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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

This is the third installment of resources found on FamilySearch.org. Now we come to what I’ve used most and found the most helpful—the Research Wiki (called elsewhere the FamilySearch Wiki).

As with the other two places, Discussion Forums and Research Courses, you get to them by clicking on the “Learn” link at the top of the page which takes you to the “Getting Started” page. The Research Wiki is the first link on the left below “What’s in Learning Resources?”

FamilySearch describes the Wiki this way: The Research Wiki is a free collection of family history articles provided by family history enthusiasts from around the world. The wiki makes it easy for people to share research information and useful tips. Research Wiki articles are valuable resources for anyone who wants to learn more about their family history.”

The opening page contains many links and helps that you should explore thoroughly so you can get the most out of this outstanding research tool. As I write this there are 67,060 articles listed. (Clicking on the small thumbnails in this article will bring up larger and more readable versions.)




The first thing to do is to click on the “Tour” link. The links on that page include three sections: “Research Your Family History”, “Contribute Your Knowledge to the Wiki”, and, “Collaborate with Others”. These contain essays and videos that will guide you in your use of the Wiki.

Let’s see what you get when you perform a search; we’ll use two examples, a place search and a topic search.

On the recent poll on our Blog the greatest number of you selected “Midwest” as the area of the U.S. in which you were doing the most genealogical research so let’s do a wiki search for “Ohio”. You can perform a search on the opening page or by using the search form in the upper right of any page.



On the search results page we get 1,696 hits for the word “ohio”. Fortunately the first entry is usually the best result and in this case that is the entry for the “Ohio” page. The first thing we see is usually something that the writers and editors (that’s all of us folks!) feel will pique our interest and give us a taste of what the page offers.




In this case there is a list of “unique genealogical features” such as a guide to birth, marriage, and death (BMD) records in the state, a teaser about how early Ohioans got their land, and a link to a description of county resources, a document that “…lists Ohio genealogical materials available at the State Library of Ohio for each county in the state. It serves as a guide to Ohio genealogical resources, including 14,000 volumes and 15,000 microforms in the non-circulating genealogy collection.” It looks like anyone serious about Ohio research will want to make a road trip to the Ohio state library!

Below that is a clickable list of counties including a very important list of “extinct jurisdictions” such as Connecticut Western Reserve, which newcomers to Ohio research just might not know about and would lead to other resources.

 And for the visually-oriented (and I’m one of them) there is a clickable map of the counties.




Each of the links will take you to that county’s specific page with much more information on genealogical resources.

Below the map are sections on “Major Repositories” and “Migration Routes”.



Below that (the information just keeps on coming!) is a list of important “Research Tools”.

The “Did you know?” section below that has interesting facts about the state that you might not realize but will give you insight into your ancestors lives. For instance did you know that “Ohio has one of the highest concentrations of people with Welsh ancestry?

At the bottom is the ever important “Sources” list which will identify just how authoritative the page is and may lead you to other sources you never realized existed.

Back up at the top on the left side is the section that I use most in my research, the “Ohio Topics” which include links to articles in the Wiki on such things as American Indians, Census records, Gazetteers, Naturalization and Citizenship, and perhaps most importantly, Vital records.




For our second search let’s look at an area that has gained more attention in the past year or two—Newspapers.

Our search for “Newspapers” leads us to a list of 6,367 articles. As with our other search the first link, “United States Newspapers” is probably the best one to start with.

Right at the top of the page is my most used area, the Table of Contents.



Below that are three informational paragraphs on the publishing history and coverage of most newspapers.


In place of a map there is a graph with links to lists of State and Territory specific newspapers.


After this there are sections on “Why use newspapers?”, “Before searching newspapers, know this”, “Where to get United States newspapers”, “Your local library and interlibrary loan”, and, “Web sites”.

Then, what I feel is the most important section for me at least, are links to “Historical newspapers online” and “Current newspapers online”.


Followed by “Current newspapers online”


Next is “Identifying and finding newspapers in an area” with links to both online links and print resources.

Lastly there are “Tips” about newspaper publishing, ethnic newspapers, and links to “Web Sites” including a link to the “Wikipedia's List of Online Newspapers” (not to be confused with the FamilySearch wiki) which has been described by genealogy speakers as the best and most complete list of online newspaper archives.

And finally there is the usual list of sources (here called “References”) used in writing this wiki entry.


I believe the FamilySearch Wiki is one of the most important research tools we can use in our search for our family histories. I’ve just started digging deeper into it and I hope you too will enjoy and learn from it as much as I have.

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Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

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