Sunday, 16 January 2011

New FamilySearch - Some tips for UK genealogists

This post is not especially aimed at Londoners or those researching their London ancestry, although they may well find it helpful.  I am writing it instead in response to quite a bit of feedback, via Twitter and elsewhere, among Genealogists, who do not like the new FamilySearch website.

In an effort to try and understand for myself what was going on, I went along last Thursday to Sharon Hintze's talk at The National Archives called "What's happened to the FamilySearch website?" Sharon Hintze is a Director of Family History Centers worldwide and is currently based at the main London Centre in Exhibition Road.  She gave a most informative talk.

I am not going to summarise the whole talk here - this will probably be done by the National Archives in due course. Instead I shall just summarise the key points that I took away from the talk, together with a few tips from having played around with the site in the last couple of days:

1)  Firstly, all experienced genealogists should not be using the main search on the new Family Search website, but they should instead go straight to the Advanced Search page

2) Secondly, there is now a much clearer button that will take you back to old Family Search site.  (But if you want a direct link to the old site - e.g. for your bookmarks - try using this link:

3) If you are looking for Historical Records, it is important to make sure you have selected this tab.  The Family Trees tab at present contains records from Ancestral files, but in the future, users will have the option of submitting or adding to their own family trees (a bit like Ancestry trees I suspect). 

4) If you are looking for the old English, Scottish or Irish records, it is important to realise that these records are all now included as a subset of "Europe" rather than the "British Isles" - yes times change! So after going to Advanced Search, try selecting Europe (from the bottom of the page) and then United Kingdom. (from the list on the left). You should then find a long list of about 30 different UK Historical Collections.

5) At the top of this list is the largest UK collection, called "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975".  It is within this collection that can be found the old IGI baptisms which many of us genealogists have found so useful in the past.  Similarly, the old IGI marriages are found in "England Marriages, 1538-1973".

6)  If you only want to search collections with actual images, you will see that quite a few of these UK collections have a small camera icon to the left-hand side.  But don't deceived, if you search for a record in these collections, you will be directed towards the subscription site FindMyPast in order to view the actual images concerned. However, even with a subscription to FindMyPast, the link simply directed me to the FMP search page, so I would have to search all over again, which seems pretty pointless.

7)  You will notice if you try to use them, that these Collections are not very easy to use, due to a lack of more detailed geographical breakdowns than, say, Middlesex. Londoners, in particular, will know how frustrating that is.  I searched for my Edward Clifford, Mathematician,  in the 1841 census (as I know he is there, in West Brompton), but could not easily find him!

8)  If you do manage to find your ancestors' records in one of the three main UK Births and Baptisms, Deaths and Burials, or Marriage Collections, you will notice that there is an entry called  "Source Film Number" which is the same as the source film number in the old IGI.  

9)  Also, if you find a christening and want to search for siblings, it is actually easier with the new site to feed in parents name, place and approximate date, and up come up with all the siblings.  I have only tried this so far on my previously known ancestors, so it will interesting to see how useful this will be for new searches, but it actually looks a bit easier than the old IGI. Hurrah!

10)  Finally, Sharon did stress that the new Family Search site is still under development and that the development team is keen to receive feedback.  There have already been several minor improvements since I started looking at the new site, possibly because of our feedback.  So I urge you all, and Sharon stressed this too,  to please give feedback on the site.  You can do this by clicking on feedback tab on the far right of the homepage, and following "share your ideas" or simply by clicking here.  You will need to register (if you're not already registered) but I would say that, despite this, it is well worthwhile.

Please feel free to comment (below) if you have any further suggestions on this subject.

(Many thanks to Sharon Hintze of the London Family History Centre and Audrey Collins at The National Archives for providing input for this article)

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research

Sunday, 9 January 2011

My Top 10 New Year Genealogy Resolutions

Yes, I know this is about a week too late, but I thought it was "better late than never" so here we go, with my Top 10 Genealogy Resolutions for 2011:

  1. First of all, I really need to properly archive my own family BMD certificates, original newspaper cuttings, letters etc., using archive material recently purchased from Family Tree Folk.
  2. Secondly, I want to make sure I update my blog at least fortnightly, and preferably weekly. Otherwise I fear that my followers may lose interest in my blog and stop following.
  3. I also need to keep up-to-date with my assignments on my PG Diploma in Genealogy at the University of Strathclyde.  It would be a shame to have invested all this time and money and then fail to deliver.  (Don't worry folks I very rarely fail to deliver, just panic sometimes that I might).
  4. I really must keep in touch with all my own family "cousins".  These include my Clifford cousins who helped me find out about my great grandfather, Edward Clifford, who died in a fatal accident in London on Christmas Eve 1848.  I found these cousins through Lost Cousins, a wonderful genealogy matching service.
  5. I would really like to make the most of my genealogy website subscriptions while I can still afford them.  I have undoubtedly received huge value out of my Ancestry subscription over the years.  Most of my family tree has been built with Ancestry's help.  I have also used Findmypast to search for many of my ancestors in the 1911 census and have also found their passenger records useful.  But unless they come up with some new datasets, I may have to let this one go, come renewal in the spring.  My most recent subscription is with Family Relatives and I hope to be able to gain some value from this site in the coming year.
  6. I think I really need to try and understand the new Family Search website.  It is all too tempting to just fall back into the old way of doing searches using the old Familysearch website to search for the familiar IGI records.  One day this facility will be gone and I will be lost.
  7.  OK so this one is a "biggy" - develop my own genealogy website, together with offers of genealogy research packages etc.  This is important if I want to develop a serious genealogy business.  I have several ideas, I just need to make the time to do it!!  (Well just DO it, Rosemary).
  8. Explore some of the lesser known London archives. This is really important for me, as I aim to continue to specialise in London genealogy.  As the better known sources, such as the London Metropolitan Archives and also the Society of Genealogists, put more of their records online, I'd like to search out some of the more specialist archives, such as the Palace of Westminster Archives.
  9. Continue to find new ways of researching my maternal great grandmother's Mullins family, who reportedly came from Ireland during the Irish famine of the 1840's.  This is the only line in my own family tree where I haven't yet managed to get back to c. 1800 at least.
  10. Finally, I would really like to end the year having written some genealogy-related articles for family history magazines or family history society newsletters.  I know the Clifford Society are waiting for an article from me, and again, I just need to get on with it!  Hopefully I will have an opportunity to write for some others too.
OK so that's it folks.  I've gone public with my Genealogy Resolutions for 2011. It will be interesting (for me at least) to see how I manage in the coming 12 months to keep them up!

    Rosemary Morgan
    London Roots Research