From the office: Don't neglect the FamilySearch website

By Editor, 4 August 2016 - 5:23pm

FamilySearch has an incredible array of free resources – don't ignore it just because you don't have to pay for it, warns Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine editor Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams is editor at Who Do You Think You Are? MagazineThursday 4 August 2016
Sarah Williams, Editor
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FamilySearch is a fantastic free resource for family historians

FamilySearch is an important resource that family historians should not ignore

I went for a lovely walk in some woodland at the weekend with my husband and for the whole afternoon we only passed one man and his dog. I couldn’t help smiling when I remembered having to queue to get into an expensive arboretum recently, the car park heaving with visitors. We seem to value things more if we have to pay for them but some things are genuinely free and wonderful. Like FamilySearch, for example.

This giant family history website boasts an astonishing 5.3 billion records completely free to access and yet I frequently meet family historians who have never used it. Did you know that you can search UK census records (including 1911) for free here? OK, it’s not quite as good as you might get from a subscription website because you do not get to see the actual image, but, remember, it is free.

But its British record collection is only a small proportion of what FamilySearch offers. My research into my Jamaican family was made possible by its vast collection of Caribbean records, including almost four million Jamaican civil registration records that go all the way up to 1999. Imagine being able to see British civil registration documents that easily, at the touch of a button, and completely free. I bet you all wish you had Caribbean ancestors now.

But FamilySearch offers a lot more than records nowadays. One interesting development is its opening up of its shared Family Tree to those outside of the LDS Church. Family Tree is a collaborative project to document and connect the whole of humanity – as far as records can. It’s a vast global tree with over 1.1 billion entries and anyone can get involved.

You need to register with FamilySearch to add to Family Tree but after that you are free to jump in. It’s fairly straightforward to add an individual, but if someone exists already on Family Tree then you can’t create a duplicate although you can add to the information already there. It’s a great way to share your family history with others and leave your research for posterity.

We first covered the concept of a global family tree in the April 2013 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. The main coverline was ‘Are you ready for a world family tree?’ and it all felt very new and uncertain. But things have come a long way since then. I can’t see me letting go of my personal family tree in a hurry, I like to tinker with it in my own way, but I can also see the value of a global repository of family history research.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of value to be had from subscription websites and a lot of the money they make is ploughed back into our archives to enable them to share their wealth of records. But we at Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine do love a bargain and there’s no better bargain than free! 

Find out more about what FamilySearch has to offer family historians in our Summer 2016 issue, on sale now.

 

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From the office: Three online tips for tracking down your family history
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Discover more about your sporting ancestors
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