San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Digging For Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

As did many of you I spent the last week of March preparing for the 1940 Census and the first week in April searching it. I was successful in some searches and failed in others and will have to wait patiently (hah!) for a name index to be made. Besides the joy of finding my parents and grandparents I also found my first bit of humor in what I’ve always thought of as interesting when it came to my family but otherwise a basically dull document. I was searching in the town of South Gate, Los Angeles County, when I found that, at the end of that section of the E.D., the enumerator, N W Haddon, had written:
            “Here Ends Block No. 1
              And My District
              Thank the Lord”


In the first of my columns for this Blog I stated that I would be learning right along with you about some of the sources that can help build a family tree and history. This column is an instance of that.

Have you ever wished you could have the free help of expert genealogists when you hit a brick wall or a rough patch in your search for your family history? I certainly have and I think I’ve found out how that can happen.

FamilySearch is one of the best sites on the Web for genealogy. And I’ve discovered at least 3 ways of getting help from those experts that I mentioned above—#1 is in the FamilySearch Forums. To get there go to FamilySearch and, at the top of the page, click on the word “Learn”. In the section called “What’s in learning resources?” on the right side of the page is a link to the Discussion Forums with the statement “FamilySearch also offers numerous free research discussion forums. With over 2,000 registered volunteers all over the world, it’s a pretty good bet that if your question hasn’t already been answered, someone is ready to help out.” Click on either the picture or on “Browse the Forums” below the statement. Once you get there you might want to bookmark the Forums page for quick access.

Since FamilySearch seems to be constantly changing (and improving) some of what I write today may have changed by tomorrow.

On the opening screen at the top there is a search box which you will be using a lot. Below that there is a blue line that contains these links/tabs: “Register”, “FAQ”, “Community”, and “Today’s Posts”. Below that is a green “Welcome” section which states: “Please be our guest to browse any topic listed below for helpful family history research and FamilySearch product information provided by experienced FamilySearch patrons. Simply select the forum of your choice to search for information, ask questions or offer answers to others. An LDS or FamilySearch Account is now required to post to the Forums.” That last part is quite painless and will be important because the reason you are here in the first place is to ask questions.

The next tab is for the FAQ. Click on the tab and then click on the “Click here to access all our video demos” link. If you click on the “Forums” link a drop-down menu will give you various videos to play. The best place to start is the “FamilySearch Forums Overview” link. This will explain “Threads”, Sub-Forums, Posts, and more.

One of the things I like about the asking-a-question section is that either you or the person answering one of your questions can attach a picture which may make the question or answer more easily understood. The forums are organized into “Localities” (i.e. Places) and “Non-locality” (i.e. Subjects, Things, or basically anything that isn’t about a place). The three examples given in this section are “Beginners and General Questions” (“What Do You Do When You Have Virtually No Information?” which had 115 views and 4 replies. This is my kind of question!), “Using Technology” (“Citing as a Source for a Document”—681 views and 6 replies), and “Latin Translation”. I suspect I’m going to be using that last one when I look for old church records in my European searches.

There is also the ability to “subscribe” to a particular forum so that you will be notified when other questions or answers on the subject you’re interested in are put on the site.
I’m not quite sure how one might use the next tab, “Community”, but I see that one of the categories listed is “Social Groups”, under which is “Surnames”. This looks like a good place to put one of your brick wall surnames to see if other people are working on the same family. There were 122 different surnames listed as I write this.

The next tab, “New Posts” is self-explanatory. When I clicked on it there were 290 new posts listed, one of which, “US 1940 Census” (sound familiar?) had almost 4000 views!

The last tab is “Quick Links”. Here you will find links to “Today’s Posts”, how to mark forums read, a reminder of which Threads you are subscribed to, and a list of private messages you have sent or received from people posting questions or answers.

At the bottom of the page, after other useful links to FamilySearch areas, is a “What’s Going On?” section that shows the activity of this site; the last time I visited it read “Threads: 10,968, Posts: 52,378, Members: 32,989, Active Members: 967” which, even though this is a fairly new and unknown part of FamilySearch, shows a healthy use and growth.

FamilySearch Forums appears to be an excellent way to learn more about a subject and get your difficult questions answered or at least discussed. I suspect I will be using it more and more as I build my family history.
Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

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