We were pleased to announce in late 2022 that the Gloucestershire FHS Family History Centre had become a FamilySearch Affiliate Library. This allows us to offer access to many more records from around the world. Paul Nauta, FamilySearch Public Relations Manager said “Libraries are wonderful local gathering places for learning. We are excited to have Gloucestershire Family History Society as our newest FamilySearch Affiliate Library. It will help FamilySearch expand opportunities for fun, personal discoveries and family connections to the local community.”
What can FamilySearch Offer
FamilySearch has been microfilming genealogical relevant records for many years. They have recently digitised the majority of these microfilms. Over the years they have copied a large number of original documents including key records such as parish registers, census, vital records (e.g. BMD in other countries), probate records and many more from archives and other repositories across the world. They have also digitised books and transcriptions. As a result, the digital collection of records at FamilySearch is the largest in the world (e.g. bigger than Ancestry, Findmypast, etc). Although many of the records are not indexed, they are still an extremely valuable source of genealogical information. There are parish records for most counties including those that are not digitised at the major companies yet (not always for all parishes). Their probate records are extensive with very few probate courts missing (not to mention the post-1858 probate records are available up until 1925). There are also non-conformist records, manorial records, parish chest, quarter sessions and so many more. The 1841-1891 Scottish census returns are available without needing to pay via ScotlandsPeople. The digitised microfilms also cover records for most countries in the world.
How can you access FamilySearch
FamilySearch has a variety of access agreements with the archives and repositories that hold the original documents. Some allow the records to be fully open to the public (e.g. you can access it through your FamilySearch account at home), some are available through a FamilySearch Affiliate Library (e.g. at our centre), and a small amount remains only available in LDS Family History Centres (so remains unavailable for us).
If you use the FamilySearch Catalog at home (see instructions below), you can identify what is available in these three categories and as such a lot of pre-planning in using the resource is possible.
If you are planning on visiting the centre, the instructions below will help you prepare – however even if you cannot visit, take a look as you may be surprised how much is still available at home. In addition to the Catalog route shown below, take a look at the Images collections (https://www.familysearch.org/records/images/). Any newly digitised records will be available there (noting that the record entries are not individually indexed).
- You will need an account at FamilySearch. If you do not have an account, create an account at https://www.familysearch.org/en/ via the ‘CREATE ACCOUNT’ button in top right corner. Make sure you know your logon details (Username & password) if you visit the centre.
- Log in to your account at https://www.familysearch.org/en/.
- Once in the account, go to Search menu and choose Catalog.
- The instructions here will help you find the records you want:https://www.familysearch.org/en/help/helpcenter/article/how-do-i-search-the-catalog-for-records
- Note the Catalog is based by record set (e.g. a specific parish register, a set of probate records) rather than individual entries for the people mentioned in the records. Examples of type of records you may want to view:
- For parish records (including registers, BTs, parish chest, manorial, memorial inscriptions), type in the parish name under Place; then click on the small arrow next to Church Records to expand the list. Then click on the record set you are interested in.
- For probate records, type in the county or court location into Place and probate into Keyword.
- Other records are also available searching by keyword or any of the other search fields.
- When you find records you are interested in, look at the symbols. If they have a camera without a key, you can access them at home and start looking at them to learn how to navigate through the digitised images. If they have a camera with a key above, click on the camera – it will give a pop up and provided it says ‘Access the site at a FamilySearch affiliate library’, you will be able to view the record set at the centre. Make a note of the film numbers for these record sets so you can find them easily in the Catalog at the centre using the Film Number search field.
- Click on a camera symbol if it doesn’t have a key (if you are experimenting at home choose a parish in Norfolk as most of their records are unlocked and accessible at home).
- There are two view modes – multiple thumbnails or single image. There are various ways of navigating through the images. When viewing multiple thumbnails, scroll down then click to zoom in about where you think the record may be – you will probably need to move around a bit to try to home in on the record you are looking forward. To move forward lots of images, change the number in the box where it says Image x of y (e.g. Image 420 of 1206). If you are on the single image, navigate through the pages using the little arrows either side of where it says Image x of y.
- When using the digital microfilm viewer, do not use the back page (part of the browser at the top of your page) as this takes you out of the film altogether. If you do this accidently, if you use the forward page button it will take you back to where you were in the film.
- When you have finished looking at a film, use the back page to return to the menu page and you can either search for a new record set or look at another within the same record set.
In the Family History Centre
- Log into your account at FamilySearch on any of the centre computers. Follow the instructions above for finding the Catalog and digital images. This time most of the camera images will no longer have the key above and will be fully accessible. Have fun exploring.
- You can print images for the normal printing fee. We are looking at other options for downloading and possibly using your own computers – more on this in the future.
There is lots of help on the FamilySearch website and lots of YouTube videos explaining how to use FamilySearch. One good one (noting the USA bias) is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKUoJdPA5YU. However, if you have any questions, please email me on email@example.com and we will include a FAQ in the Journal or here on the website..
Enjoy exploring the FamilySearch collections!