FamilySearch Catalog’s Best Kept Secret

references & resources tools & technology Sep 05, 2020

>>Video Transcript<<

Today I’m going to share with you one of FamilySearch catalog’s best kept secrets.

The FamilySearch catalog is a great tool to use when planning out your research. Because the Family History Library has such a vast collection of records, books, periodicals, maps, and other materials, you can usually find something useful for your research project. The catalog is usually the first place I look when I begin adding to my research plan (or building a locality guide).

When you visit the home page for the FamilySearch Catalog, you’ll notice there are a handful of search options—place, surname, title, author, subject, and keyword. The default is “Place,” which is a great way to search the catalog when you are exploring what records [the library has] for your location of interest.

But, sometimes searching by location using the “Place” field isn’t enough. Sometimes a record is filed under one main location, but associated locations could be included in another field.

I learned this trick many years ago from Fritz [Juengling], who works on the international floor at the Family History Library. After trying to find the location via the “Place” field, of which there were no entries, he used the “Keyword” field and voilà—records!

Let me demonstrate.

We’re going to look for records related to Bernsdorf [in Kreis Bütow] in Pommern. Using the “Place” field, there are no results for that particular Bernsdorf.

But entering Bernsdorf in the “Keyword” field pops up 18 different catalog entries. Adding Pommern to the keyword search narrows the entries further.

Going into the first catalog entry, we can see that Bernsdorf is referenced in the “Notes” section of the entry. The same is true for the other two catalog entries.

One reason this search is important is because had we only focused on searching the catalog using the “Place” field for Bernsdorf, we would incorrectly assume there were no records. Because these particular records are civil registrations, they are cataloged under the town of the registration district, which in this case is Damsdorf. However, even though Bernsdorf’s registration district was Damsdorf, residents of Bernsdorf also registered events in two nearby registrations districts—Gersdorf and Stojentin. We only know this because the catalog entries for those other districts indicates that the town of Bernsdorf also appears in those records. In fact, I have found records for my family among those in Gersdorf, in addition to Damsdorf.

You could probably think of other uses for a keyword search, but I just wanted to show you the power of using it, particularly for place names. Study all the fields in various catalog entries to get other ideas for how you might utilize the keyword search.

Head over the the FamilySearch catalog and look for a location using the “Keyword” field. Did you find something new that didn’t show up using the “Place” field? Head over to the discussion of this post on Facebook and share what you discovered.

© Julie Tarr. This article was first published at Genealogy In Action; appearance of this article elsewhere, without my permission, violates copyright.