5 Super Helpful Tips for FamilySearch.org

FamilySearch Tips

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Welcome back to Tenacious Genealogy! You’ve created a FamilySearch account and have started a family tree. (Or you’ve expanded your family tree.) Now that you have the basics down, you’ll want to hone your skills at finding people and documents on FamilySearch. This is a post for that exact reason. I’ve jotted down some tips on ways to help make browsing and searching FamilySearch easier.

FamilySearch Tips 

You’re a veteran of FamilySearch now – or at least have an account and a family tree going. Here are some tips and tricks to make your searching more fruitful.

 Tip # 1: Add, Don’t Overlay
Given FamilySearch’s crowdsourcing-style of genealogy, the biggest rule of thumb is: DO NOT overlay/erase someone else’s information. Unless you have certified proof that your information is correct, this will just irritate other FamilySearch users. Instead add the information as alternative information, if you can. (Alternative name, dates, etc.) And always cite your sources – even if it is just family stories.

If you aren’t 100% sure your relative is already in FamilySearch, add them as a new individual. However, if your relative is already in the system, it is generally better to add your information to the beefier record.

 Tip #2: Merge As A Last Resort
Only merge records as a last resort. Unless you are absolutely 100% certain that the two records are for the same person – don’t merge records.
One Exception: if Record A is very brief (as in it only lists a name and gender) and Record B has more data – merging is fine.

If you are certain that two records need to be merged, click here (FamilySearch’s article on merging duplicate records). I also plan on posting a step by step post on how to merge duplicate records (with pictures) in the future, so keep checking back.

 Tip # 3: Using Hints To Improve Your Family Tree
Within the last couple years, FamilySearch has added (and improved) a functionality that genealogists and family historians would find primarily on Ancestry – Hints.
Hints are records that could possibly be about your specific ancestors. Most times, they are indexed (and sometimes digitized) records that FamilySearch has access to (and with FamilySearch’s push toward digitization and away from loaning microfilm – the number of digitized documents will grow in future years). They can be incredibly handy in finding new information on an ancestor or knocking down a brick wall.

However, much like Ancestry’s hints, take FamilySearch’s hints with a grain of salt. For example, one of my ancestors had hints for him fighting in a Pennsylvania regiment during the American Civil War. I knew that this ancestor was not a Civil War soldier from other information and documents that we had,  but rather just had an identical name. (It also helped that the two men had birth dates at least fifty (50) years apart.)

 Tip # 4: Use FamilySearch icons to maximize your use of the website

 Depending on whether you have a public account or an LDS account with FamilySearch, you will encounter certain icons (like the blue, dark blue, purple, and green ones shown below). They all note different actions that can help maximize your use of FamilySearch.

Icons (Visible on both Public and LDS accounts)

Light Blue = FamilySearch hints — Click on these to see what records FamilySearch thinks might include your ancestor.
Purple = No Sources added — You may need to manually search for records (on FamilySearch or other sites) and input sources for the information attached to the person (or fix erroneous information if that is the case).

Red = Data Problems (Not Shown In Picture) — There are issues with the data in this person’s record (I’ve seen these pop up when either the dates between a mother’s birth and a child’s birth are too close or a birth year and a death year are switched accidentally).

 Icons (Visible only on LDS accounts)

Dark Blue = Temple Work in Progress — Simple. This person has temple work in progress.

Green = Request Ordinances — LDS ordinances that can be reserved for this person. If you click this tab, another screen will pop up that will let you either reserve the ordinances or tell you that permission is required.

Rule of thumb for LDS accounts and those reserving temple work: If the person was born less than 110 years ago AND is not a direct line relative of yours, request permission to do their work if you can. Otherwise, don’t reserve the ordinances. Part of this is just general courtesy and part of it is LDS church policy. If you do try to reserve ordinances for any individual (whether they were born 110 years ago or not), another screen will pop up asking you to read and agree with the church’s policy. That pop up explains in detail whose ordinances you can and cannot reserve.

Tip #5: Use The FamilySearch Smartphone App
For those of you who have a smartphone, FamilySearch has a free app for both Apple and Android. The functionality is scaled down quite a bit but it is still useful and even has some features that the website doesn’t have.
 You sign in to the FamilySearch app with the same username and password as you do the website and the first page you see is your family tree up to five (5) generations. (For example, if you have children in FamilySearch, it would show them and then up through your great grandparents.) If your tree extends past that, there are arrows at the top of each line that allow you to expand that specific line.

At the top is the search function, which allows you to search for a specific person, either by name or by their FamilySearch ID.

At the bottom are five icons (four if you have a public account):

Family Tree – This is your home page in the app. Click here if you want to go back to your Pedigree chart.

Tasks – A list of all the possible hints for people in your family tree. This is a great place to look and see what new hints have popped up.

Temple (if you have a LDS account) – You can see what temple work is currently being done or needs to be done for various ancestors.

Recents – A list of the last 50 ancestor records you looked at.

More – Various other tabs, including a couple extra search options, ‘Relatives Around Me’ that shows if anyone in your tree is in your local area (only works if both you and they have the app open at the same time), Messages, and then various settings.

There you have it! 5 super helpful tips and tricks to use while working on FamilySearch. These will help you go a long way in working with your pedigree on FamilySearch.

 Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them down below in the comment section.

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