Genealogy Web Guide to Fold3.com

Genealogy Web Guide to Fold3.com

Discover thet best search strategies and tricks for finding your ancestors' records on the genealogy website Fold3.com.

Web address: Fold3.com
Owner: Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah
Launched: 2007 
Contact(800) 613-0181, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mountain Time 
 
Fold3 (the name comes from a traditional flag folding ceremony) provides access to images of more than 420 million records. They’re primarily related to US military service, but also comprise nonmilitary collections that were posted when the site was called Footnote, before Ancestry.com purchased it and refocused it to military records. Many records are from the National Archives and Records Administration. Our guide will help you make the most of this resource to find your relatives’ records.
 

Stats

  • Records: more than 420 million
  • Databases: more than 440
  • Member comments: more than 30,000 
  • Member connections: more than 236,000 
  • Member uploads: more than 390,000 
  • Member spotlights: 34,000+  

Membership Options

Membership level Cost Benefits
Basic free view, annotate and save records in free collections
view and annotate member-contributed records
create Memorial pages
upload content
All-access $11.95/month, $79.95/year ($39.95/year for Ancestry.com subscribers)

 

 

 

Major Content Collections

  • Revolutionary War: service records and muster rolls, pension records, payment records, Continental Congress papers
  • War of 1812: service records, pension records (records are being added to this collection), Navy casualties, letters received by the adjutant general
  • Mexican American and Early Indian Wars: service records, pension index, Navy casualties, letters received by the adjutant general, rendezvous reports
  • Civil War: service records, widows’ pensions (records are being added), Southern claims, Union citizens files, casualty reports, Confederate amnesties, photos
  • Spanish-American War: Service-record index
  • World War I: overseas burials, FBI files, military intelligence files, Navy cruise books (and subsequent wars), Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File (and subsequent wars), naturalization index for soldiers, State Department records
  • World War II: Navy muster rolls (and subsequent wars), enlistment and draft registration records, “Old Man’s Draft” cards, Pearl Harbor rolls, European Theater records, JAG files, photos, diaries, submarine reports, press clippings, missing air crew reports
  • Korean War: overseas burials, casualties
  • Vietnam War: photos, memorial list, service awards
  • Recent Wars: casualties from Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan
  • Nonmilitary Records: 1860 and 1930 US censuses, African-American collection, city directories, Native American collection, newspapers, passport applications (1795-1905), naturalizations (1700s-mid 1900s), vital records, town records, photos

Searching records

The Fold3 home page and most pages within the site have a simple search box at the top, with blanks for first name and last name. But to get the most out of Fold3, click the Advanced link to the right of the orange magnifying-glass box. This adds several search options: Keyword, Place and Year Range. Here you also can choose (via a check box) whether to include matches in text generated by optical character recognition (OCR), such as newspaper pages and city directories. You can use a dropdown box to restrict your search to recently added records (within the past one year, six months or three months)—handy if you’re repeating a Fold3.com search you’ve tried in the past. The default finds records added at any time.

 
Here, too, you can choose whether to expand your searches with first and/or last names using Sounds Like check boxes. The site doesn’t give details on how this works, and (strangely) they may narrow rather than expand your results; the best advice is to experiment with them.
 
Matching terms may come from information Fold3 has indexed for the record, or from annotations other site members have added to it. Keep in mind that Fold3 searches many old documents (such as Revolutionary War records) that were created with no thought that they might someday be searched on a computer. Documents may not have neat fields for names and dates, much less other information of genealogical utility. 
 
Another thing to remember is that name searches don’t always differentiate between first and last name, or recognize how close the first and last names appear on the page. Searching for my grandfather, Victor Fryxell, returns pretty much the same results whether I try Victor Fryxell or Fryxell Victor. I also get hits like a page containing the names Victor C. Snover and Andrew J. Fryxell. Leaving both name fields blank and typing Victor Fryxell in the keywords box yields the same 22 hits.
 
The basic search on Fold3 returns results that include all your search terms. If you don’t get any results, try broadening your search by removing some of the terms. On the other hand, adding keywords may actually yield more results, because not all the records in Fold3’s collections may “know” first and last names.
 
The Search Results page presents new options and fresh ways of visualizing previous parameters. You can opt to show only hits from certain collections by checking boxes on the left. A slide lets you narrow the time frame to view only matching records created during a particular era. A States box and minimap displays states where your hits originate (along with “no-place” matches you can choose to hide or show). You can use this to help weed out irrelevant entries (checking Illinois, for example, narrows the hits to those likely referring to my grandfather). You can choose to display only documents or only memorial pages members have added. And there’s another chance to select only recently added records.
 
Standard results show a brief excerpt with the search terms highlighted. For records indexed using OCR, click the right arrow next to the result to show the page with terms highlighted. In the preview image, hovering over each highlighted hit will display a detailed image of that word.
 
 

Advanced searching

1. Enter a first and/or last name in these fields. (Often they can be interchangable.)

2. Check Sounds Like to try spelling variants. This may not work as you’d expect, so experiment.

3. Adding a keyword (such as military unit, rank, pension application number, even names) will yield more results, because it includes records not indexed by name.

4. The place can be a state, county, city, even a precinct. You can use the OR operator in the Place field. Searching for Richmond, Virginia finds only records from that place; searching for Richmond OR Virginia also finds records in other Richmonds, such as Richmond, Texas, or New Richmond, Wis. It’s sometimes easier to specify a place using the check boxes on the results page, though, so leave this field blank if you’d rather see a larger array of hits at first, then narrow them down to the ones about your ancestral place.

5. Enter a beginning and ending year to narrow your search by date (this field works only if you fill in both blanks). You can adjust the date range in the search results by using a slider or typing in years on that page, so you can start broad by skipping this field and narrow your hits later.

6. Unless you uncheck this box, the search will also cover documents indexed using optical character recognition (OCR), such as newspapers and city directories.

7. If you’ve searched for your ancestor in Fold3 before, use this box to limit your search to records added after your last try. Set up a Watch on your profile page (click the arrow by your user name) to automatically search new material.

8. Use the dropdown menu under Search to browse records or to see a list of all Fold3.com collections. You can keyword-search collection titles to find relevant records or sort the list to view recently updated collections. Use your web browser’s Find function to search for keywords in collection titles and their descriptions.

9. This dropdown menu lets you search Fold3’s free virtual memorials to veterans, the USS Arizona and the Vietnam War.

Top search strategies

Use wildcards. Especially given the uncertain application of Fold3’s Sounds Like check boxes for the name, remember that you can use an asterisk as a wildcard to catch records with variant name spellings. This is also valuable because, unlike some other sites you might be used to (such as sibling site Ancestry.com), Fold3 doesn’t automatically return hits with similar- but-inexact spellings.

Using wildcards here takes some thinking through: An asterisk replaces any number of characters. So, for example, Land*n not only finds Landon and Landin, but also Landson and Landsdown (but not Landsdowne). This is also true at the end of names: Searching for my Lowe ancestors (sometimes spelled Low) with Low* also retrieves Lowell, Lowery and Lowder. You can’t use two wildcards in a row, and it appears that multiple wildcards must be separated by more than one regular character: Lo*er* works, but Lo*e* gets an error message that you “must use at least two non-wildcard characters” (which of course, you have). The glitch also affects single wildcards in very short names: L*w gets an error message, whereas L*we works fine.

Search within a category or title. Once you’ve performed your initial search, give the search results page a workout to improve your hits. First, use the display on the left side of the results screen to narrow your matches within a specific category or collection of records. Check here, for example, to view matches from only WWII collections. You can click the arrow by the category name to view and check or uncheck collection titles within the WWII category. This category, for example, includes titles such as American Battle Monuments Commission burial records, Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls, WWII Army Enlistment Records, WWII Draft Registration Cards and WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards.

Clicking Titles at the upper left lets you see the complete list of collection titles, which you can select or deselect. You can sort this unwieldy list alphabetically, by collections with the most matches, or by most recently updated collections. You also can find a title by starting to type in the Filter By box. This works for any words in the collection title: Pension finds not only Pension Numerical Index but also Civil War Widows’ Pensions.

Browse instead. Often the most direct route to a specific record in Fold3—say, your ancestor’s Civil War service record—is to browse instead of search. From the home page, select an era (Civil War, in this case) to see the most popular collections in that time period, as well as a link to browse them all. You also can browse by clicking on the Browse All Titles link at the top of most pages. Or you can go to the Records page and select a category to search or browse within.

From the browsing page, you can browse through the titles alphabetically or choose a category to browse within. So, for example, if you know your ancestor’s state and unit (from searching the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System), you can navigate to Civil War Service Records, then Confederate, Georgia and 1st Infantry. Then choose the first letter of his surname. At any point in the browsing process, you can use the Search Within box at the top of the page and search just the images in the group you have selected.

Keep watch. You can use Fold3’s Watch feature to get email notifications when the site adds new content to a title you’re interested in, or when it adds new records matching searches you’ve tried. To add a search to your Watch list, run the search and then click the Watch button in the upper-right part of your results page. Once you’ve done this, the Watch button becomes an Unwatch button, and clicking it will remove the watch. To watch a title, click it in the list on the Documents page, then click the Watch button on the resulting page.

You can manage your watched searches under Account Details, using the link to Watches/Bookmarks. There you can see what you’re watching, remove watches for any items in the list or update your notification preferences. You can choose whether to be notified of changes immediately, daily, weekly or never. You also can choose to make your watch list visible to other members when this feature becomes available.

 

Quick Tips

  • Click the Print button in the Image Viewer toolbar to print the page image displayed. The printout will show the entire image and include the date printed and a URL. 
  • To download a record image to your computer, click the Download button in the toolbar. Choose the part of the image to download and where to save the file. You can type a different file name, but keep the “.jpg” at the end. Click Save.
  • You’ll find the Watch button on search results pages, images, spotlights, memorial pages, collection titles and member profiles. Just click the button to watch that item. For example, if you watch a record image, you’ll be notified when someone adds an annotation, comment or a connection to it.
  • You can annotate people or things in a picture, or transcribe part of a document, to make that information searchable. Your annotations link to your Fold3 profile, so others can contact you. While viewing an image, click the Annotate button in the Viewer’s toolbar. Drag the handles on the selection box around the relevant part of the image, choose the type of annotation (Person, Place, Date or Other), type and click Save.
  • To add your own images and documents to Fold3, click on your member name at upper right and select Your Gallery. Click Choose Images and browse to the files on your computer. (To select multiple files on a PC, hold down Shift or CTRL while clicking; on Mac, use Shift or the Command/Apple key.) Choose whether to upload images to Your Gallery or to a specific Collection within it. Click Upload Images. Fold3 supports .JPG, .GIF, .TIF and .PNG images of less than 10 megabytes.
  • Ancestry.com’s ownership of Fold3 means you can attach Fold3 records to your Ancestry family tree. When you’re viewing the record, click the green Save to Ancestry button at the upper right. 
  • You’ll need to log in to your Ancestry.com account and select a tree and person to save to. 
  • On the site’s List All Records page, a green FREE by a collection title means it’s free to Basic members. Gratis collections include War of 1812 pension files, Pennsylvania Archives records, Continental Congress papers and more. 

Shortcuts

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From the March/April 2014 Family Tree Magazine

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