Largely thanks to FamilySearch Indexing volunteers, FamilySearch.org has more than 6.3 billion searchable records available. But if you only search the indexed collections on FamilySearch.org, you’ll miss out on valuable genealogy information.
In order to make digitized records available as soon as possible, FamilySearch puts unindexed record collections online for browsing. You could wait until those collections are indexed to find your ancestors’ records in them—or follow these steps to find your ancestors’ records now:
1. Find collections you want to explore.
Go to FamilySearch.org and click on Search. That takes you to the Records Search form, which covers only collections indexed by name. To see a list of all the collections, scroll down and click on Browse All Published Collections.
2. The record collections are listed alphabetically by location.
A camera icon indicates that the collection includes images of the original records. The Records column shows the number of names in indexed collections. If a collection is unindexed, the column says Browse Images. Options on the left let you filter collections by name, place, date, record type and image availability, to find records covering places where your ancestors lived.
3. Learn about the place and time period the collection covers.
For example, select “Maine, Aroostook County, Probate Records, 1837-2007.” The resulting page displays a description of the collection and source information. Click on Learn More for details about the collection content in the FamilySearch Wiki, which states, “This collection is being published as images become available.” Thus more records will be added in the future.
4. Look for a digitized index to the collection you want to use.
Some unindexed collections are in alphabetical order. To find Samuel Beveridge Harris, click the link for the file range “Harrington, Romeo Adelbert-Hart, Henry George.” It has 3,067 images. Type a number into the Image box at the top of the viewer and hit Enter or click Go. Browse until you find the record you need. Cards for Samuel Beveridge Harris are on images 1,483 to 1,484.
Other unindexed collections, such as land and probate records, often include digitized images of the printed indexes. Start with those indexes to determine the volume and page numbers for the records you need. For example, click on the link to browse “Maine, Aroostook County, Probate Records, 1837-2007,” and you’ll find that it consists of five record types. Click on each one to find out what’s included. The Index Books cover 1840 to 1925, the Probate Index covers 1840 to 1950 and the Probate Index Cards cover 1930 to 2006.
5. Click on Index Books.
We’re looking for probate records for George L. Pennington, who died in 1911. From the available volumes, select “1910-1925, Vol. 6, N-S,” for last names beginning with letters in that range.
6. To find a name, enter a number in the Image box and hit Enter or click Go.
That index volume consists of 303 images. Browse until you find the name you need. The files for George L. Pennington’s estate are listed on image 84, his wife Sarah’s are on image 85 and their daughter Annie’s are on image 83. The docket, the first item listed on George’s index page, cites volume 8, page 73. The Probate Index cites the same volume and page number.
7. Now we want to find the image of the actual record on volume 8, page 73, in the estate files.
To return to the list of files in this collection, click on “Maine, Aroostook County, …Probate Records, 1837-2007” near the top of the screen. Select Estate Files. Then click on the link for “1911, Vol. 8, no. 65, Getchell, Wallace I.-no. 79, Currie, Jonathan,” which should include volume 8, number 73 (which is actually a file number, not a page number).
8. Review the image.
Browsing the 478 images in that set of records, you’ll find George L. Pennington’s 49-page estate file on images 242 to 290. It’s full of interesting information, such as the estate’s value ($48,500), the names of his heirs, their places of residence and how much each one inherited.
Click and drag to move the record image. Use the slider on the right side of the image viewer to zoom in and out. Hover your mouse cursor over the viewer tools to see pop-up descriptions of them. You can print one page at a time or save it as a JPG file on your computer. Click on Show Citation in the lower left hand corner to see how to cite this source in your genealogy software or research notes.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Family Tree Magazine.