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May 04, 2018

Has FamilySearch Digitized the Records You Need? Here’s How to Check

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FamilySearch recently announced that they had added the 2 billionth record to their free online databases of digitized historical documents. The records giant currently adds over 300 million new images a year to their online holdings. A world of free resources for African American genealogy await you on FamilySearch – you just have to know how to find them.

Two Ways to Find Digitized Records on FamilySearch

In our recent post “Find Millions of Free FamilySearch Records for Your Area of Research Interest,” we showed you how to browse digitized collections on FamilySearch using the navigation tools in the left sidebar to browse to collections for your area of research interest, as in the two examples below (please refer to the original post for step-by-step instructions):

The post referenced above will guide you through the steps of browsing to digitized collections on FamilySearch. But another treasure trove of records await you in microfilms that FamilySearch is digitizing that are not part of its formal collections.

Each day, FamilySearch is digitizing individual microfilms that you can access by searching the FamilySearch catalog.

In this post, we will take you step-by-step through accessing the millions of records available through the FamilySearch catalog. With more records being digitized each day, searching the FamilySearch catalog will keep you up to date on newly-digitized records for your African American genealogy research.

The FamilySearch Catalog: Treasures Await!

To search for newly-digitized records in the FamilySearch catalog, start on the FamilySearch home page and click on “Search.” A dropdown box will appear. From the dropdown menu, click on “Catalog.”

Let’s do a search for Chatham County, Georgia records. As we start typing “Georgia,” a dropdown box appears with suggestions. Click on “United States, Georgia.” Those words will appear in the search term entry box.

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Now we’re ready to add Chatham County. As we begin to type Chatham, the dropdown box appears with suggestions:

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When we have our search term entered and click on “Search,” a list of record categories for Chatham County Georgia appears.

Let’s click on the “Public records” category. We see two entries there. Let’s click on the Register of free persons of color:

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This takes us to the detail page for the Register of free persons of color. If we scroll down, we’ll see a list of the microfilms for this item. 

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Here there is one microfilm listed. See the microfilm reel icon  to the right of the microfilm collection? A microfilm reel icon tells us that the microfilm has not yet been digitized. We can keep checking the catalog from time to time in coming weeks, to see if the film is digitized. 

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Let’s move on to another category for Chatham County Georgia by using the back key to go back to our search results. Let’s click on the category “Vital records” and see which record sets are listed there. Marriage licenses (originals), 1805-1866 looks interesting, let’s click on those:

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The detail page pops up. We can scroll down to see the microfilms included in this record set.

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See the camera icons  to the right of the microfilm descriptions? A camera icon means that the microfilm is digitized, so we can view the film online. Let’s click Marriage licenses, 1865-1866 to view the microfilm:

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This takes us to the image thumbnails for each frame in the microfilm. We can click on an image thumbnail image to view a larger version of the image. These records are not yet indexed and searchable, but we can view the entire microfilm frame by frame, as we would if we were viewing the film in a library.

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This takes us to the image on the microfilm. 

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Let’s go back to our search results and continue exploring the Chatham County record sets. This time, let’s click on “Voting registers:”

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This takes us to the detail page for the record set. 

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Scrolling down, we see from the camera icon that the Savannah voter’s registers microfilms have been digitized. Let’s click on the Voters registers for 1870-1871:

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This takes us to the image thumbnails, where we can click on an image to view it larger:

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We can now view the individual frames on the microfilm.

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Here is another neat feature of searching the catalog. We searched Bertie County, North Carolina records in the catalog and clicked on “Negro cohabitations:”

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See the magnifying glass icon  next to the camera icon on the right side? If you see a magnifying glass icon, it means that this microfilm is searchable. Let’s click on the magnifying glass:

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This takes us to a screen where we can search that microfilm. The microfilm number automatically appears in the left sidebar search entry form so we can search just that microfilm! 

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With the previous post and this one, we now have step-by-step instructions for the two ways to find digitized records on FamilySearch: (1) browsing to established collections, as in the previous post “Find Millions of Free FamilySearch Records for Your Area of Research Interest,” and (2) searching the FamilySearch catalog using the instructions above, in this post.

Sharpen the Saw

Now it’s YOUR turn! What treasures will you find by searching the FamilySearch catalog? Tell us about your finds in our Facebook Group