Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Expanding Your View: The FamilySearch Partner Findmypast.com
During the past few months, I have been concentrating on my English ancestors, particularly the Parkinson family. Before I got started, I had some instruction from my friend, Leland Moon, about the Findmypast.com website. When I began my intensive research into the old Huntingdonshire County (now Cambridgeshire), I was amazed at the ability of the program to ferret out my ancestors and their families. My appreciation for the program and its contents increased immeasurably. But without some insight into the way the program operates, you may simply regard it as another database.
Let me explain how I learned to use the program. The first and most important step is to enter your family tree into the program. I did this with a GEDCOM file. Here is a view of my family tree.
My ancestor, James Parkinson, is shown in the middle of the screenshot. Each of the colored circles on the icons for the people represent Record Hints. Here is a screenshot of the hints for my ancestor Mary Ann Bryant.
Now here is an important point. You should be very sure of the places and dates associated with your particular ancestral line. It turns out that none of these particular record hints apply to my Mary Ann Bryant. But the problem here is that the records available for Mary Ann are under her married name. So it is important to search Findmypast.com and other websites under alternative names. Here is another screenshot showing the family as found in the U.S. Census.
The general rule is that you need to find where your ancestors lived from records in the country of arrival before you go off searching for them in the country of origin. I did this for the Parkinson family and located the geographic area where they lived. I had to do this homework before I could realize the full potential of the program. I found the Parkinsons in a small area of Huntingdonshire, England.
Now with a location I can start to find my ancestors. First I did an overall search of the surname in the county with a date associated with my ancestor. Here is what the search looked like:
This step showed me the frequency of the surname in the county. Of course I am only searching in the records that are on Findmypast.com, but they have a very large number of records. Here is the result of the search. I got 36 results.
The key was to search in specific geographic areas. By examining the names, I was able to find records for several of my ancestors and their family members. Eventually I began to focus on just records available from a single parish. When I reached that point in my research, it helped to see whether or not any specific parish records were available from my target parish. I checked this by searching for the parish name in the A-Z of record sets. The link is in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
I soon found that some of the parishes were not represented by specific records on Findmypast.com; meanwhile I was also able to find several records and additional relatives when the family emigrated to Australia. To continue I then had to rely on microfilmed records from the parishes in the Family History Library and in the Brigham Young University Library, but many of the records were found on Findmypast.com providing me with the specific information I needed to continue researching the family.
The caution was not relying on either record hints or searches until you knew where your relatives lived. It turns out that most of the names I was looking for were too common to find with general searches. To show how this works, here is a general search for a person with a very unusual name. In this case I am looking for my ancestor named Hephzibah Newton. Here are the results from a general search in Huntingdonshire, England.
The record was a death record from the England and Wales deaths 1837-2007. The record gave her age at death thereby giving me a way to find more information. Here is the results of a search for the same person with her married name.
My continued searches eventually got me started with a firm understanding of where this family lived and added additional parishes to the search. All of the places ended up being only a few miles from each other.
As I stated above, the key is using specific places. I have a much greater respect for the Findmypast.com program than I did in the past.