Family Search - starting to use it, would love some feedback

+26 votes
I have a strong sense that I'm going to move away from as a research vehicle and move towards since it seems to keeps its sources more viewable to the general internet public.

I'm wondering a few things as I dig into FamilySearch's interface, though:

1. Am I right in thinking that the sources I link to (primarily the US Census indexes) tend to be more viewable than the comparable indexes on Ancestry?

2. I'm finding that a lot of my own family tree members already have profiles and person ID's on FamilySearch, and there seems to be only one record per person generally.  Is FamilySearch functioning more like WikiTree now in that persons are edited collaboratively and duplicate records are supposed to be merged together?

Any other advice you can provide would be helpful because I just thought of a huge genealogy project that I probably should take on myself and I would like to use FamilySearch extensively if it can accomplish the goals I have for the project.
asked in The Tree House by Kyle Dane G2G6 Mach 9 (96.3k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Personally, FamilySearch is great for finding copies of source documents and getting personalized help from the members of LDS that I've met in our local Family History Center.  They are incredibly helpful with ordering microfilms of records, etc.  On the other hand, saving my family tree information in FamilySearch is incredibly frustrating and annoying.  It may be that the system is not as user friendly for beginners like me.  I prefer to keep my research on Ancestry. The most annoying thing on FamilySearch is trying to link a person on my tree to someone else's tree.  Even with complete source documents proving the relationship and/or name spelling, the other owner will unlink the reference or change information on my tree to something that I know is incorrect. This causes errors in my tree that I have to address over and over.  Ancestry at least allows you to review and accept the work of others and add to your research without changing someone else's entry.  As a result, I keep a skeleton tree on FamilySearch because I got tired of changing it back.  Maybe I am doing it wrong or have just encountered some problems.  Hope that helps you!
Thanks for the feedback.  It's interesting to note that you're new to WikiTree.  As a veteran here, I should probably warn you that what you're experiencing on FamilySearch is likely to happen here as well, as we all work on the same ancestor profiles.  I've come to think of the WikiTree family tree as not "my family tree" but instead "our family tree".  This is helpful when dealing with situations where I and another genealogy researcher disagree about the facts of any particular person.
Speaking of Family Search searching, on line, I have a problem with it - a problem I've had before on other sites so I need to know what I'm doing if any thing to cause it.  When I finally get deep into a state probate record for example that has no index and start browsing through those images, my cursor will suddenly cause the image to fly all over the screen and I can get it back to the line or area I need to stop on . .

Do you know what causes this??

Also, I "our" family tree is the best way to be here but it is a hard one to develop.  I have to remind myself all the time but its worth it!  Thanks for any information you may have on the "flying images."
I have had that happen to me too, Barbara, while reading or enlarging the view of a record at FamilySearch. Somehow I got it to stop by exiting out of the image, then open again and waiting for it to load completely.
It certainly could be I'm moving too fast . . thanks for the hint Maggie!
I use far more than I use any other source for data. They maintain a huge database of indexed records that can be accessed and searched FREE of charge. You don't even have to set up an account with them to search their records, you can remain anonymous. There is no need to put your family tree on their site, and they will fully cite the record you are looking at, including the link, that you can use as a source on WikiTree, which allows the person who is looking at the profile on WikiTree to click on the link and see the source material without having to have an account or login to

In return for this, I volunteer there, and have indexed and arbitrated many, many censuses. birth, marriage and death records, obituaries, and passenger lists, to name just a few types. All of the records are indexed by at least two separate people, and then the discrepencies are reviewed by an individual functioning as an arbitrator. This ensures more accurate records.

I volunteer at as a payback for all those online resources that they make available for free to all us genealogists, and no, I am not a member of their church.

I don't know the site's policies regarding reposting copies of original source documents, but as they will create the citation and link, it is unnecessary to add the original source documents to WikiTree.
Family Search is getting big votes and I'm back working at it and succeeding so far.  Thanks for all the support for this website which I know is probably the best there is for primary documentation of records!  Their volunteers deserve immeasurable THANKS!

8 Answers

+26 votes
FamilySearch Fanily Tree has a similar scope to WikiTree. i.e. One profile per person. However, they have a very serious problem with duplicates and lack of sources for most of the profiles. They have merged various databases, the old Ancestral File, the IGI, the New Family Tree, etc into one big tree.
I would be very wary of using any of the profiles there as a source. Stick to the Record Collections (getting better and better) and remember that a lot of their collections are unindexed. These are the ones with gems of data hidden away. The Wiki can be very useful in pointing to collections both on FamilySearch and in other places. The Catalogue is immensely useful for books and films and links to the proper collection.
answered by Rosemary Jones G2G6 Pilot (222k points)
Rosemary, would you please say more about how to find those hidden gems?

You just reminded me, someone once gave me a source code which pointed to records in one parish, but I have since lost that ... and have no idea how to find these things myself.  I cannot even remember the process.

Can you point me in the right direction to find these unindexed collections (in terms of FamilySearch for Dummies, please)?

Thank you in advance!
For the unindexed records, go to the Family Search "Historical Records"

Scroll to bottom of page and click on link "Browse all Published Collections"

This will give you a list of "all collections"; you can narrow the search by using the LH side Bar to Location, type, date, only those with images, etc.  Then just click on the displayed record.  The ones with "Browse Images" you can basically page the file.  The others are only searchable with a name.  If you narrow your search criteria to "only those with images (bottom of the LH bar) it will narrow it down.

It should be fairly self-explanatory once you get to the screen.

Hope that helps.

  1. The first thing to do Cynthia is to get a free account. You don't have to be LDS for this. An LDS account has access to church related features that I don't have or need. If you have a free account you have the capability to copy results to a spreadsheet and possibly one or 2 other things that I haven't yet discovered.
  2. Then Click on Search >Records. This will bring up a page that looks like this:
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and there is a heading "Research by Location". Click on the map of the US, highlight "Georgia" and you'll get a page like this:
  4. Before going any further note the 2 links on the right: FamilySearch Catalog: View Catalog for Georgia and FamilySearch Wiki: View Wiki for Georgia. These are both extremely useful for identifying collections and contain useful information about Georgia.
  5. Scroll down the Georgia Indexed Historical records where you can see various boxes to fill in for searching. Under this is a list if indexed historical records (only 5 are showing) but you can expand this to the full 59 historical collections.
  6. Keep scrolling down and you will find the Georgia Image Only Historical Records, organised by category.
  7. Under "Other" there is a collection of Fulton County records from the Atlanta History Center. This contains 11 volumes of cemetery transcriptions that start in the 1930's. The organisation is a bit idiosyncratic but it contains a wonderful amount of data. (One of my gems).
  8. Another collection is the Georgia Probate Records. I've found where a father posted bond after the death of his wife to guarantee that he wouldn't abscond with his sons' inheritance from their great grandfather and mentioned the name of the gt grandfather and the county in which he lived. From this I could reconstruct the parents of his deceased wife and then back to her grandparents. Until this time all I had was her married name (another little gem).
Sandy is right - that was my next step-by-step tutorial.

I use that method to access the Norfolk, England Parish records. I filter by keyword "Norfolk" and all the collections with Norfolk in the title show up.

Very often some of these collections have a search box but not all records in the collection are indexed. You still have to go image-by-image. But you can do this in your jammies which is vastly better than going to the library and reading film.
Wow!  Thank you both, Sandy and Rosemary.  This is wonderful!  I am off to try out my new toy, right away, but first ... much gratitude for your generosity in typing all this up.  Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!!
When filtering the collections by keyword or title keep in mind that some collections that are relevant to the area you are researching won't have a title containing that word. A good example is any of the census collections. They won't contain the word or keyword in the title but they are relevant. This is where researching by location comes in useful as does the wiki and the catalog.
Thanks for the advice Rosemary.  I am just getting started using the search functions there so I will come back to your advice once I start digging deeper there.  The main reason for my move is Ancestry moving their indexed pages behind their "sign up and pay for" landing page, effectively placing my formerly available source information in a place that is inaccessible to non-paying members there (including myself at this time).
Get a guest membership to Ancestry Kyle or just keep the registration that you have. Sign up for their newsletters and take advantage of the days when they open up specific collections to everyone, regardless of subscription level. And most public libraries have the Ancestry Library Edition that you can use in the library. Some libraries even have it available for at home use but that's not that common as far as I can tell.
The same thing applies to FindMyPast. Get a guest membership and keep an eye out for days when they have free access to their collections.


Sometimes G2G has a notice of the free access but I've found that the Genealogy Groups on FaceBook broadcast the news very promptly.
Hi, I am relatively new to genealogy compared to all you experts.  I use Family Search a great deal and originally started my family there before I learned about Wikitree.  I just pulled up one of my family members the other day and they had a tremendous amount of information tracing him back to the Mayflower.   Could you explain what "Record Collections" are for a family?

Thank you very much

Taylor Worthington Gilchrist Fritz
+16 votes

I suggest you think in terms of "and" not "or".  Family Search and Ancestry use different search techniques and different indexes.  I do not know the technical differences, but I have often found that while a record may exist on both sites, it may not show up using the same name search.  As a result I often use both sites to search for material.

The catalog of books for both sites is different as well - some old books are available on one but not the other.

In general I find that I am most likely to get a more complete collection of sources when I look for them on both sites.
answered by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (247k points)
And I add FindMyPast to those two as well.
+9 votes is a great resource for searching for data, I have been using it for years, and have also been involved in their indexing project for several years. Both and are closely aligned and share many resources, however, I have found it much more difficult to capture the data for my personal research on Ancestry than on, so tend to use FS exclusively. On FamilySearch you can generally view the data source (if one exists) in a separate window, and either print or download the document from there. I download the document and them am able to upload a copy of the actual document, along with the proper citation, of course, directly to WikiTree. This allows me or another user to scan the entire page to find out who might live nearby. You can't do that with indexed information.

It is my goal to move away from Ancestry entirely and focus on WikiTree alone. I will continue to index for FS as they have provided genealogists with resources that we would not have so readily accesible.
answered by Colleen Morrison G2G2 (3k points)
+6 votes
I am unable to view many of the Family Search links on Wikitree because their pages don't load completely. Family Search requires both Adobe Flash and Javascript to function properly. My computer software is set up to use more secure alternatives to these plug-ins not allowed by Family Search. The only choice I have is to set up a dedicated computer for using Family Search which I do not see happening in the near future. still works better for me though getting good sources will still be problematic.
answered by Pat Credit G2G6 Mach 5 (57k points)
+3 votes

I am a newbie to ancestry and frequently use FamilySearch. I actually started on Familysearch and I notice that as I built my tree the links that were brought over by previous members of stated they were no longer functioning in numerous cases.  This meant that I was unable to see the sources for chunks of the information.

When I go to Cinda's list (SP) it frequently sends me to FamilySearch as is the other major provider Cinda uses and they are not free links.

answered by Taylor Worthington-Gilchrist G2G6 Mach 6 (69.5k points)
+2 votes

I forgot to mention a couple of things that I was taught recently about FS.  At the top of the screen you can make selections for "collections" which will give you all the Census, and those type items on the person you are researching.

The other selection you can choose is "geanological" or something like that.  This will provide you with all the ancestors of the person you are researching.

These two options have helped me out a great deal.

answered by Taylor Worthington-Gilchrist G2G6 Mach 6 (69.5k points)
+3 votes
I tend to also like Family Search over for records when all things are equal One aspect to collaboration is to present evidence. Using free records allows you to present evidence to all users, not just those with a paid subscription. One other great feature of FamilySearch is that at the bottom of each record is a complete source citation with a URL that can be copied into the biography.
answered by Marty Acks G2G6 Mach 7 (72.1k points)
+2 votes
What really got me on was that I worked hard, for weeks, researching and manually inputing 269 profiles and come to find out, THEY DO NOT SUPPORT or have anything to do with GEDCOM exporting and importing.  I havent used them since.
answered by Corinne Kuhlmann G2G6 (9.1k points)

For someone who used to roll microfilms at the Family History libraries for years, the appearance of  free records online from Family Search was a godsend. I never had an Ancestry account until 2012. It was not necessary as I used Heritage Quest ( available at most public libraries) for census work.

Now on WikiTree, I am a regular user of FAMILYSEARCH MATCHES too. It's a great way to use the power of both sites.

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