Remember, some parts of the program, such as Family Tree, are restricted to those who register but all of FamilySearch.org is free to everyone.
I suggest that the following resources on FamilySearch.org are all valuable research aids:
- Historical Record Collections
- FamilySearch Research Wiki
- FamilySearch Catalog
- Family Tree Sources
- Photos and Stories
FamilySearch is sort of similar to the Blind Men and the Elephant, most of the people who use the program think the entire program is only that part with which they are personally familiar. Every time I teach a class to experience researchers, I find people who have used the program for years but are surprised to see some of the other resources.
Historical Record Collections
This is the core of the resources on FamilySearch.org. Since 1938 FamilySearch (and its predecessor organizations) have accumulated over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. In addition, missionaries and volunteers, for the past few years, have been digitizing millions of more images of original source records. All of these valuable records are being constantly digitized and added to the Historical Record Collections. There are presently 1657 collections with millions upon millions of images of original source records and millions more are being added almost daily. Partnerships and agreements with other major record source companies, such as Ancestry.com, will increase the value and scope of these collections during the coming year. If you have not looked at the collections today, you are not aware of what is there available. The bulk of the most recent additions are for records from countries that have previously been unavailable. If you wondered what happened to the International Genealogical Index (IGI) it is still alive and well in the Historical Record Collections. At the same business meeting I mentioned above, FamilySearch's director of Patron and Partner Services, Don Anderson, shared how working with partners will help to move the work forward.
- Records are best when used: Sharing FamilySearch’s record collection with partners allows more people to discover their ancestors. The more our records get used, the more ancestors will be discovered.
- The more we share, the more others share with us: By sharing our records with partners, the partners have agreed to share their records and other experiences with FamilySearch, which will ultimately help more people discover their families.
- The family tree is key: When people discover their families, we want to be sure that those discoveries are captured in the FamilySearch Family Tree. FamilySearch is working and will continue to work with partners to connect partner experiences to the Family Tree, making it even easier for people to discover their families.
FamilySearch Research Wiki
The Research Wiki recently passed 75,000 articles on the how, what and where of genealogical research. In my classes on the Wiki, I find awareness of the existence of this resource growing but use of the Research Wiki is lagging behind awareness. This is really the first place both new and experienced researchers should go to get basic and advanced information about the records they need to find their ancestors.
I find that very few people use the FamilySearch Catalog as a research aid. but it is one of the most valuable places to go to find out the scope of what is available from any given area of the world. If you are researching in a given area, do a general Place search in the catalog and then add smaller jurisdictions to your search. You will be amazed at the depth of the resources available. You should also note that this is now the "FamilySearch" catalog, not just the catalog of the Family History Library. The Catalog contains links to all of the other major FamilySearch Centers and Libraries around the world with significant collections of materials and more are being added every day.
Family Tree Sources
I don't think very many people have yet considered that by adding millions of sources to the Family Tree, that it is rapidly becoming a research source. Before you launch off and do research on a remote ancestor you might just check the Family Tree to see what others have added. Granted, the data is still in a state of flux because of the connection with New.FamilySearch.org, but great strides have been made to sort out the data and make the information more consistent and useful. Plus, you can research ancestors directly in the Historical Record Collections from a link on each individual's Details Page.
With the complete digitized and searchable text of over 100,000 family history and local history books, FamilySearch.org has jumped into first place as the place to look for books and other material about your family. There is no other website with such a large collection of books specifically aimed at family history. If you haven't searched here recently, you have missed a great opportunity to find online books and records.
Many people are unaware that the venerable Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File are still very much alive and well on FamilySearch.org. Although these are compiled genealogies, they have been a finding aid for years and continue to be valuable resources.
Photos and Stories
The number of photos and stories on FamilySearch.org's program has now passed 1.1 million. I am finding people amazed that there are photos and stories of their ancestors about which they were totally unaware. If you haven't taken a look you will need to sign up for a free account and log in, but you will see all of the photos and stories already uploaded about your ancestors.