FamilySearch is adding new digital images every second from around the world. These images are being dropped immediately into FamilySearch but are not indexed and not added to the FamilySearch Catalog. If you’re not aware of this next place to search, you may be missing out on a valuable resource. In this article, I’ll walk you through FamilySearch Images and give you some tips on navigating the site.
You can find the Images category under the main tab, “Search.” The image below shows the new version, but you have the option to toggle back and forth between the new and the older version if desired. I’d recommend starting with the new version if this is the first time you’ve used Images. From this home page titled “Explore Historical Images,” you can do several things.
- Click the “how to get started” button for a tutorial which is excellent. In a nutshell, you’ll learn how best to use the search filters, get tips on finding an image within the digital film, and find links to other helpful articles.
- View recently added images. I recommend trying this to get a feel for the worldwide scope of FamilySearch. For example, as of the writing of this post, the most recent record localities were Pennsylvania, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Italy.
- Search for a research locality, either with the main search bar shown below, or click “more options” to be more specific with the search.
Try searching a variety of ways to get a feel for what the search engine will do for you. You could try a very broad search such as “Texas” or go more specific such as “DeWitt County, Texas.” If researching a foreign country, try a village or town name to see what might be available. When I entered “Dover,” the place search suggested “Dover, Kent, England, United Kingdom,” which I selected. As you can see in the image below, there are 171 results and two places within Dover: St James’ Church and St Mary’s Church. I could click on either church to filter the results.
Use the Map
A nice new feature is the ability to click on the map of the selected locality – opening up a street map showing the specific area. Clicking on the map of Dover took me to a new view that I could enlarge and see exactly where the two churches were located. Understanding locality is key when determining if your ancestor’s record might be in the digital film collection. Without an index, you’ll want to have a good idea about the locality before investing the time to search the film.
Digitized Microfilm or Newly Digitized Records?
Explore Historical Images includes both microfilms that traditionally could only be viewed at the Family History Library and newly digitized historical records. There are no indexes available when viewing the image through this format, but often, a collection contains an index, or a book has an internal index that can be searched. For example, in searching records for DeWitt County, Texas, I found an entire collection of Brand Records that are not in the FamilySearch Catalog for DeWitt County. Where would you start with this collection? Notice that the second item is an Index which would be a good place to begin. Always look for an index, then seek out the correct volume or film. These images are not arranged in any particular order, and it is up to the researcher to keep good records of what is searched – use a research log!
Different Viewing Experience
Any digitized microfilm that can be accessed through the FamilySearch Catalog can also be accessed through FamilySearch Images. The images will be the same, but the viewing experience will differ. Take, for example, the Declaration of Intention for George Hutton in Cassia County, Idaho. As can be seen in the image below, George was a farmer aged 37 years, who was born in Fifeshire, Scotland, and now resides in Oakley, Cassia County, Idaho. The Declaration includes a physical description, his emigration date and ship, and his homeland.
Viewing the record from FamilySearch Images, you see a film strip across the top of the image. This allows you to quickly navigate through the microfilm. You can enlarge the record, attach the record to an individual in Family Tree, and view information about the image group.
The same image can be viewed through the FamilySearch Catalog. The viewing experience is different, with no filmstrip across the top and the catalog record found at the bottom. The catalog record also has an index attached.
Pros and Cons
Pros for using Historical Images:
- Digital images are published immediately – most are not immediately available from the FamilySearch Catalog.
- Digital images from the catalog are also found on FamilySearch Images with an improved viewing experience.
Cons for using Historical Images:
- It is difficult to find and then drill down to specific collections.
- No indexing is available.
- The newly digitized images cannot be found through the FamilySearch Catalog.
Tips for Using Historical Images
- Start with a specific research locality.
- Choose a date range for your search.
- Select a life event such as birth, marriage, or death.
- Explore the collections. The titles are broad and vague, so be sure you understand what the film includes.
- Attach relevant records to your ancestor.
- Add relevant collections to your locality guide.
- Record your searches in a research log. Track the URL, source citation, notes, and details. It may be difficult to duplicate your search, so keep good records!
- Create a descriptive source citation.
- Save the image to your digital files.
Hopefully, you can see the great value in having record images immediately available to us through FamilySearch’s Images. With good research skills, we can make the most of this valuable resource and find new information about our ancestors.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!
Diana and Nicole, where in the USA are you located? I am located just south of Atlanta, and I am heading up a committee working on our 4th Discover Your Roots event. While I am on a stake public communications council, the committee is made up of a number of community members who are not LDS as well. I would appreciate being aware of how close you may or may not be to our location.
Thanks for your response.
Newnan GA Stake Asst. Public Communications Director
I am in Utah, and Nicole is in Arizona, so not very close to Georgia! Good luck with your event.