Tracking Your Past

Doris Green

Have you ever faced the need to clean out a family member’s house? Stuffed with memories and souvenirs of the past, it can present an anxiety-inducing challenge. Like an ancestor’s attic, the Internet offers a mind-boggling array of both useful and useless information to a family historian.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ FamilySearch Research Wiki can help locate the information you’re looking for. Not by finding a lost ancestor, but by pinpointing the best resources for your search. To begin, click on Research Wiki at the bottom of the Search tab at www.familysearch.org.

The free FamilySearch Research Wiki page features a global map. Click on the region of interest or select a country from the drop-down list. The wiki emphasizes birth, marriage and death records, but also offers links to databases that may yield these vital facts indirectly — for instance, military records, immigration records or censuses. 

For many regions, a Jump-start/Guided Research button invites you to dive into your target nation’s genealogy resources. The Guided Research feature is currently available in North America, the British Isles, Netherlands, Italy and Scandinavia. It lists the most comprehensive and complete records first, and searches multiple collections simultaneously.

To confirm the birth date of a Wisconsin ancestor, navigate to the Wisconsin page (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Wisconsin,_United_States_Genealogy). From there, click on either “Guided Research” or “How to Find Birth Records.” You will be asked for your username and password to search within FamilySearch databases; there is no fee to register or use FamilySearch. If your quest is unsuccessful, click on “Research Strategies” for other paths to try. 

A one-stop shop for genealogy databases, the wiki can help if you are unaware of what records are available or how to access them. It can alert you to the period a database covers or missing records from a courthouse fire or other disaster. If the database you want is sourced from a paid subscription service, the wiki will note the need to pay a fee. If the records you want are not available online, the wiki can tell you how to get them. If you do not at first find what you’re looking for, the wiki offers tips, such as trying alternate spellings or expanding your target geographical area.

Like Wikipedia, the FamilySearch Research Wiki allows users to add and update content. Left-column links invite you to submit information, become an editor or report a problem.

Doris Green authored “Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery” and “Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Cave, Mines, and Tunnels.” Also available: “Minnesota Underground: A Guide to Caves & Karst, Mines & Tunnels” co-authored with Greg Brick. Contact http://henschelhausbooks.com, Amazon or your bookstore.