21st Century Research with FamilySearch


The genealogy research process has experienced significant changes in the past decade.  The influx of technology has made it easier and faster to research our ancestors.  One of the major contributors to this shift has undoubtedly been FamilySearch, with access to over one billion searchable on-line images.  Although many of us genealogists have utilized the massive FamilySearch index, a treasure trove exists outside of the bounds of these indexes.  Lurking beneath the surface, digitized books and historical records await the diligent researcher willing to browse their images.  FamilySearch announced this past the release of millions of additional images to its historical records collection.  Many of these records are browsable images without indexes.

I was overjoyed to discover the addition of U.S.,  Ohio, Probate Records, 1790-1967 with over 3 million digitized images (only A thru L counties have been added).  Just last month, I spent several days pouring over documents in multiple Ohio county courthouses.   I was easily able to locate the will of Richard English of Belmont County, which I discussed in my previous post.  Having a digital image versus a scanned photocopy is definitely a benefit to my research.


Digital Image

Scanned Photocopy

FamilySearch’s historical record collection has several advantages for genealogical researchers, primarily:

  • Access to digital images of original source documents.
  • The ability to conduct research off-site

Will FamilySearch and other on-line repositories ever replace on-location record searches?  I doubt that we will ever get to the point of having on-line access to all the documents we seek.  Besides, there are certain benefits we derive from conducting genealogical research in the locations where our ancestors lived.  For example, we are able to:

  • Access all records for the locality, rather than just a selected few.
  • Visit and photograph the specific locations where our ancestors lived, worked, worshiped and are buried.
  • Gain an understanding of the geography of the area in which our ancestors lived.

Although FamilySearch and other similar digital archives can hardly replace the thoroughness of research achieved by searching on-location, they certainly provide quick, easy, and inexpensive access to records.  We would all love to conduct all of our research in the location of the original records, however, often we are hampered by restrictions in our time and resources.  Digital archives, such as FamilySearch, allow us almost instant access to records that previously would have been more difficult to obtain.  Welcome to 21st century genealogical research.  Thank you, FamilySearch.