Sunday, November 20, 2016

Broad Record Searches

Sometimes when you are researching a family and you know that family lived in the same area for many many generations, you want to do a fairly broad search for possible record matches. This is also a helpful strategy when you've gotten a bit confused about a family line. Which fit where? Am I really on the right path or have I gotten families all tangled up?

To that end, I'd like to show you an option that is not terribly obvious on the Search page of FamilySearch.org that I find helpful when I am trying to do these kinds of searches and then save the results to chew over later.

Start by signing in to FamilySearch.org. ALWAYS sign in--it makes a difference in your search results. At the top of the screen, click Search.

Enter your broad search terms. For instance, a surname and a birthplace or residence. Usually that's all I'll use for these sorts of searches.  Here is an example:


In my example I used the ? wildcard in the last name. The name sometimes shows as Herman and sometimes as Harman. I want to capture both in my search results. Now, click Search

At the top of the search results page, click 75 for the "Number of results to show".


Since this search gives over 30,000 results, I like to further filter them and download the results in sets of similar record types. To do that, click the Collections tab in blue just above the Search Result from Historical Records header. For a first run, I'll limit the results to census records. In the Census & Lists header, click Show all 11


Then click in the boxes to check the census records to include in the results. Since this family never lived in New York State, I click all except the New York State Census and then scroll to the top of the page and click Filter These Results.


Here is what I now see: 

Notice, at the top, that I can click the X beside any record set to remove it from the search results. So, if I decided I don't really want to see records after about 1900, I can click to remove 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 census records from the results. 

Now we're to the part I really want to show you. See the Export Results 1-75 button on the right in the image above? Click it. And you can save your search results in a spreadsheet (well, 75 records at a time). Open it with your spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel. Repeat for 75 records at a time until you get all of them on spreadsheets. You can bring all the data into one spreadsheet after you've gotten them all downloaded. The spreadsheets include names, gender, birthdate, residence, other relatives on the record, marriage... all the information in the indexes. And the url to jump to a given record. 

You can bring all the data from the spreadsheets into one huge one and then sort in various ways and compare names, family members, dates, etc. It can really help when trying to sort out how families fit together. 

Handy tool. Give it a try. 

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