Thursday, July 3, 2014

Using Find-A-Record to Find Record Collections for a Specific Geographical Place

Find-A-Record is a research assistant that enables you to search geographically for genealogical records.  It tells you what records exist in the place and time period that your ancestors lived.

I wrote about the general layout of Find-A-Record, and its' connection to FamilySearch Family Tree to find add information for persons in the Family Tree, in Using Find-A-Record to Add Information to Your FamilySearch Family Tree.

One of the other features of Find-A-Record does not require access to the FamilySearch Family Tree - it is the "Search geographically for genealogy records."  It is the blue "Search" on the upper right-hand side of the Find-A-Record home page:

When I clicked on the blue "Search" button, a map for Chula Vista, California (my location) opened.  There is a search field at the top of the map, and I started typing "newton..." into the search field, and a dropdown list appeared:

I picked "Newton, NJ" from the list, and a map centered on Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey appeared:

 I added years 1780 to 1900 in the From and To fields on the right of the map above.  There are buttons to choose for "Free" and "Paid", "Online" and "Offline," "Birth," "Marriage," "Death," "Census," "Military," and "Misc" record types.  I left the selections as they were presented by default.

The list of free or paid record collections available to search was presented below the map:

There were 31 record collections listed.  Here is the last screen of collections:

There were collections for New Jersey and the United States that included records between 1780 and 1900.  The collections I saw were from FamilySearch (free), (paid), (paid), and (paid).  Investigation of the other record type buttons provided listings from Fold3,, and GenealogyBank.  There may be others.

What about non-U.S.A. locations?  I chose Hilperton, Wiltshire in England, and saw the map (the user can zoom in or out on the map by using their mouse roller button):

The last screen is:

There were 50 record collections listed from the same four record providers.  Some did not apply to Hilperton or Wiltshire, such as "Torrey's New England Marriages Before 1700" on

In every case, the user has to select one of the record collections, be logged into the record provider site, and then perform a search in the specific database.  

I was curious what would happen if I checked the "Offline" button and unchecked the "Online" button.  I was presented with a very long list of items from the FamilySearch Catalog which appears to list every item available for Wiltshire county and towns.  Here is the top of the list:

I never got to the end of the list!  It kept adding items even after 100 (I stopped counting) hitting "End."  I did find the Hilperton Bishop's Transcripts though, by using the Find feature.

This feature may be very useful for inexperienced researchers who may not know what records, if any, are available for a specific place.  However, the lists are too long because they cover a fairly large geographical area - in most cases U.S. states, English counties, etc. plus the general country collections.  

The inexperienced researcher may not have access to the subscription sites, and become frustrated when what they seek are behind a pay wall.  At least they would know that specific databases exist.

The lists do not yet include record collections from FindMyPast, Mocavo, AmericanAncestors, MyHeritage (although they do have WorldVitalRecords collection), and other free or paid record provider sites.  

For the experienced researcher who knows, generally, what collections are available online or offline, this feature might be useful if they could limit the search to a specific U.S. city or county, or to a specific English town or parish.  It is much easier to use the specific website and search for a specific geographical location in the card catalog, or do a general search for a person's name with vital information as needed.

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Geolover said...

This search engine will be much more useful when confining search to a specific US County is possible. For example, Philadelphia records should not be listed in search results for counties that aren't even close.

SueFitz said...

Thank you for sharing this source. I did used and it helped me find a couple sources that I hadn't thought about.