How to Use the FamilySearch Pilot Site
9/27/2009
See step-by-step how to access millions of digitized records on FamilySearch’s Record Search Pilot Site.
You’ve probably heard about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS) ambitious plans to digitize all of the Family History Library’s microfilmed records and post them online. You also may be aware that the church’s FamilySearch Indexing project has an army of 100,000-plus volunteers indexing a million names a day from those same records. But did you know there’s a special Web site where you can view the fruits of their labor to date?

LDS set up the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site as a public landing strip for those digitized records and indexes—covering 500 million names at press time—until the new search engine gets integrated into the main FamilySearch Web site.

As the site explains, “pilot” means it’s a work in progress: As the search engine team gathers data on how people are using the site, FamilySearch may add new functions or change navigation. The site might be unavailable at times due to back-end programming or new record groups being added. Some changes will be visible; others, merely behind-the-scenes enhancements that make the data easier to use and access.

For average family historians, the Pilot Site presents an opportunity to influence perhaps the biggest genealogy project the world has ever seen. FamilySearch actively solicits feedback—through a link in the site’s top frame, you can report problems, request enhancements or simply offer comments. Here we give you seven tips to enjoy the convenience of viewing original images, searching vital-records indexes and helping to test drive one of the slickest search engines that genealogy has to offer.

1. Know your navigation options.


You can begin any of three ways: Use the search box at the top of the page, click a place on a world map to view record groups available for that region, or select View All Collections.

2. Start searching records.


Once you’ve selected a geographic area—I picked Canada, USA and Mexico—enter your ancestor’s name, a date range and/or place in the search box to search all the records for that region. Or click on the name of a record group to look within that collection only.

3. See results.


The search engine will pick out instances in which the indicated name and any other search term occur together. For example, when I entered the surname Hendrickson and the place Missouri, my 809 results included Texas deaths and Michigan marriages because the Hendricksons in those records were born, died or buried in Missouri.

At this point in the search, you can click on a person’s name to open a new box displaying information contained in the record. If a record image is available, a small clickable icon appears next to the person’s name.

4. Preview record details.


Unsure if one of the results is actually your relative? Hover your mouse over a name, and a box with pertinent personal details—spouse, birthplace and date, parents, burial date and place—pops up, allowing you to see at a glance whether the information fits your family. This saves time clicking back and forward through results.

5. Make results manageable.


Once you’ve entered your search terms and viewed the initial results, you can further filter those results by clicking one of the filters at the top of the search results page. For example, my search on the surname Snow plus north carolina returned 1,747 hits. Rather than scroll through all those names, I clicked Collection to narrow my results further. A pop-up box displayed all the collections that included my search terms, and let me pick only those I was interested in.

6. Make results manageable.


Once you’ve entered your search terms and viewed the initial results, you can further filter those results by clicking one of the filters at the top of the search results page. For example, my search on the surname Snow plus north carolina returned 1,747 hits. Rather than scroll through all those names, I clicked Collection to narrow my results further. A pop-up box displayed all the collections that included my search terms, and let me pick only those I was interested in.

7. View crib sheets.


After you’ve clicked on a name and viewed the expanded record, you can choose from four menu items: About This Collection, Copy to Clipboard, View Image and How to Read the Record. The latter launches a PDF document that contains an actual record from that set (here, we show an Ohio death record) with add-on notes and arrows telling you how to glean the most genealogical information from it.
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