 November 1864 (about age 38), Killingly, Windham, Connecticut, United States [6]   

3)  MARRIAGES/CHILDREN  (with source citations as indicated in brackets):    
*  Spouse 1:                   Henry Arnold White (1824-1885)   
*  Marriage 1:                30 June 1844 (about age 18), Thompson, Windham, Connecticut, United States [7]

*  Child 1:                     Ellen Frances White (1845-1916)   
*  Child 2:                     Julia E. "Juliette" White (1848-1913)   
*  Child 3:                     Emily Elizabeth White (1849-1939)   
*  Child 4:                     Henry J. White (1853-1919)   
*  Child 5:                     female White (1858-1858)    
*  Child 6:                     Frederick J. White (1860-    )  

4)  NOTES (with source citations as indicated in brackets):

Amy Frances Oatley was born in 1826, in South Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island, to Jonathan and Amy (Champlin) Oatley [3].  The Oatley family moved to Killingly, Windham County, Connecticut between 1830 and 1840.  

Amy married Henry Arnold White on 30 June 1844 in Thompson, Windham County, Connecticut [7].  The entry in the Thompson section of the Barbour Collection says:

"Oatley, Amy  F., m. Henry A. WHITE, b. of Killingly, June 30, 1844, by Rev. L. Geo[rge] Leonard"

Henry and Amy (Oatley) White had six children, four of whom lived past childhood and married and had families.  

In the 1850 US Census, this family resided in Killingly township, Windham County, Connecticut).   The family included [4]:

*  Henry White -- age 26, male, a weaver, born Glocester RI
*  Amy White -- age 24, female, born S. Kingston RI
*  Ellen F. White -- age 5, female, born Killingly CT, attended school
*  Julia E. White -- age 3, female, born Killingly CT
*  Emily E. White -- age 1, female, born Killingly CT.

In the 1860 US Census, the Henry A. White family resided in Killingly township, Windham County, Connecticut.  The household included [5]:

*  Henry A. White -- age 35, male, manufacturer, $1000 in real property, born CT
*  Amy F. White -- age 33, female, born CT
*  Ellen F. White -- age 15, female, born CT
*  Juliette White --age 13, female, born CT
*  Emily A. White -- age 12, female, born CT
*  Henry J. White -- age 7, male, born CT, attended school
*  Fred J. White -- age 1 month, born CT

The Connecticut Deaths and Burials Index indicates that Amy Frances White died 12 November 1864 at age 36 [6].  It is very likely that she died at her home in Killingly.  

She is probably interred in Bartlett #1 Cemetery in East Killingly, Connecticut.  There is a stone next to Henry A. White's stone that is now unreadable.


1. Putnam, Connecticut, Certificate of Death, Juliett Richmond, 1 October 1913; Registrar of Vital Statistics, Putnam, Ct. (certificate not dated).

2. Ellery Bicknell Crane, Historic homes and institutions and genealogical and personal memoirs of Worcester county, Massachusetts, with a history of Worcester society of antiquity (New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1907), Volume 4, page 388, William Henry Buck sketch; digital images, Mocavo ( : accessed 28 March 2014.

3. Harry J. Oatley, The Oatley Family in America and Their Descendants (Providence, R.I. : The Oatley Family Association, 1970), page 40.

4. 1850 United States Federal Census, Windham County, Connecticut, population schedule, Killingly town; Page 360, dwelling #582, family #635, Henry White household, online database, (; citing National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, Roll 51.

5. 1860 United States Federal Census, Population Schedule, Windham County, Connecticut,  Killingly town, page 588, dwelling #851, family #925, Henry White household; online database, (; citing National Archives Microfilm Publication M653, Roll 92.

6. "Connecticut Deaths and Burials, 1772-1934," online database index, FamilySearch (, Amy Frances White (1828-1864) entry, on FHL US/CAN Microfilm 1,311,436.

7. "The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records, Volume 46: Thompson, 1785 - 1850," indexed database, World Vital Records (, Volume 46, Page 250 and Page 375.


The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dear Randy: How Did You Make That Beautiful Pedigree Chart?

I received an email from Marybelle recently asking that question, and I couldn't find the blog post I think she was referring to, so it took me awhile to figure out that I did it with Family Tree Maker 2014.

Here is the result:

Here are the screens I used to create it:

1)  In Family Tree Maker 2014, highlight the selected person for the pedigree chart in the Tree or Family View in the "People" Workspace.

2)  Select the "Publish" Workspace and the the "Pedigree" Chart in the "Collection" View.  click on the "Create Chart" button on the right-hand panel.

3)  That opens the Pedigree Chart Preview page and you can do all of your "creative work" on this page.  It will probably open being all black and white.

4)  There is a row of icons at the top of the right-hand panel under "Pedigree Chart Options."  The icons from left-to-right are:

*  Items to Include (e.g., Name, birth, marriage, death) - select from list to add (use + sign)
*  Fonts (for each item, and chart title) - select size, color, effects
*  Box and line styles - boxes, chart border, pedigree and divider lines
*  Header/footer (used default)
*  Insert image or text box (not used)
*  Page setup (use default)
*  Save settings
*  Use saved settings
*  Save chart

There are fields below the icons for the:

*  Chart title - I typed it in
*  Layout - used Book
*  Overlap - used Only Root Overlaps
*  Spacing - used Collapsed
*  Align nodes - used Top
*  Generations - selected 5, and 5 to a page
*  Background (browse from computer to select) - used a headshot photo
*  Background Transparency - selected 30%
*  Pictures - none

Below those fields there are several other options.

5)  Here is the Items to Include window that I used:

5)  And the "Fonts" window:

6)  And the "Box and Line Options" window:

7)  Over on the right side of the screen, you can see the different options I selected in the fields:

8)  As I added changes, the updated preview picture showed in the left-hand side of the page.

The URL for this post is:

copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Treasure Chest Thursday - Post 210: 1757 Birth Record for Benjamin Sever in Sudbury, Mass.Town Records

It's Treasure Chest Thursday - time to look in my digital image files to see what treasures I can find for my family history and genealogy musings.

The treasure today is the Birth Record for Benjamin Sever (1757-1816), born in Sudbuiry, Massachusetts.

The birth record for Benjamin Sever is on the left-hand page in the image above, and says:

"Benjamn Sever son of Norman Sever & Sarah his wife was born April 21st 1757"

The source citation for this record is:

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Towns Records, 1627-2001," digital images, FamilySearch (https:/ : accessed 15 April 2014), Middlesex County, Sudbury, "Births, marriages, deaths, 1663-1829, Vol. 4," page 120 (penned), image 65 of 142, Benjamin Sever birth entry (son of Norman and Sarah Sever), 1757.

I went looking for the microfilm number for this volume, and did not find it in the Family History Library Catalog for some reason.  There is no microfilm number on the first image of the volume.

This volume is not in the "Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-`1988" collection on  

I consider this to be the Original Source record, and is Primary Information and Direct Evidence to Benjamin Sever's birth name, date and place of birth, and parent-child relationship.

Benjamin Sever (also written as "Seaver" in other records, is my 4th great-grandfather.  His parents were Norman Sever (1734-1787) and Sarah Read (1736-1809).  

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Step-by-Step Process for Accessing and Finding New York Probate Records on FamilySearch

In my blog post FamilySearch Needs to Make it Easier to Find "Browse Images" Collections (14 April 2014), I pointed out that there are many record collections on FamilySearch that are not indexed, and need to be "browsed" to find records that may pertain to your ancestor or family member.

Reader Saskey commented:  "I have found 'Browse Images' for areas of interest, but I find it a bit daunting beyond the "Browse through 1,459,098 images" page (with no index)."

I completely understand the statement and initially felt the same way when I first saw the number of images listed in a collection.  However, once a user figures out the main steps of finding records, it becomes manageable, but you need a lot of practice to be proficient at it.  

For my New York Research workshop and research group participants, I made a step-by-step description of how I search New York probate records, but in a fairly generic way.  

I thought my Genea-Musings readers, including Saskey, might benefit from the list:

Now 24 steps may seem a bit daunting (again and still), this is the process I use.  I tried to identify each step in the process without being overly specific about the examples.  You can see some examples of following these procedures in my blog posts for:

*  Finding Genealogy Gems in the New York Probate Records on FamilySearch (8 April 2014)

*  Finding James Vaux Probate Records in Erie County, New York (5 July 2012).

I've done similar searches in Pennsylvania for:

*  Pennsylvania Probate Records on FamilySearch! (27 June 2012)

*  Finding Daniel Spangler's Probate Records on FamilySearch - the Russell Index System (15 October 2012)

NOTE:  If you want a PDF of my two page step-by-step process above, please email me at and put "New York Probate step-by-step" in the title and i'll try to respond as quickly as possible (I'm away almost every day this week doing something with the grandgirls).

The URL for this post is:

copyright (c) 20145, Randall J. Seaver

CGSSD Meeting on Saturday, 19 April Features "Researching Scottish Ancestors"

The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego meets on the 3rd Saturday of each month (except December) from 9:00 a.m. to noon on the campus of UCSD, University of California, San Diego. 

The next meeting will be held on 19 April 2014 from 9:00 am to noon. Here are the details:

 9:00 AM  User Group meetings: Macintosh with Dona Ritchie
                                                       with Del Ritchhart
                                                                SIG TBA

10:00 AM Break / snacks & refreshments

10:20 AM Announcements 

10:30 AM Program:  “Researching Scottish Ancestors” by Judy Brooks  

Presentation:  The basics of how to research your Scots and Scots-Irish ancestors online including Scotland and Ireland Sites.

Bio:  Judy Brooks is a professional genealogist specializing in Scots-Irish, Scottish Clans, Irish America, Presbyterians, and Presbyterian church history, especially ministerial.  In her personal research, her focus has been Colonial America, the Revolutionary War and the early settlement of the Ohio River Valley, as well as finding how and when these ancestors crossed the ocean.  She is a retired registered nurse and quality management professional and lives in San Marcos.  

We meet at the Robinson Auditorium complex on the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus in La Jolla. From North Torrey Pines Road, turn at Pangea Drive into UCSD. Free parking is available in the parking garage on the left; use any space other than those specifically reserved for UCSD vehicles. Signs will mark directions to our meeting room. Please refer to our website; or the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies website (click here) for driving directions and a map.

Betty and her Carringer Grandparents -- Post 303 for (Not So) Wordless Wednesday

I'm posting family photographs from my collection on Wednesdays, but they won't be Wordless Wednesday posts like others do - I simply am incapable of having a wordless post.

Here is a photograph from my grandfather's photo album in the Seaver/Carringer family collection handed down by my mother in the 1988 to 2002 time period:

This is a photograph of my mother, Betty Virgina Carringer at age 14 months (so it probably was taken in October 1920) with her grandparents, Henry Austin Carringer (1853-1946) and Della (Smith) Carringer (1862-1944). 

The photograph was probably taken by my grandfather, Lyle L. Carringer, in one of the gardens at the Austin Carringer house on 30th Street in San Diego or the Lyle Carringer house on Fern Street in San Diego.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#GenChat on Twitter Last Friday Was Interesting

Have you participated in a GenChat on Twitter yet?

The genealogy chat hosted by Jen Baldwin (@ancestryjourneys) on Twitter ( last Friday night was interesting, fast-paced and fun.  There were quite a few chatters for this regularly scheduled genealogy chat session.  On Twitter, users are restrained to a 140 character limit for each post (a tweet) so you have to keep up with the flow, plus write your own contributions.  I just used the basic Twitter feed with the #genchat hashtag and refreshed it a lot, but others use a separate program that displays the tweets as they are posted.

The topic on 11 April 2014 was "Confused About Citations."  Jen has put the entire conversation in a Storify post at

You can scroll down the page, and go to the Next page when you hit the bottom.  I don't know how many tweets there are - hundreds, probably.  In one hour.  Everybody seems to tweet at once and somehow the moderator, Jen, keeps everyone on track.  In the process, she also asks questions for responses by the tweeters.  And at the ned, she provides some links to check out, and also had a challenge on her Ancestral Breezes blog - #genchat CHALLENGE: Practice Makes Perfect.

I participated throughout this chat, but always seemed like I was missing a lot because I was writing or trying to read the previous 20 tweets that I had missed.  My answers to several of the questions were late, and Jen had often posted the next question before I answered.  During the chat, I tried to help by providing ideas and links to source citation aids that I've found and used.  Near the end of the chat, Jen said something like "I"m not going to bother sharing links tonight, Randy"s doing it for me"  I didn't know that she was going to, and I apologized to her for that later.

These GenChats are another piece of the social media puzzle.  They may help draw younger researchers adept at social media into genealogy and family history by creating a community of people with technological skills and an interest in genealogy.

I need to participate more often...but if I don't I can try to figure out what was said and shared during the chat by reading Jen's Storify posts at  

There are 32 stories at present (click the "View all" link).  Do you see anything there that interests you?  Go look, read, and enjoy.

You can find upcoming genchats on the Conference Keeper web site -

The URL for this post is:

copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Tuesday's Tip - Find Books and Manuscripts on FamilySearch Books

This week's Tuesday's Tip is to:  Find digitized books and manuscripts on the FamilySearch Books webpage.

The FamilySearch Books web page is one of the major links on the FamilySearch Search web page (shown below):

The "Books" link is in the link line below the FamilySearch logo on the screen above.

Clicking on the "Books" litab takes you to the "Family History Books" page at

The text below the search box says:

Family History Books is a collection of more than 100,000 digitized genealogy and family history 
publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. 
The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to 
books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees. The valuable resources included in Family 
History Books come from the following partner institutions:
On the screen above, I entered some search terms - marshman wiltshire devizes - into the search field.  After clicking on the blue "Search" button, I saw results:

The 5 results on the screen above look promising.  I clicked on the title of one of them, the book downloaded to the screen, and I saw the front page of this work:

In the lower right-hand corner, is the family PDF toolbox with icons for full screen height, full screen width, zoom out, zoom in, save file, and print.

I could find no way to actually search this document.  I tried Ctrl-F and putting a name in the search field but received no matches.  So I tried scanning all of the pages, and that was difficult, boring and time consuming.

I saved the file to my computer hard drive, and then opened that file and searched it for "marshman" and found 8 matches.  That worked!

I was curious what the "i" in a circle icon was at the top right of the screen above, so I clicked it and saw:

There's the information about this document!

On other matches, I occasionally get this screen when I click to see them:

This screen indicates that someone else is currently using this item, and to check back later to access it.

To view some of these book items, you need to be a registered FamilySearch user.

There are over 100,000 items in this collection now, and the Family History Library Catalog has links to these Book items when they are in the catalog.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Genea-Musings is 8 Years Old Today

It's Genea-Musings 8th Blogiversary!!!!!!!

It seems like just yesterday that I started my Randy's Musings blog - here is the first post on 15 April 2006. I explained the name change to Genea-Musings in my first anniversary post on 15 April 2007. In my two-year anniversary post, I showed a screen shot of the early blog page. 

I like to spout some numbers on my blogiversary, so please bear with me:

After eight years of Randy's Musings and Genea-Musings, this is post number 7,667. Over 2,922 days, that averages out to be 2.56 posts per day. In the past year, I've written 949 posts, or 2.60 posts per day (that is a little higher than last year, 2.56). I think that the most over the eight years was 8 posts in one day and I've had days with zero posts (usually when on vacation).

My readership has increased each year. Since I started this blog, I have had over 1,406,000 unique visitors (these include multiple visits per day by the same reader) and over 2,274,000 page views over seven years, and over 471,850 page views and over 350,827 unique visitors in the past year. Those numbers (from SiteMeter) are somewhat higher than last year.  

My SiteMeter statistics indicate that in March 2014 this blog had about 991 unique visitors a day, with an average of about 1,425 page views a day.  My StatCounter statistics show 1,042 unique visitors a day, and 1,339 page loads a day over the last 31 days.  I also use Google Statistics to look at statistics, and the page view numbers are a lot higher for some reason (about 4,710 per day over the past month).  I still don't know if those numbers include RSS reader visits and views - I do think the Google Statistics numbers include RSS reader views.

In addition, about 1,385 persons subscribe via email using Feedburner, and about 1,200 persons subscribe via Feedly.  I don't have a count for other feeds, blog readers and Facebook readers. If I had to guess, I would say that about 4,000 persons read Genea-Musings on an average day. A significant number of the readers (probably over 50%) on the actual website come via a search engine - you wouldn't believe what some of the search parameters are!

This StatCounter traffic chart for the last year (15 April 2013 to 14 April 2014) shows Page Loads (green), Unique Visitors (blue), and Returning Visitors (orange). 

This is a traffic chart for the last eight years (since July 2006 when I subscribed to StatCounter) in terms of Page Loads (green), Unique Visitors (blue), and Returning Visitors (orange).

As you can see, my visits and page views were somewhat higher this past year, but have tailed off a bit in the last two months.

Please permit me to genea-muse for a bit here:

I really appreciate the Genea-bloggers community and all of my Genea-Musings readers. Without all of you, we would not have as much genealogy information (news, research experiences, family history, photographs, etc.) online. Blogging and then social networking, has brought democratization to the world of genealogy writing - anybody can do it (and many do it very well) and the genealogy community has more information, provided faster and more up-to-date, than it ever has had before.

The genea-blogger community is overwhelmingly friendly and supportive of each other and their readers.  There is very little overt competition, back-biting or flame wars.  This reflects the genealogy community as a whole, I believe - almost everyone believes in and works at collaborating with, educating and helping others - from the most famous (e.g., the genea-rock stars like Elizabeth Mills, Tom Jones, Megan Smolenyak, etc.) to the beginners (new society members, blog readers, etc.).

The genea-bloggers community as a whole has also garnered the respect of the genealogy industry - the database companies, the software companies, website owners, and genealogical societies.  We have been treated and recognized as legitimate media outlets for the genealogy community.  They understand that genealogy blogs are a significant way to announce and publicize their products or services, and to create genea-buzz at conferences.  This could not happen without the commitment of genea-bloggers to objectivity and collaboration.  Not to mention time, energy and lifelong learning.

I'm really proud to be a member of the genea-blogger community and to enjoy the camaraderie online and in person.  At a genealogy conference or seminar, genea-bloggers tend to flock together - it's an instant brother/sisterhood - many of us read each other's blogs and "know" each other's life and blogging experiences.  

So - what to blog about today? It's Tuesday, so time for a Tuesday's Tip post soon.  Life is good in the genea-cave, and it's even better when family history is made with the grandchildren (our 5 and 9 year-old granddaughters are with us this week on spring vacation), or when we travel to a genealogy seminar, conference or society talk 
(we were at RootsTech in February, in Huntington Beach 6 weeks ago, in Hemet 5 weeks ago, in Temecula yesterday, and we're going to Genealogy Jamboree in seven weeks in Burbank). 

Lastly, thank you to my faithful readers.  I do this to help the genealogy community pursue their hobb  obsession, and to document my own family history.  I appreciate your feedback to my posts and learn a lot from the collected wisdom and experience of my readers.  

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Monday, April 14, 2014

FamilySearch Needs to Make it Easier to Find "Browse Images" Collections

In the past ten days, I've done a workshop and a research group session on finding records on FamilySearch at my local Chula Vista Genealogical Society, and over the past two years have made presentations about searching FamilySearch historical records all over Southern California, but many people I share with are perplexed by browsable collections - those not indexed yet - and need more help finding them and using them.  Therefore, I know that users in the genealogy world need more help in finding and using them.

Once the concept is explained, it becomes understandable to them, but the problem is that it is really difficult to find those collections that are not indexed.  FamilySearch calls them "Browse Images" collections.

I think that FamilySearch needs to make it easier to find all of the historical record collections, and provide some directions on how to use them.  Until that happens, the "Browse Images" records will be underutilized.  Which is sad, because they are the "best" records, in my humble opinion.

I, and others, call these "Browse Images" collections "Digital Microfilm," because that is what they are.  In most cases, the images have been digitized from Family History Library microfilm, and there are links  to the specific digital collections in the Family History Library Catalog.

Here is how a typical online researcher searching for information about their surname or a specific ancestor finds the "Browse Images" collection:

1)  Go to the FamilySearch home page (

2)  To find historical record collections, the user has to click on the "Search" button (in blue at bottom) or link (above the image) to get to the "Search" page ( (two screens below, some overlap):

I will bet that 90% to 95% of ALL FamilySearch users start their searches from the Search page above, and just enter the names, and then get millions of matches in some order.

3)  If the user clicks on the links (in blue to the left of the world map at the bottom of the web page), they will see a series of links:

Those links lead to the list of record collections.  The user can select any one of the region links and only see historical record collections for those regions.

4)  If the user selects the "Browse all published collections" link, then they can see the list of ALL record collections available.  Here is today's web page for Historical Record Collections (

As you can see, it is an alphabetical list.  There are "Filters" for different regions, dates, and record types.

How can the user find records for a specific topic - whether it's a country, state, or record type?

5)  Do you see the "Filter by collection name" search field at the top of the left-hand column?  Here it is enlarged:

6)  For example, if I want to see only records for, New York" I can put my cursor in the "Collection name" field above and the screen changes to reflect only New York records (as shown below):

Note that I didn't finish typing "york" and it showed me records with the two words "new" and "yor."

If I only search for "york" I might get some records for Yorkshire or York County.

7)  Do you see the "Browse Images" links on the Historical Record Collections screens above?  Those are the collections that not yet indexed by FamilySearch Indexing volunteers.  The "Browse Images" collections are more than one half of all of the historical record collections available on FamilySearch.  Some indexed record collections have images also.  You can tell which collections have images by looking for the camera icon to the left of the collection name.

Many of the "Browse Images" are record collections with original source material - town, vital, church, tax, land, probate and other records - that will help you solve your research challenges.  I really think that many difficult research challenges will be solved once users are familiar with browsing the image collections for their ancestors.  That task is a subject for each record type and collection.

8)  How could FamilySearch make it easier for users to access these "Browse Images" collections?

I think that there are two ways:

a)  Add a link on the Home page (first image above) and the "Search" page (second image above) for "Records" that goes directly to the Historical Record Collections page (  Note that on the "Search" page, the "Records" link goes to the "Search" page, not to the list of Historical Record Collections.  It should go to the "Records" list.

b)  Add links to video tutorials on how to search for the "Browse Images" collections on the Search page with appropriate description so that users actually will try to use them.  They also need links to video tutorials on how to use specific collections to find records for a person (e.g., New York Probate Records").

Using a specific "Browse images" collection is difficult at first - it has many small steps with lots of detail. It isn't a simple "look it up, there I found it, I'll attach it to my tree person, I'm done!" exercise.

Usually, the user has to find an index, look names up in the index, note the names and volume/page numbers, then find the volume of interest, search for the specific page, capture the page image, and read the page image carefully.

9)  My own work-around right now is that I start my searches on the Historical Record Collections page -  Nearly all of my searches these days are for specific people in specific locations in "Browse Images" collections, so a "New York" search really works well for me.

10)  FamilySearch is an amazing website with much unique and useful online content.  Every researcher needs to learn how to use it effectively, and teach others how to use it effectively for their research work.  And it's FREE!  

At present, it is difficult for users to find FamilySearch historical record collections without indexes.  The website should be improved to make it easier to find and use these "Browse Image" collections.

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver