Monday, May 9, 2016

Record Images on, part 2: It Matters How You Search for the Record

There are multiple ways to access images from,. I think that the vast majority of the site's users fail to find nearly all the images of original records that they could find if they understood better how to go about it. So, let's dive in and learn about the search part of

Always sign in before you start searching. It impacts what you see.

On the Search menu, you see Records,Genealogies, Catalog, Books, and Wiki. I'll discuss mostly Records and Catalog and a bit about the  wiki.

The default search you get when you click FamilySearch from a person page on Family Tree takes you to the Records page where you search indexed records. But, remember that indexed records comprise only about 30% of available digital content on the website.

I don't want to spend a lot of space talking about the basic search tool. You can find plenty of help with that from the Help Center on You should also take advantage of the tips light bulb you see in the lower right corner of that screen for ways to use the search most effectively.

I'll not cover the things you can learn there. But do please notice all the different ways you can search and take advantage of the tips you can find online to help you get the most out of these searches. And maybe another time I'll post about that kind of search.

What I want to focus on is the search results and what you can learn from those that don't show an image as being available. 

The above England Births and Christenings shows with only a Details page available. So, let's click the icon and see what we can see. 

On the left I see the indexed information. On the right I see a collection title, a batch number, something called the System Origin, a film number, and a reference ID. The helpful info here is the system origin and the film number. Whenever you see EASy as part of the system origin, that tells you this record set comes from the old record extraction program. Before digitization, FamilySearch had volunteers who read the microfilms and extracted the basic information from them. A precursor to the current indexing program. This collection comes from one of those projects. So, why no image? The system knows which microfilm the information came from, but has no information that can allow the computer to link this extracted record with a specific image on that microfilm. So, no image available. But remember this one. Any time you find one of these, make a note of the film number. (Incidentally, you can click that film number, and see all the records that were extracted from that reel of film, if you're interested)

Let's look at another type of no image available record collection. 

This one seems to tell us very little. Only a collection title. No film number. no system origin. But, notice that i over there to the right of the collection title. When you see one of these, click that i. It takes you to the wiki page for the record collection. In the Record Description field, you can see where the index came from.

This record set comes from FamilySearch partners with several commercial family history sites. They often give our patrons access to their indexes, but not the images. So, I can hop on over to and find this collection there. And often the other website has the images. 

While we're on the wiki, let me show you another feature that is gold for the researcher. If you do a place search on the wiki, notice that there is a blue button for online records. Click it. 
You'll get an extensive list of links grouped by record type. If the records come from a subscription website, they are identified by a $ after the name of the collection. You are likely to discover websites you were not aware of and can sometimes hit real gold mines. 

Now, instead of searching for a person, let's go to the Records page and click Browse All Published Collections. It's right under the map in that first screenshot above. In the Filter by collection name, I like to enter a place or a type of record I want to search. For this example, I'm going to search for North Carolina, because I have a lot of ancestors from that state. Then I like to click the column heading Last Updated to see the newest additions to the record collections. 

Here I see that there are 20 record collections for North Carolina. The most recent addition is North Carolina Civil Marriages from 1763-1868, But that collection only has 53,614 images so it is a fair guess that they have not finished indexing these records. In the Records column, if you see a number you know the records are indexed. Browse Images tells you the records are digitized and have waypoints, but no index. Let's explore a Browse Images collection. I have a lot of confederate soldiers in my ancestry and I see the North Carolina Confederate Soldiers and Widows Pension Applications, 1885-1953 collection is digitized. So I'll click Browse Images and see what I can see. 

I'm taken to the waypoints: a grouping of the images. In this case, they are grouped by surname, so that's pretty handy. The ancestor I am interested in has the surname of Herman, so I'll click Hays, NT-Herron, Calvin and see what comes up. 

This takes me to the first of 1884 images. I don't want to click through that many images, so I'll first go to a thumbnail view of the images to see if I can discover quickly how they are organized and use that to help me.

The first thing I notice if what appears to be file folders. That's helpful. All the documents for a person were put in a file folder. So, As I poke around I can click one of those folders and see where I am. That should make the searching easier. I'm going to jump towards the end of the images, since I expect to find Herman there and see what I can find. I'll jump to image 1800 (still in the thumbnail view) and then double-click one of those folders to see where I am.

And I see I've gone too far as this is for A T Herring. So I back up a bit and poke again. And I keep doing that until I get to the file I am looking for. And at image 1683 I find his folder! I can now view the images of his pension file and attach it to his record in Family Tree as a source or pop it into my Source Box to use later.

So, don't be afraid of the Browse Images collections. 

But, that's not all that's available in a digital format on These are only the images that are indexed or have been waypointed. There are plenty of microfilms that have been digitized and not indexed nor waypointed. So now I'll move to the Catalog and see what more I can see.

First I want to remind you of the record we found of those christening records in England that came from the early extraction projects. Remember that I found a microfilm number there. Every time you find one of those, note the microfilm number and go to the catalog to see if it is digitized. Chances are really really good that it is. I'll look for that one that might show the christening record of my great grandmother. 

I see that there are multiple records on this film. I remember that the indexed information said St Andrew's Church, so I'll click that one. 
Scroll to Film Notes and I see the formats available. My person was born about 1865 so that top one is the one I want and I see a magnifying glass icon for it. That means it's indexed. If I click it, I'll see the indexed information the same as I saw if I clicked the film number in the record collections. So, I'm going to click the camera icon and see if I can find a good way to navigate the images to find my ancestor. 

This one looks pretty manageable. I can read the section images without even having to leave the thumbnail view. So I'm going to scroll around through the thumbnails to see where the christening records are. 

And after a bit of scrolling, I see it: Register of Baptisms covering Oct 1852 to Mar 1873. 

Next I'll double-click one of the first images of baptisms to see how they are organized. 

Looks to be chronological. I want to find around 1865 so I make an educated guess and jump to image 800.

That took me too far. I go back to 600 and find I am closer. Keep poking about until I find image 617: my great-grandmother Lucy and her sister Eliza both christened on July 7, 1867.

I'm delighted to now have an image of the christening record and all the information that is shows. I'd rather attach that as a source than just the index information.

But, don't limit yourself to just using the catalog to find digitized microfilms for the EASy records. Go there routinely and search for places where your ancestors lived to see what microfilms are digitized but not showing in record collections because they are not indexed nor waypointed.

For example, I'll search for the village where my husband's grandfather was born and see what I can see. has only one record from this town. But, they are the Greek Catholic Church records and this family was Greek Catholic, so I want to see more. So I click that title to see if perchance the film has been digitized. Seems a long shot, but maybe.
I scroll to Film Notes and see that wonderful camera icon! I can click and explore digital images just as I did with those church records from England.

I think you too will be pleasantly surprised when you search for the place you are interested in and find that many many of the microfilms are available digitally. Don't miss out on that 70% of the digital content that is out there just for lack of an index!