A Service of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
The LDS Church is devoted to making genealogical information available to anyone who wants it. They have teams of members who tour the world microfilming records that could be of use to genealogists. Those records are then stored at the LDS Library in Salt Lake City where they are available free to anyone. They can also be ordered to be viewed at a local Family History Center. In addition, many are put on the internet where they can be searched and downloaded. One of the Church’s present missions is to transcribe, index and provide free access to all US and UK census records. That decision caused a rift between LDS and Ancestry such that Ancestry removed free access to Ancestry.com from all LDS History Centers but it has now been restored to some. A new sharing agreement is in place. You can volunteer to index census records to help this program along.
We’ll start at FamilySearch.org and see some of what’s available. When you go into a restaurant, what’s the first thing that you do? After you order a drink, of course. You read the MENU. You should start every new program or web site the same way. So we’ll read the menu.
* Home * Search Records * Index Records * Share
o Advanced Search o Share My Genealogy
o Record Search pilot
o Library Catalog
o Historical Books
o Web Sites
* Research Helps * Library * Help
o Articles o Family History Library
o Guidance o Family History Centers
o Library Catalog
We’ll come back to that after we do what everyone else does on this site; we’ll search the Internet for someone. When you search, you’ll find records submitted by others and they are of varying quality. They will be from the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which are records of a person with limited information about the family. They may be from the Ancestral File which is from genealogies submitted by users but no longer updated, the Pedigree Resource File which has full information on disks sold by the Mormons and the Social Security Death Index.
Just to see the quality of information available, lets try to find Samuel Chapin, one of the founders of Springfield, MA whose statue, a favorite for birds, stands outside the Springfield Public Library. We get to choose which Life Event to search for so we’ll enter the name and choose death date and location with a range on the date. There were probably fewer Samuel Chapins that died in America than were born in England..
Interestingly, there are no Ancestral Files but only IGI and Pedigree Resource Files. Note that few listings show where he died so those that do are probably worth looking at first. No. 5 has Springfield as the place of death so lets see what else it has. It has his birth and death, his parents, his spouse and her birth date and if we click on family after her name we get their family group sheet with more facts and their 10 children. I am descended from Catherine and from Josiah. Clicking on them gives us their spouses and that information agrees with what I know. You can check other listings and if you find data that corroborates what you’ve found it probably only means it was copied. Seek original records to verify your data.
You can download a Gedcom file of the Chapin family and then create a new family file in your genealogy program and import it. Verify that the records are correct before you merge it into your family file. One way to verify the data at FamilySearch, is to see what microfilm of original records is available.
We’ll start with Search Records and scroll down to Library Catalog. This is the catalog of the LDS Library and you can search for records by Place, Surname, Keyword, Title, Film/Fiche, Author, Subject or Call Number. Once you find what you want you just jump on a plane for Salt Lake City or order the record to be sent to the local FHC.
Enter Springfield in the Place name and under Part of enter Mass and you’ll get a long listing of available records. Go down the list and click on Vital Records and get another long list of records. Go down to Vital records of Springfield, Massachusetts, 1638-1887 and the next one, Vital records of Springfield, Massachusetts, to 1850. Click on either or both of these. Clicking on the first shows us that there are nine rolls of microfilm. Then click on For a Printable version....to get a listing of the individual films. Print that to take to the FHC to order the film(s) crossing out any that you don’t want. Births, marriges and deaths 1638 to 1729 may contain death information of Samuel, his wife and children and marriage and birth information about his children. You can also look up records for Devon, England and perhaps there will be some church or historical record about the Chapin family but he was born before civil registration was required. There are a lot of Devon records available.
You can repeat the search using Surname and entering Chapin and you’ll find a host of books, many on microfilm that you can order to be sent to the FHC. If you find a book of interest, check Google Books to see if it’s available for downloading or click on Find in a Library to find the nearest library that has a copy.
Town records are useful and are available for even very small towns. I had family from Athens VT which had a population of 340 in the 2000 census. We’ll search by Place Name. Here’s what we get:
Vermont, Windham, Athens - Cemeteries
Vermont, Windham, Athens - Directories
Vermont, Windham, Athens - Genealogy
Vermont, Windham, Athens - History
Vermont, Windham, Athens - Land and property
Vermont, Windham, Athens - Military records
Vermont, Windham, Athens - Town records
Vermont, Windham, Athens - Vital records
If we click on Vital Records we get the following:
Athens, Vermont, vital records (B,M,D) 1732-2002 Athens (Vermont). Town Clerk
Land records, 1779-1917; index to land records, 1779-1945 Athens (Vermont). Town Clerk
Marriage certificates, 1867-1905 Athens (Vermont). Town Clerk
Records of births, marriages, and deaths, 1857-1895; also tombstone records from Athens Valley and Athens West cemeteries Athens (Vermont). Town Clerk
Vital records, 1775-1867 Athens (Vermont). Town Clerk
We click on what we want to see what’s involved and then click to see a printable copy which we can print out and take to FHC.
Let’s try something different. We’ll click on Research Helps and get two links; Articles and Guidance. .Under Articles, there are hundreds of articles listed in alphabetical order by state and country providing links to just about anything you’d want to know. Under Guidance, we find links by state, province and country that show where you can find records of various types. Most of these records are on microfilm that can be ordered at the local FHC.
Next, we’ll click on Library and we’ll find Family History Library that tells all about the library in Salt Lake City, Family History Centers tells us where we can find the nearest FHC and the last item is Library Catalog which a repeat of whet we already visited. The third item is Education and it lists various classes, on-line courses and other education programs that teach how to better search out our family history. Let’s just click on Family History Library Research Series Online to see what’s available now. It changes as new subjects become available. We find that it is offering online video training courses in researching England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, General Information, Russia and the US. We’ll look at Ireland and we see that there is a list of subjects including Church Records, Civil Records and three lessons on immigration. For each there is a video and a handout. Total video time is approximately 2 ½ hours.
There’s a wealth of information under Education that is useful for any researcher but especially for those just starting out. Spend some time seeing what’s available in other classes and videos. You may just come across a clue that unlocks a large part of your family history.
But that’s all old stuff. There’s a new aspect to FamilySearch and it’s impressive. Let’s go to Search Records and scroll down to Record Search Pilot. We could just enter a name but let’s explore by clicking on Browse Our Record Collection to see what records are available as new ones are aded all the time. We are presented with a map and if we click on the US we find that it includes records from Canada, Mexico and the US and there are 99 records. Scrolling down the list we find many state censuses and we find US censuses for 1850 to 1880, 1900 and 1920. Others are in process and volunteers to index them are required by LDS. Interested?
Many of the images of census records are provided by Footnote through a sharing agreement with the LDS. When you click on an image to see it, you may get it from Footnote with their viewer or from FamilySearch with a different viewer.
As example of what you can get, let’s search for Henry Leonard in the 1850 census for Vermont. Scrolling down the list we come to Henry O. Leonard of Pomfret VT. When we find him we can click on the image to see more and even make it full screen. We’ll click on the + sign to enlarge it until it’s very readable and use the hand over the image to scroll around. People of interest to me here are Henry O. who is 12. He’s my great-grandfather. His father is Oliver Rinaldo, age 36 and his father, my GGGGrandfather is Oliver, listed as age 52 but actually was 60 since he was born in 1790. (In the 1860 census he’s 76 when only 70). His wife, my ggggrandmother is Rachel Pratt and we covered her father and mother on October 18, 2006 when we showed how to get Revolutionary War military and pension records from HeritageQuest. He received a pension and she applied for a widow’s pension when he died. but only finally got it just before she died.
This is the only census where they all appear on one page. In 1860, Henry Owen is a farm laborer working in Springfield, VT and in 1870, the year that the attached picture was taken, H.O. was living in New Hampshire with his wife, four children and his brother, Samuel. There’s a picture of them here. We present this this image with identification of all of the people at the meeting using the technique we covered on February 16, 2005 where you point to a face to see the name; click on the face to see the genealogy. In this case, only Oliver's genealogy is presented as the others are all related. to him.
This photograph of the Leonard Family of Pomfret, Vermont was taken for inclusion in a brochure for the 1870 Centennial of Pomfret, Vermont. It was sent me by a then unknown distant cousin who saw my Leonard genealogy posted on the Internet. Two of the women here are daughters of Revolutionary War soldiers.
My ggggrandfather, Oliver is standing in front of the window next to his seated wife, Rachel Pratt, dau of Levi who fought in the Rev. War; my gggrandfather, Oliver Rinaldo, owner of the house is in the doorway with his wife, Harriet French, dau of David French who fought in the Rev War; my ggrandfather, Henry Owen. is seated with his wife, Harriette Hendrick and his three brothers are standing.
Censuses Available from Different Sites
Ancestry: Ancestry has all but the 1890 census that was lost in a fire.
FamilySearch: 1850 to 1880, 1900 and 1920. 1880 and 1920 have no images.
Footnote: 1860, 1900-1930.
HeritageQuest: 1790 to 1930 including some 1890 and partial 1930.
Personal Ancestral File
The LDS offers a free genealogy program that does just about everything that you could want and has the best relationship calculator of all. It’s called Personal Ancestral File (PAF) and you can download it from the home page of FamilySearch.
You can start by importing a Gedcom file from another program or click on new and enter data as it is asked for. Start in the highlighted box and double-click to enter data. From there on it’s just filling in data that’s asked for on each form. There is also a program called PAF Companion that can create a multitude of different charts that can be printed out in color.
The Apple IPad has created a bit of excitement just as the Amazon Kindle did many months ago. There are other readers out there as well; the Nook from Barnes and Noble, several from Sony and several from lesser known manufactures. While the IPad is more a cross between a netbook computer and a reader, we’ll see what readers can do and how to obtain genealogically significant documents to read on them.
We’ll look at the Azus 1 netbook computer and the Sony e book reader as examples of portable reading instruments covering perhaps the largest and smallest practical sizes. Unlike some other readers, these don’t have wireless access to directly download books. The netbook does have access through a local wireless network such as at the library while the Sony requires connection to a computer connected to the Internet.
When choosing an ebook reader, consider what your main goal is and then consider whether the formats handled by that device meet your needs. The Kindle needs a conversion program to convert many formats. Downloading books directly from the manufacturer will assure getting books that are compatible but the greatest benefit to the genealogically minded user may be the multitude of free books offered on line. Be sure that the reader that you choose can handle the format or formats that you are interested in.
To find ebooks, go to Pastfinders, click on Articles and then, Free Books. There are several sources of free books and all should be checked out but with our limited time we’ll go to Project Gutenberg. Click on the Logo to go to a promo page and then click on The Official Site of Project Gutenberg. You can select to see the latest 100 downloads by title or by author or search for something. The site is more dedicated to old classics than it is to genealogy.
HeritageQuest provides books as images which may not be easily read on a small ebook reader but might be ok on a netbook or similar size screen.