Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Friday, November 6, 2015

New Features Added to the FamilySearch Family Tree has initiated several refinements to the search processes used on this vast website. Some of the changes are long overdue, others are are equally as helpful and demonstrate the evolving nature of the search process. These new changes were announced in a blog post cited as follows:

Wright, Matt. “New Features Make It Easier to Find and View Family Records.” FamilySearch Blog. Accessed November 6, 2015.

For some time now, I have been hearing about changes that will occur to the FamilySearch Catalog. Just this week, new icons began appearing next to the entries. Here is a screenshot of the new icons:

The explanation of their implementation is as follows:
The FamilySearch Catalog (formerly Family History Library Catalog) describes the genealogical resources held by, the Family History Library, selected FamilySearch Centers, and selected partner libraries. The Catalog is an incredible guide to original sources of information that can help you discover details of your family story. A new enhancement to the catalog adds hyperlinked logos that take you directly to where you can access or request the item listed. Users of the FamilySearch Catalog who are viewing the film notes for a title will be presented with whatever resources are available for that title. If you don’t see an icon, it means that option is not available for that entry.
It is my understanding that the links will reveal more digitized microfilm records than are currently available in the Historical Record Collections. The means that the links in the Catalog will appear as the microfilm is digitized but before it is processed and included in the Historical Record Collections.

This change highlights the importance of searching in FamilySearch Catalog rather than relying solely on the digitized records in the list in the Historical Record Collections. It also make clear the distinction between an indexed record, one where you can search for names, etc., and the records which are digitized but not yet indexed that must be searched just as you would search any microfilmed record. It also highlights the fact that many of the records are yet to be digitized. The figures I have heard lately indicate that only about 30% of the microfilms have been digitized and of those, only 10% are indexed. I am sure that these are very general statistics, but they illustrate the scope of the project to digitize and index all of the records.

Additional changes have been made to the searches of the indexed records in the Historical Record Collections. If you click on the "Exact Search" option you will now see the following results, according to the blog post:
Another oft-requested Search feature has been to make search results more precise through the exclusion of certain words, letters, and punctuation in the name search fields when a user selects “Match all terms exactly.” With this change, exact searching will return exactly what the user types into the name fields, in the order they typed it, with the following exceptions:
  • Exact search will ignore spaces: van der graff = vandergraff
  • Exact search will ignore punctuation: O’Brien = OBrien
  • Exact search will ignore diacritics: Pena = Peña
  • Exact search will ignore the spanish “y”: Gonzalez y Gomez = Gonzalez Gomez
  • Exact search will ignore capitalization: MacDonald = Macdonald
These changes should make searching include more results where the variations are only due to the way the names were entered into the record rather than actual differences in identification of the person being searched.

There have also been some enhancements added to the views of the records that are produced. Here is a screenshot of the area where a new enhancement has been added:

The enhancement is explained as follows:
Getting around within the historical record image viewer has been made easier with two new enhancements. First is a unified and consistent navigational view, in either full-screen or pop-up view. You’ll notice breadcrumbs (1), or the path you followed to arrive at the record you are viewing. You can also now move between images within the collection by clicking the forward or back arrows, or by entering the image number you wish to view (2). 
Second, you can now switch between the single image view and a new thumbnail gallery view as you browse images in a collection (3). This second new feature is a response to user requests to create an easier way to quickly navigate to specific spots in the image set. It also makes it easier to look at the records surrounding the record, which is helpful for finding relatives or neighbors or seeing all of a record that has been split over two pages. These new navigation features can be used anywhere that a user can view a single image by clicking the thumbnail icon in the left side toolbar. Any thumbnail can be clicked to switch back to single image view.
These are very welcome additions.


  1. "This change highlights the importance of searching in FamilySearch Catalog rather than relying solely on the digitized records in the list in the Historical Record Collections."

    A good many "collections" in Historical Record Collections have never been in the FamilySearch Catalog. Some really huge collections are digitized and uploaded to the HRC, but have never been on microfilm and also are not in the FamilySearch Catalog. The HRC remains the central source for what is available to look at without ordering film from the FamilySearch Catalog.

    1. Your comment opens an interesting question. How do we know which records are in the catalog and which are not? What is the use of a "catalog" if it does not contain all the records held by FamilySearch? Perhaps you could give some examples of collections that are not in the catalog.