Thursday, April 21, 2011

Have you checked the collections recently? You should!

Some readers may have noticed that I'm listing the new and updated historical record collections on FamilySearch (see every month.  They seem to be adding 20 to 30 new collections each month, and updating many others eachm onth.  The list is at 600 collections as of today.

I finally got around to checking the Maryland Register of Will Books, 1792-1983 in the historical record collections.  This collection was added on 17 March 2011.

I want to demonstrate the searching process for this collection, because it requires browsing through the collection - meaning that there is no index, other than the index in the collection itself.

I find it easiest to search for collections for specific states.  To start this search, I started on the Historical Collections page, put "Maryland" in the search field, and without clicking anything, I saw:

The Maryland Register of Wills, 1792-1983 collection is the last one on the list.  I clicked on it, and saw:

The page above tells me that this collection is not indexed - and that there are 170,228 images to browse.  I could click on the "Learn more" link and go to the Research Wiki page for this collection.  so I clicked on the "Browse this collection" link, and saw:

The screen above provides a list of Maryland counties currently in this collection.  I was curious to see if there were any Seaver records in Baltimore City, so I clicked on Baltimore, and saw this list of records:

The will books for Baltimore (and there are several other types of records besides wills on the list) run from 1853 to 1950, but the list is not complete - there are "holes" with missing volumes.  In addition, the list is more than the width of my monitor - I ran the scroll bar to the right and saw many out-of-order volumes, but not every one.  I hope that they put this list in year order.

I had a clue that Martha Seaver, the daughter of William R. and Martha (Davis) Seaver, had died in 1888.  I checked the two volumes with wills for 1888, and in Liber R.T.B. 61 I found a listing for Martha C. Seaver in the index for the volume:

The index indicates that the will for Martha C. Seaver is on page 423.  I navigated to Image 448, which was the page numbered 423, and saw:

Breaking the record collection down into counties, and then into specific books by year, is called "Waypointing."  Within a specific book, the user can advance to the next or previous page, or can type a page number in the box and hit "Enter" and find the page of interest fairly quickly.  Other collections might have the records separated by alphabetical letters for surnames.

That was fairly easy to do, considering the complications of most probate records on microfilm.  It took me all of 10 minutes to find this record, save it, and create the screens above.  I did this task at 6 in the evening, but it could have been at midnight sitting here in my snugs, or in the evening when I'm minding the laptop while watching the baseball game.

Using microfilm, I would have had to go to the San Diego FHC, order the right film from the FHL in Salt Lake City for $6, wait two weeks to view it, then run it through the microfilm machine to find the index and then the page with the will on it, then take the film to the microfilm scanner (rent an hour for $1) and save it on my flash drive.  The total time from start to finish would be at least two weeks and one hour, plus $7 in cash. 

I can hardly wait until there is more records of this type - massive collections with self-contained indexes and page images of the actual records.  Even better will be when these pages are indexed with the names of testators, heirs and witnesses!  When the indexes are available is when many of us will solve some of our elusive ancestor problems.  Until then, the browsing system using waypointing works well! 

FamilySearch - bring on more Waypointed collections!  As soon as possible, please!  Can I make specific requests? 

Readers - have you checked the FamilySearch record collection list recently for your states of interest?  You really should!


Craig Manson said...

Randy, Thanks--this is a greatly useful post (as per usual on your blog). I'm staying up late on a "school night" just to try this out.

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Randy, I know what I'll be doing today!

Pat Kuhn said...

thank's Randy. this was what I needed for my ProGen assignment this month!

Bill Buchanan said...

This is the best article I have seen on this topic!

I have not seen you refer to the "Genealogy in Time" newsletter. It has had some excellent articles, including a multi-part article on English records that may be the best I have seen on that topic.

Bill Buchanan

Susan Clark said...

Just wanted you to know I've had great success with the the Maryland Probate Records - once you alerted me to them! Many, many thanks.