If you're big into family history research, chances are you've run into LDS genealogy websites and resources, but aren't sure what all they offer or how to make the most of them. The purpose of this page is to help you learn how to use all of this to find your ancestors.
When I first started learning how much there was available, I was just blown away by the sheer width and breadth of what I found. Let me show you!
For starters, there's Family Tree. This is part of the familysearch.org website. Like Ancestry.com and other genealogy databases, FamilyTree allows you to enter your information and start looking for your ancestors. It provides a place for you to build your family tree.
What is perhaps unique about FamilySearch is that, while other websites give you your own tree space and then provide hints based on others' trees, Family Tree is a single crowd-sourced tree. Once a given ancestor is found, no one needs duplicate more research than the minimum necessary to know that person is already there.
What this means is that, if you happen to be even very remotely related to a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or anyone else who uses FamilySearch, chances are, a lot of your family has already been found!
Now, you just need to connect to them.
In other words, not only is this incredible "Mormon" genealogy web site completely free (no trial period needed), it saves a lot of extra effort for those willing to use it.
The other aspect that bears mention here is the Family Tree search engine. Similar to other websites, this function gives beginners a simple way to begin searching for your ancestors, without having to know all the technical jargon and fancy search techniques you'll want to learn once you get your feet under you. This easy-to-use LDS genealogy feature allows you to search by anything you know about your ancestors - names, dates, places, and relationships.
The catch to using this search function, though, is that somebody has to enter the data to make it searchable. The only way that happens is if volunteers help read that data from the many hundreds of thousands of scanned images and books at the Family History Library and enter it into the FamilySearch database.
This process is called indexing. It's what gives LDS genealogy resources the power to really help you and me with our research.
This is what makes it so you can search and have the computer find what you're looking for. If you've saved time and effort by using the search features, you've benefited from the willingness of others to enter that data for you.
Now it's your turn. Would you be willing to help make more information searchable for everyone to use? This is your chance to give back. If you're up to it, we need your help!
Now I want to show you some more LDS genealogy resources to help you with your research.
Most of the LDS genealogy data available at FamilySearch isn't actually available through the main search function in Family Tree. The trick to accessing this incredible wealth of information is learning to use the FamilySearch Catalog.
Genealogy Video Tutorial: How to Use FamilySearch Catalog
You can access the online catalog at the Family History LIbrary in Salt Lake City by clicking on the "Search" link at the top of the screen, and then "Catalog".
This is gives you a search screen with a handful of different options. Let's go through them.
As you can see, you can search by various categories. Clicking each category adds a new search field like this:
Note that you can also search by Call Number if you happen to be looking for a specific book, or by film number if you want to see scanned microfiche that's available online or order a roll to be sent to your nearest LDS family history center. We want to search, not so much to look for a specific person, but rather to find a set of records that might have our ancestor in them. We want to search the records by category.
For example, I know my ancestor died in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in the United States, so I search like this:
This gives me a list of possible records to look at:
Since I'm looking for death records, I'm going to click on "United States, Pennsylvania, Lehigh - Vital records".
I'm going to click on the Lehigh County Register of Wills.
Note that in the far right column of the results, there's a camera icon. This means there are online images to browse in this record set. Since there is no key icon above them, you can access them from anywhere. You will need to sign in at this point though. If you do happen to run into a camera-key icon, you'll have to visit an LDS family history center near you in order to access those records.
This is because the LDS Church takes privacy laws and the safeguard requests of its contributors very seriously. FamilySearch does not allow access to LDS genealogy records unless it's perfectly legal and allowed by those who contributed the material.
Also notice the film numbers. If you write down these film numbers and you want to go into a family history center to look at them, or maybe come back to it later, you can search by these film numbers right on the first search screen in the catalog, rather than have to go through the entire search process all over again.
I'm going to click on "Deaths, 1852-1955" and sign in.
I now have over seven hundred images I can browse through.
Do you remember the old days, when we used to use microfiche readers? This is exactly the same thing, only now your computer is the microfiche reader. LDS genealogy technology has made it possible for you and me to access this information from the comforts of our own homes. The navigation buttons in the upper left allow you to: zoom in, zoom out, switch to one-at-a-time view (use the arrow buttons to go through them), or switch to full-screen mode.
Now I just have to spend the time looking through all of this to see if I can find my ancestor. Luckily, these images are usually entered in approximate chronological order, so once you start to get a feel for the timespan you're looking at, you can zero in on the right time for your ancestor fairly quickly. That helps narrow your search.
When you find what you're looking for, naturally, you'll want to attach it to your ancestor. Here's how.
Click on "Attach to Family Tree".
Click "Select Person".
At this point, it helps to know the FamilySearch ID of the person you want to attach your image to, unless they happen to be in this list. You can always open up FamilySearch in a second tab. Your login will still work. You can search for your ancestor, click on the ID to copy it, then switch back to this tab and paste it into the search field here.
I'm going to stop here, because I don't actually want to add the image. But you can see the process, and now you know how to do it the next time the need arises.
One last thing, and then we'll move on. Remember the film numbers we saw when we got our results from the search? I'm going to back to the catalog search screen, just as though I had logged out and am now coming back to continue browsing these images.
As you can see, my same search list comes up, with my visited link in purple, so I don't even have to think about which one it was. I can just click and get back to browsing.
Another trick to remember is that, if you want to come back to something later, you can just copy the link out of the address bar and save it or email it to yourself.
Being able to search scanned books and images gives you far more information! When you can't find what you're looking for in the search functions of FamilySearch or Ancestry, give this a try. There's a lot more to LDS genealogy than meets the eye!
The other thing that occurs to me is that there are two different ways I can provide LDS genealogy resources here on my website: (1) I can give you some fish; (2) I can teach you how to fish for yourself.
Now, I probably will offer free genealogy downloads in the near future that will contain all kinds of links to different kinds of records to enable research in Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. But I figure it would help you more if I show you how to find these things yourself.
How To Fish In the FamilySearch Wiki
Introducing: the FamilySearch Wiki. You don't need an account to do searches. But if you want to look at actual records, you will need to get that set up. This is a completely free genealogy resource, and everyone is welcome to use it.
Need Pennsylvania church records? Just enter it into the searchbox.
Note that the page lists all kinds of churches. You can drill down into what denomination you're looking for. From there, you'll find specific locations of records or searchable websites for specific areas.
It works the same in all kinds of searches.
Need to do some research on Germany? This page will show you a high level listing of all the resources available on FamilySearch for finding German ancestors.
The other way you can do it is by clicking on the map. Let's check out Venezuela. I start by clicking in South America.
Now I click on Venezuela:
I get all kinds of resources for doing research there, too.
There's one more thing I want to point out here, and that's the column of links on the left.
This gives you information about the Wiki itself, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and other LDS genealogy aids. It also allows you to find your local LDS family history center if you want to get some one-on-one help.
You can even get permissions to run your own "sandbox" - in other words, you can create your own wiki page and contribute research advice, techniques and sources in your own specialized area of expertise.
The FamilySearch Wiki is absolutely loaded with amazing LDS genealogy resources. It has over 89,000 pages of content ranging from how to convert Julian calendar dates to translating Roman numerals to reading old style handwriting. If you can think of it, someone has written a page on how to do it!
If you've ever wished you could pick an expert genealogist's brain, now you can! This incredible LDS genealogy resource is a researcher's dream come true!
The answer is simple: we're on a mercy mission.
We believe that "with God there is no respect of persons".1 In other words, we believe all people everywhere have a right to hear what He has to offer, whether in this life or in the next. We believe all people have a right to know of their divine heritage and eternal potential as sons and daughters of God.2
We believe Jesus Christ is "Lord both of the dead and [of the] living".3 We believe He preached repentance and extended forgiveness even to those who died in the flood at the time of Noah.4
We believe it is our solemn responsibility to extend without obligation the rites of salvation, or "ordinances" as we call them, such as baptism, to help prepare those who have died for resurrection and judgement.5
In short, we believe that "nothing can separate us from the love of God".6
The LDS genealogy research effort is a labor of love. Far from just having the joy of learning about them and feeling connected with them, it's about inviting our deceased family members to come unto Christ and to know of the mercy and grace and love which He offers to all of us.7