Friday, April 19, 2013

How I Search on FamilySearch - Post 2: Searching a Specific Indexed Record Collection

I had several reader comments on my blog post, Is FamilySearch De-emphasizing Genealogical Research?in my email, and in Google+ and Facebook that indicated the commenters needed help in how to search on  

There are three different ways that I use to search on FamilySearch, and it depends on my search goal and the availability of indexing specific databases:

I will address each of these three ways in a separate blog post.

For Searching a specific indexed record collection, I start on the Historical Record Collections page (

A user can either scroll down the list of over 1,500 record collections, or narrow the search by searching for a specific locality or topic (using the "Filter by collection name" field in the upper left corner of the sidebar) or by using location, date or collection filters in the left-hand sidebar.

In the screen below, I started typing "massachusetts" into the "Filter by collection name" field.  The list of 17 collections with "Massachusetts" in their title:

Alternatively, I could choose the "United States" link from the Place filter list, then pick "Massachusetts" from the list of states that appear:

If I select "Massachusetts" from the list of U.S. states, I get the same list of Massachusetts collections:

Note that the list includes collections with photo icons to the left of the collection name - those collections have record images.  Some collections have a number in the "Records" column - those collections are indexed.  Some collections say "Browse images" in the "Records" column - those collections are not indexed (see Post 3 in this series).

In the screen above, I right-clicked the link for the first collection listed.  I can Open the link in a new Tab, in a new Window, etc.  Why would I want to do this?  Because FamilySearch does not keep the filtered collection list in the browser stack - if I come back to the Historical Record Collections list (by using the browser back button), I get the entire list of over 1,500 collections and have to enter my filters again.  So I open a specific collection in a new Tab, and then can come back to the list of filtered collections in its own Tab.

In the selected record collection, I can enter search parameters into the search form for my person of interest.  In the screen below, I entered a first name (Isaac), a last name (Seaver), a Birthplace (Massachusetts), and a birth year range (1820 to 1825):

I clicked on the "Search" button and there were two matches, both of which are for my 2nd-great-grandfather:

As you can see, I quickly found pertinent records in a specific record collection.  Those two items were also on the match list when I did a Global Search in Post 1 of this series, but they were not as easy to find.  With a common name, using the specific collection search works well, as long as you know the location, and/or life events, and/or relationships of the person if interest.

Remember the prime adage of using a computer:  The computer does exactly what you told it to do.  If you aren't getting the results you expect, it's usually "user error."

copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

I love the idea of right clicking on the record group to search in a new window! That was always my frustration that there was no way to get back to your filtered list without having to start over. Thanks. I loved all three of your posts. Well thought out and explained.