How to Attach Records to Your FamilySearch Family Tree

FamilySearch.org has an awesome tool that lets you attach historical records you find on FamilySearch.org to your FamilySearch Family Tree. When you find a record, you’ll launch this tool when you select the Attach to Family Tree button.

This tool offers you many options for attaching the record not only to the person you were searching for, but also to other family members in your family tree. Use the diagram below to become acquainted with each part of the “attaching” tool, so you know what to expect when attaching records.Attaching records to family tree

1. Person of Record and Spouse. This shows the person on the record you found and the information from the record.

2. Selected Person and Spouse. This portion of the screen shows the information on that person that’s already in the family tree, so you know what new information to attach or old information you’ll be confirming by attaching the source. Looking at the information in this column can help you confirm the record truly is a match to your ancestor.

3. Tag Events and/or Add to Source Box. Check or uncheck these boxes to add the information from the source into your family tree and/or to your Source Box.

4. Reason to Attach Source. Type in the reason why you know this source is correct for this person, then click the Attach button. After you attach the record, you’ll see a detatch icon in the center of the listing. If you made a mistake, you can click that link to detatch the record from the person’s family tree entry.

5. Attach link/paper clip icon. For other family members listed on the record, you’ll see an Attach link/icon. You can attach the record to those other relatives’ records at the same time you attach it to the record of the initial person you searched for.

6. Children on the record. Link children on the record to the couple in your family tree by clicking the Attach link in the Children on Record/Children From Family Tree section. The information on children already contained in the family tree is listed on the right, and new information from the record is on the left.

7. Change. Clicking this link lets you change the focus person, meaning you could change the focus person from the mother listed on the record, to the child, for example.

Learn more about using FamilySearch Family Tree in the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org.


ABOUT DANA MCCULLOUGH

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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4 Tips for Organizing Your FamilySearch.org Source Box

If you’re like me, you enjoy having access to millions of free genealogy records on FamilySearch.org, and you may even find yourself having déjà vu as you conduct record searches. When I first started using FamilySearch.org, I didn’t really use its Source Box tool, but I’ve come to find this tool essential in my research.

The Source Box allows you to save records you find in searches.

Adding a Source

You can save records you find on FamilySearch.org to your Source Box

Use these four tips to better organize the items in your FamilySearch.org Source Box.

Source Box info

You can change the Source Title, file it in a certain folder, or add Notes when saving a record to your Source Box.

1. Adjust the title, if necessary, when saving a record.

FamilySearch.org automatically puts in a Source Title for your record based on the collection it was found in and the name you were searching for at that time. For example, one of their titles may read something like: Caroline Hachman in entry for Ferdinand Schmitt and Catherine Geber, “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934.”

If this won’t help you find the record again later, change the title when you initially save it. Perhaps you could change it to say “Caroline Hachman in Marriage Record for Ferdinand Schmitt and Catherine Geber.” You could add the specific record date or location, too.

Remember to be consistent in how you label each record you save to your Source Box. Just like when you save file to your computer, it’s easiest to find them later if you use a consistent file-naming structure.

2. Use the Notes field.

When saving a record to your Source Box, there’s a field for Notes. Input any information you think will be helpful, such as what search terms you used to find the record, why there’s a difference in the name spelling on the record and the name you use for your ancestors (such as Susan in the record, if Susanna was your ancestor’s name), or other family members included on the record.

3. Create folders.

The default is to put all the records you save in one long list of sources. If you alternate between the families you’re researching, you’ll get a mix of records and families in this list. To help you find sources saved when you return to the site later, create folders in your Source Box.

For example, create a Source Box folder for each family surname you’re researching, or create folders for each record type, such as Censuses or Vital Records. When you save a record to your Source Box, you’ll see a drop-down menu of all your folders, and can choose to save it in the appropriate folder. You also can move previously saved sources into your new folders.

In addition, you may want to create a folder where you can save records that need more investigating to determine if the record is actually a match for an ancestor in your family. For example, you could create a folder called Needs Investigating. Once you finish digging into those records further, you can delete the source, move it to the appropriate folder, and/or attach it to your FamilySearch Family Tree.

4. Attach the source to your family tree.

If you didn’t attach the source to your family tree prior to saving it to you Source Box, no worries! You can attach a source in your Source Box to your family tree by clicking on the record in the Source Box.

A box will pop up, and then you can simply click on the record link. From the record page, click the Attach to Family Tree button and click the Attach or Add links to add the record to the appropriate people in the tree.


ABOUT DANA MCCULLOUGH

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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How to Find Unsearchable Genealogy Records on FamilySearch.org

Did you know that when you search the Historical Records collection on FamilySearch.org that you’re searching only a fraction of the website’s digitized records? That’s because many record image collections on the site are unindexed, and thus not included in search results.

So, how do you access these records? You need to browse through the records online, sort of like browsing through microfilmed records.

To find a record collection to browse, go to the published list of all Historical Records collections on FamilySearch.org. You’ll see that the unindexed collections don’t have a record count in the Records column; instead, it has a link to Browse Images. Use the filters on the left to narrow the options by location and/or record type, depending on what you’re looking for.

After you click a Browse Images link, you’ll be on a landing page for a particular collection. It will give you a brief description of what’s included in the collection. You can then click on another “browse” link to get to the actual images.

unindexed records

Landing page for an unindexed records collection on FamilySearch.org

In most cases, FamilySearch.org organizes the records by location, record type, date range, and/or alphabetically by name. This can help you focus your browsing on sections of the collection that are most likely to include your ancestor.

unindexed records

Sample of browsing options for a record collection on FamilySearch.org

For more tips and strategies for browsing unindexed records on FamilySearch.org, see the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org.


ABOUT DANA MCCULLOUGH

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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3 Search Strategies for Military Records on FamilySearch.org

What’s the key to finding military records on FamilySearch.org for your ancestors? Begin with these three search strategies.

Start with the big picture

Start broadly, then narrow your options by adding filters or additional search criteria. If you know your ancestor served in a specific conflict and he doesn’t turn up in a broad search, review the list of Historical Records collections for specific collections to search. In some cases, the records for a certain conflict may not yet be searchable, so you may come across collections to browse.

military records search

Military records search example on FamilySearch.org

Include residence in search criteria

Including a residence will help you determine whether the John Smith listed is your ancestor John Smith. In addition, many military records were recorded or arranged by state, and most military records typically include the soldier’s residence location. Combining the name with the residence will help yield more relevant results.

Add a family relationship

Particularly when searching for pension records, try adding a family relationship. Why? Pensions in particular included family members such as the soldier’s widow or children. Other military records may include family members’ names, too, since soldiers often had to provide information on their next of kin or a contact person back home.

For more search strategies, as well as a step-by-step example that employs these strategies, check out the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org.

(Excerpted adapted from Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org, on sale now at Amazon.com and ShopFamilyTree.com.)


ABOUT DANA MCCULLOUGH

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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What to Do When You Find a Genealogy Record on FamilySearch.org

After you’ve determined a record truly is for your ancestor, you’ve got several options for what to do with that record in FamilySearch.org and in your personal family history record files.

saving records

When you find a genealogy record on FamilySearch.org, you can save it, copy it, print it, download it, and more.

Save it to your Source Box

FamilySearch.org’s Source Box is a great tool that lets you keep all the records you find in one place. It provides citation information so you can always remember where you found the record—and that you even found the record in the first place.

Attach it to your tree

Add this source to a person in your FamilySearch Family Tree by clicking the Attach to Family Tree button (you’ll see this on the records window when you view your search results). FamilySearch.org will automatically match the record to a relative in your tree, if you’ve already created a family tree on the site.

Print a hard copy

If you keep hard-copy files of your ancestor finds, you can click on the Print icon at the top of the record detail window to print a copy.

Copy the data

The Copy icon at the top of the record detail window copies the text from the record result page and allows you to paste it in a document. For example, you would click the Copy icon, open a new word processor document or Evernote note, then paste the text. This is helpful when no record image is available, or you want the record contents to be searchable in your research notes.

Download the image

If your record result includes a record image, you’ll want to download a copy for your personal files. Record images may be directly on FamilySearch.org, or may be accessible through a partner site such as Ancestry.com. If it’s on FamilySearch.org, simply click on the Camera icon in the search results, then click the Download link to download the current record shown on your screen. A JPG image of the record will download to your computer; you can move it to the appropriate folder where you keep genealogy record images.

Share your find

You can share your record finds via social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, as well as via e-mail. To access these sharing options on FamilySearch.org, click the down arrow next to the Share icon on the record results page.

Examine the record for clues

Take closer look at the information provided in the record. Does a death record list the street address of your ancestor or of the person providing information for the record? Does a census record include the year your ancestor immigrated to America? Does a marriage license include the religious affiliation or church name where the wedding ceremony occurred? These bits of information could be valuable clues as you continue your research.

(Excerpted adapted from Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org, on sale now at Amazon.com and ShopFamilyTree.com.)


ABOUT DANA MCCULLOUGH

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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History Lesson: Details to Know Before Doing Online Genealogy Searches

Knowing some background information on genealogy records and their historical context can help you search more efficiently for records on websites such as FamilySearch.org. What information should you know before starting your online genealogy record searches?

Ancestor birth and death dates

Even if you don’t know an exact date for your ancestor’s birth, death, or other life events, it’s good to estimate the years. Knowing the years an ancestor lived will help you narrow your searches to focus only on the years the ancestor was alive.

It also can help you determine which records to look in. For example, if your ancestor died in 1909, he won’t appear in the 1910 U.S. census and if he born in 1875 and a vital records collection contains records from 1900 to 1950, he won’t be in there either. Likewise, if your male ancestor was born in the 1890s, it’s possible he could have served in World War I, so you’ll want to look for his record in draft registration card collections.

Dates records were originally created

Record-keeping dates vary by location. For example, some U.S. states began keeping statewide vital records information as early as 1848, while others waited until 1907 to begin keeping those records. Knowing when record-keepers began tracking the information you’re searching will help you focus your searches and not waste valuable research time.

A great free resource for knowing vital-records-keeping began is Family Tree Magazine’s Vital Records Chart (PDF). The FamilySearch Wiki also has helpful information about various record types. Consult the United States Genealogy entry in the Wiki to get some background on the available record types.

Information contained in records

A death date won’t be included in a birth or marriage records. A woman’s maiden name is used in her birth record, but likely not in her death record or on her gravestone. Censuses prior to 1850 listed only the name of a head-of-household, not everyone who lived at the residence.

Knowing the types of information included in certain types of record can help you choose appropriate search terms or criteria. For example, when searching for a birth record on FamilySearch.org, don’t include a death date range in your criteria. When searching a pre-1850 census, don’t search on a woman’s name (unless she was a widow and head-of-household); instead, search on the name of her husband or father that she lived with.

Again, for help learning the information available in various record types, consult the United States Genealogy Wiki entry, or a Wiki entry for the location where you’re researching, on FamilySearch.org.

Historical events and boundary changes

Knowing about various historical events during your ancestor’s day can help you focus your online searches, too. For example, if you know the dates of military conflicts that American military personnel were involved in, you can determine if any of those conflicts occurred during your ancestor’s lifetime and then search the appropriate records.

In addition, knowing some historical background on the locations where your ancestors lived can help. Boundaries of cities, counties, and even states changed overtime. So, the present-day name of the county where your ancestor lived could have been different when he lived there, meaning his records could be in an entirely different county than you originally thought.

And if he lived near a state border, his records could be in an entirely different state if the borders changed since he lived there. Use historical maps resources such as the Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection and the Newberry Library’s Atlas of Historical County Boundaries online tool to help identify boundaries at various times in history.


ABOUT DANA MCCULLOUGH

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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7 Tips for Interviewing Sources Via Email

No matter what writing project I work on—an article for magazine, a blog post for a university website, or even researching to write a book—some sources just prefer to answer interview questions via email. While interviews in person or via the phone are usually preferable, you can still glean some great information from an interviewee’s email.

Use these tips to get the information you need from sources when interviewing via email:

1. Keep it short and simple. The cardinal rule of journalistic writing is important when interviewing via email. Keep the questions you email direct and concise so your source can easily understand what is being asked and doesn’t get confused.

2. Add simple prompts. To make sure you get some specifics, you can add a few prompts in parentheses after the questions to direct the source to provide the relevant details you need. So a question may look like this:

Tell me about your background (such as education history, past jobs, etc.)

or

Tell me about your childhood (your parents’ occupations, siblings, lifestyle)

3. Ask the same question in different ways. Sometimes the way you ask a question can make a huge impact on an interviewee’s response. A source may write a one-sentence (or one-word) response to one question, and write three paragraphs in response to another. If there’s key information you need from a source and you’re concerned he may be hesitant to share it, altering the way you frame a question when you ask it could yield better results.

4. Limit the number of questions. Focus your questions on the key information you need. Do research before you talk to the person (search for the source on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) so you know the basics of his background. That way you can simply confirm the factual info you find quickly, and focus more of your questions on the meat of the interview topic. Also, make sure you don’t have such a long list of questions that it intimidates the source.

5. Always end with an open-ended question. Some of the best information I’ve gotten from email interviews comes when I ask this question: Is there anything else about X topic or your experience that you’d like to share? This is a great catchall question, so if you didn’t ask something specifically, but the person has more she wants to share, she has an opportunity to share it.

6. Follow up. Once you receive the interviewee’s responses, reply via email to thank her and let her know if you have any additional follow-up questions, you’ll be in touch. This is important because sometime a source may provide a short or incomplete response to an important question. You can send an email to follow up and ask for more specific details. For example, if he mentions an event he participated in, you could follow up and ask him what his role was in the event, where the event was held, the event’s official title, and when the event took place.

7. Give the interviewee a deadline. This may be the most important thing you can do. Everyone is busy, and your source is, too. If you give a source a deadline to reply, it gets your email on her schedule so she can plan her time accordingly. And if you don’t hear back from the source by the deadline, it gives you a good opportunity to follow up without sounding too pushy.

Remember, sometimes email interviews can be a really great thing—like when you’re working on deadline and the source has no appointment times in his schedule, but can write responses while waiting at the airport. Other times, it can create challenges—like when working on a profile of a person that requires a lot of background detail and personal stories to showcase the person or topic.

Use your best judgment on which story types or interviewees would provide good information via email versus stories or interviewees that may be best to speak directly to via phone or in person.

(Reposted from Dana’s Creative Services.)


ABOUT DANA MCCULLOUGH

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes, edits, copy-edits, and proofreads content for magazines, blogs, websites, books, and more. She is the owner of Dana’s Creative Services and author of the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org. Twitter:@DanasCreative

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