Thursday, February 11, 2016

Learning More FamilySearch Search Stategies at RootsTech 2016

I really appreciated Robert Kehrer's presentation at RootsTech 2016 in which he showed us more ways to search records at FamilySearch.  His presentation was RT7450, "Finding Elusive Records on"  Kehrer is the Senior Product Manager of Search Technologies at FamilySearch.  I knew he must be an expert. 

He introduced the session as "going beyond the basics" at FamilySearch and said it was not a beginner's session but for more advanced users who are familiar with the search form and interested in getting past the simple results by delving into the unindexed image sets.  Sometimes I still feel like a beginner and wondered if this session would be over my head.  (It wasn't.  I was familiar with some of the points he presented but also learned more.)

FamilySearch has 5.5 billion records available online but 70% of them are unindexed.  None of those will come up in a search result if I search on a name, which is why it's important to know how to get to the rest of those records.

Some of the points he discussed:
  • Waypoints.  Many researchers are probably familiar with these but may not call them "waypoints."  Records are presented in logical groups (such as county probate or marriage records).  The waypoints are categories like counties, record types, surnames, type of record, etc.  He walked us through using the image indices to search.  
  • Using the catalog to find which records are and are not available online.
  • Search features:  filtering a record set, doing location-specific research
  • Using a wiki for location-specific information, using the learning center, and finding all classes available online for a geographic area.
  • Exact searching and the use of wild cards.
  • Spreadsheets.  This was new information to me, something he said few people know about or use.  FamilySearch will create a spreadsheet of search results (name and location, or date).  We can export the search results (in groups of 75) into a spreadsheet which will allow us to analyze the results more carefully.  This would have been helpful when I was looking at the neighbors of Christian Gerner in three or four different census years.
  • Batch numbers and how to find and use them

The syllabus and his presentation are both still available online as of this day (February 11, 2016).  If you click through to his presentation please know that you'll need to scroll down past several rows of other images until you see the nearly full-screen image with a clickable arrow to watch the video presentation. 

If you have any interest in delving more deeply into FamilySearch records -- beyond the results from simple searches -- I encourage you to watch this presentation.


Copyright © 2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Billions?? I can't even conceive what that must look like. This must have been an interesting session. I need to check it out.

    1. Neither can I, Wendy. And I don't know if, by billions, they mean names mentioned in records (of which there could be several per document). I thought it was a great session.


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