What Do I Do Next? 5 Tips for Using FamilySearch Partners
Not sure what to do with the Family Search Partners that now appear on the Person page of Family Search? Have you clicked on one of them for fun and been completely overwhelmed with the amount of information you see? Or were you underwhelmed with the lack of relevant information returned?
Because of FamilySearch’s partnership with Ancestry, Find My past, and MyHeritage, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have access to free LDS accounts. If you have not registered for the partner websites, go to familysearch.org/partneraccess and create your free accounts. Keep your log-in information handy because you’ll need it often as you work with these partners. If you don’t have an account with a particular website, you can still click on the links and see thumbnails of the records, you just won’t be able to open them up.
How can you best take advantage of these high powered programs? Do you need some help getting started? Try out these 5 tips!
Tip #1: Upload your family tree to each website. You love the FamilySearch hints, right? Well, Ancestry also has hints, My Heritage has record matches, and Find My Past has hints in beta testing. Their search engines are continually running, looking for records that match the people in your family tree. Don’t feel obligated to look at each hint and don’t get frustrated with how many you get. Just accept that in this race, the search engine will always win. Instead, have the mindset that those hints or record matches are there waiting for you when you get around to researching that family.
Here is the record of Mary “Clemsy” Cline on my Ancestry tree, I see there are 6 hints, highlighted in green, waiting for me to check out. When I click on them, I can choose to add them to her record, ignore them, or dismiss them. I can add information, relatives, save records to her page, upload photos, etc.
I don’t worry about keeping my family trees in the partner websites perfect, I am using them for research purposes. I’m focusing on the collaborative tree on FamilySearch, so that is where I try to have dates, places, relationships, and sources as correct as possible. That said, having a family tree in a partner website that no one else can change is a big plus. Sometimes, a well meaning individual can wreak havoc with your your ancestor’s record on FamilySearch. I would recommend keeping one of your partner website trees pretty accurate as a backup to FS Family Tree. You can also keep your tree on a personal database like RootsMagic, Legacy, Ancestral Quest, etc. So many options . . .
Tip # 2: Familiarize yourself with the unique look and possibilities of each website. You don’t need to become an expert, but do click around and learn to navigate. In a nutshell, here are a few things I like about each website:
- I can connect individuals in my Ancestry tree to their record on FS Family Tree . When you first get your partner account with Ancestry, you’ll be prompted to load the first four generations of your tree from FS Family Tree. You’ll know if an individual is connected to FamilySearch because a blue arrow appears to the right of the tree icon. Clicking on the arrow opens the drop down menu and you can do several things:
- DNA testing. I’ve done the DNA testing with Ancestry and can now look for cousins with the same DNA in the hopes that some day I can search out my missing ancestors. This has already pointed to some real possibilities. Not to mention that it’s just plain fun to see where in the world I am from, according to my DNA!
- Learning Center Ancestry has fabulous research guides for every U.S. state and so much more. Click around and see what you can learn.
- Ancestry’s record collection just gets better and better. When you find a record that you think might be correct but you’re not sure, you can just add it to your “shoebox” and Ancestry saves it for you on your home page.
- Record Matches and Smart Matches. Once I’ve uploaded my tree, I can choose to have My Heritage send me emails of these matches. It’s like having a friend research your family, then sending you what they found!
- Newspaper collection. The majority of record matches on my tree have been from newspapers! Why is this so great? Newspapers can be tricky to research. Your family member might be in the local newspaper or in one a hundred miles away.
This record match showed up in a weekly email. I knew of a little Jerden boy, my dad’s cousin, who had died young, but didn’t know the story. This article tells of him drowning on the farm of W.H. Shults, my great grandfather. Because Shults is spelled incorrectly, I might never have found this reference. Luckily, My Heritage sent me the record match and I have another piece of my family’s history.
- DNA testing. My Heritage offers 5 different DNA tests. If you have a brick wall in your ancestry, this might help you bust through it.
- Family Website. You can build a MyHeritage Family Site and invite other family members to add to it. This includes your family tree, family stats, and family photos. I haven’t done anything more than add my tree, but it has definite possibilities. Something to check out and see if it fits your needs.
- My Family Tree on Find My Past has hints, individual details, and a fun box with historical information on each person’s name.
- My Records is one of the tool bars across the top. It lists all of the records I have ever looked at complete with the date accessed, notes, and the ability to click on the image and see it again. You can star favorite records, delete records, and sort the list in a variety of ways.
- One billion records from the British Isles. My favorite website to search for my English ancestors! The search results come back clear and concise. Definitely the place to start for British, Irish, Canadian, or Australian research.
- Simple, clean look. Find My Past makes it really easy to find everything on their website. For me, it has one of the most intuitive screens.
Tip #3: Search within specific record collections of each website. Hinting covers only the major record collections. There are treasures to be found in smaller specific record collections so become familiar with the card catalog of each website. Drill down to specific record collections that you want to search.
For example, on Ancestry’s Card Catalog I tried: United States > MIssouri > Morgan > County> Histories. When I did a surname search for Cline in the histories, I found a reference to Jacob Cline, complete with an entire paragraph about his parents, spouses, children, occupation, and military information. This hit did not come up in the twenty initial hits on Ancestry.com!
Tip #4: Search each partner website for information on your family. If you are having trouble finding a particular record for an individual, such as the 1880 census, look for it on all four of the websites. From the person page of FS FamilyTree, try clicking on each of the four search choices: FamilySearch, Ancestry, Find My Past, and MyHeritage. Each website has unique collections and different search engines. Most of the censuses available on each website have been indexed independently, so if you can’t find your family in a particular census, try a different website.
For example, from Jacob Cline’s person page on FS Family Tree, I clicked on each of the websites. Each website took the information on his details page a little differently and put it into it’s own search engine. Here is what I found:
- FamilySearch gave me 1,511 hits. Out of the first twenty records, eight were correct.
- Ancestry gave me 190, 241 hits. Out of the first twenty records, six were correct.
- Findmypast gave me 26 records, seven of which were correct.
- My Heritage gave me 959,260 results. Out of the first twenty records, none of them were correct. When I checked the search parameters, I found that My Heritage was doing a very broad search with just the birth year and name. Narrowing that down gave me much better results.
The majority of these records were census records from 1850 – 1920, with some Findagrave and marriage records thrown in. What did I learn from this exercise? They are all very powerful websites that can help me find my family in seconds!
Tip #5: Attach the records you find to Family Tree. When you do find a record on one of the partner websites, see if it is also on FamilySearch. Often you just need to change the search parameters or look in a specific record collection if it’s not showing in your initial search on FS. From there you can attach it to your family member. If it is a unique record, only on one of the partner websites, you can create a new source on FamilySearch Family Tree for that source. See my post Creating a New Source on Family Tree for a tutorial.
This is by no means a comprehensive look at the partner websites, hopefully just enough to ignite your interest and get you started. I’d love to hear how you’re using the partners. So much to learn . . .
Best of luck in finding your family!