Stretching Your Genealogy Research Knowledge in New Directions

Stretching Your Genealogy Research Knowledge in New Directions

This week I’ve been teaching at GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. I am coordinating a Social History course but other courses are available that range from  DNA, land records, forensic genealogy, and research methodology.

Students interested in taking institute courses devote an entire week, 4-5 lectures a day, to a specific focused genealogical topic. Obviously, as students choose what they will register for, they study the lists of courses and lectures to determine which one they will invest their time and money.

One of the speakers in my course mentioned that her research project has taken her in directions she never would have guessed. The means she has had to learn about genealogical research that is different than what she typically focuses on for her Jewish research. This made me think about the benefits of attending presentation topics that are not your research focus whether you are attending an hour lecture at a genealogy society, an online webinar, a conference, or an institute.

Should you attend presentations that appear to have no connection to your ancestors or the research you are currently conducting?

If a lecture focuses on American Quakers and your family isn’t Quaker, does it hold value for you? If it’s a course focusing on Eastern European research, and your family came from England, should you attend?

This question may seem to have an obvious answer but we really need to reconsider how we look at our genealogical education. One of the GRIP attendees I talked to attended a course about researching a country that none of his ancestors are from. So why was he in the course? The teacher is one of his favorites and he feels that there is value in being in the course because of that teacher.

Why else might you choose a lecture or course that seemingly has nothing to do with your research?

If you’re a professional or hoping to become a professional, your clients will present all kinds of research opportunities. Knowing about other types of research and resources can be of benefit. You might find that by learning more about a specific type of research, you can expand your work opportunities. Even if your intent is to help others through volunteering, learning more about a wide scope of research can be helpful.

Genealogists understand that researching an ancestor’s FAN Club can be crucial to understanding our family’s life. But we need to remember that those who make up our
ancestor’s FAN Club may be very different than our ancestors. Our ancestor’s FAN Club may include immigrants from a different country, members of a different church or religion, or part of a different occupation. Knowing more about other groups can benefit your overall research. I purposely choose to attend lectures on topics that are different from my research because listening to other research experiences and resources can ultimately benefit my own research and skills.

The Legacy Webinars library provides you with the same opportunity. You can focus on your specific research location or ethnicity but you also have access to everything else, including topics that might not seem directly relevant to you.

Do you choose educational opportunities that differ from your own familiar research? What are your reasons? How has that helped you with your genealogy? 


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Learn about Your Ancestors During Wartime through their Yearbooks


It probably wouldn't take much to convince you that searching for your ancestors in yearbooks is a good idea. My guess is that you already know they are a genealogical source that can include photographs, names, locations, dates, and other information about a person's school life.

That's all great. Yearbooks are an excellent source for learning about your 19th to 20th-century ancestors' younger years. But are they a source for anything outside of school life? 

I recently taught an institute course where we focused on American life during the years 1917-1930. A focus of the course was on understanding World War I and the relevant records. We discussed all types of military records, censuses, and other familiar genealogical records. But the surprise for me was something I purchased before the course that made me take a second look at yearbooks.

Yearbooks and War Time

What have you used yearbooks for? Have you considered their use in documenting wartime? Specifically, how did the war impact a school's students, staff, and faculty? Look at this edition of The Echo from the Milwaukee State Normal School, 1919. Yes, students, their photos, and quotes feature prominently on these pages. But the other topics include students' support of the war effort on the home front, those killed in the war, and those who served. Examples include:

Gold Star Honor Men. The Gold Star signifies someone who has died in military service. The school's yearbook shares photos of the dead and their bios, including when and where they were killed. It's here that other family members such as spouses are also listed.


The School Honor Rolls lists five pages of students who served, starting with the class of 1892. Name, rank, and where they served are listed.


The Faculty Honor Roll provides images and information about faculty who served, including two women. Ruth Stewart Milne, served as a first-class yeoman in the US Navy and Lilian E Webb worked with the YMCA in France.


Other related pages document the schools' SATC program (Student Army Training Corps), a panoramic photo of the students involved, and a page detailing patriotic activities.

Why Does This Matter?

Finding some information about ancestors during this time period can be challenging. This yearbook does more than document student life; it's documenting death and military service. On top of that, we have the person's FAN Club, which is beneficial to research. Using our World War I (or even other wars like World War II) yearbooks can include much more than just school information; it may provide what we need to find other records. And it includes alumni names. Yearbooks provide social history information we can use to understand our ancestral lives better as we seek to tell their stories.

Have you considered yearbooks for finding information beyond academic life? Please share your experience in the comments below.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Finding Walter Gibson - Starting with a single document

How do you start a research project when you know little about the person you're researching? Genealogists who reunite orphan heirlooms to a descendent face this problem. This funeral card is an excellent example of how to start to identify a person, when you know only a few facts.

Take a moment to look at this funeral card.

Walter Gibson Funeral Card 1 Walter Gibson Funeral Card 2

As you see, there is nothing on the back, but the front includes

  • A design (dove, leaves, banner, etc.)
  • A name: Walter Gibson
  • A death date: December 24, 1907
  • An age: 54 years, 11 months, 16 days
  • A poem:

We miss thee from our home,

dear father,

We miss thee from thy place:

A shadow o'er our life is cast:

We miss the sunshine of thy


We miss thy kind and willing


Thy fond and earnest care:

Our home is dark without thee,

We miss thee everywhere.

  • A copyright notice

So just using that information. What do we know about Walter?

  • A father, Walter Gibson, age 54 years/11 months/16 days, died on 24 December 1907.

We know his name, his age, his death date, and that he was a father. Although the poem is a nice sentiment, likely not written by family, it does mention"father." 

Now what?

So with that, what can we do? What would our research question be? A few omissions make this difficult to research. For example, we don't know the location, and the name, Walter Gibson, isn't unique, so a place would help. A death date might not be enough to answer our research question.

What more can we do with the information on this card? We have his age, which could lead us to a birth date, which may lead to the correct Walter Gibson. His age is 54 years, 11 months, 16 days. We need to translate that into a month/day/ year .

Several tools will help you do this. One online free tool that is easy to use is an Age Calculator found on RootsWeb. To use this, enter his death date and age. The birth date was calculated to be January 8, 1853. Now obviously, this may not be correct. The funeral card could have the age wrong, but for now, we know: 

  • A father, Walter Gibson, born 8 January 1853, age 54 years/11 months/16 days, died 24 December 1907.

This might be enough to find information on Walter. Since it's best to start with the last thing we know about a person and move backward in time, we may want to consider a death certificate or obituary for the next step. An obituary might provide us with other family members' names and confirmation of the birth and death date. Because we don't know a location, we could search newspapers using his name and the year 1907 so that we focus on an obituary for a 54-year-old man named Walter Gibson, who died on December 24th. I'm also making an assumption as I research. I'm assuming that I am looking for a Walter Gibson in the United States but this could be wrong.

Utilizing several websites with newspaper collections, I found mentions of a Walter Gibson's death in Lawrence, Kansas, including this obituary in the December 25, 1907 issue of the Lawrence Daily World.


Lawrence_Daily_World_Wed__Dec_25__1907_ Walter Gibson

This obituary confirms the death date, age, and birth date (January 8) we already know about the Walter Gibson from the funeral card. Unfortunately, no mention of his family. However, the mention of his lengthy illness is confirmed in newspaper articles like this one in the Lawrence Weekly World from November 14, 1907, that he has been "quite ill for the past few weeks."

Walter Gisbon ill MyHeritage Lawrence Weekly World November 14 1907

Is this the right Walter Gibson? I think there's a good chance it is though it is in the realm of possibilities that there could be a similarly named man who died the same day. But with the correct date of birth, death, and age, I think it's him.

Next Steps

Now where do we go from here? We could continue exploring newspapers for his illness. We could search for a death certificate and burial information. These records might help uncover the names of his family. A quick search on MyHeritage reveals his gravestone.

Walter Gibson-3

So with just a few clues from the funeral card, using an online tool to calculate his birth date, and searching through historical newspapers, we now have information about Walter Gibson that we can use to further this research and even reunite the family with their ancestor's history.

Tell us about the research you've done from a single document or limited information!


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


3 Ways to Ease into Social Media to Connect with Other Genealogists

3 Ways to Ease into Social Media to Connect with Other Genealogists

Have you wanted to find other genealogists who share your enthusiasm for genealogy? Social media is a great way to connect with other genealogists whether they are close to home or live half way across the country or the world. If you're new to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it can be a little overwhelming to dive right in. Don't let that stop you from joining the online genealogy conversation.

Here are three ways you can ease into social media and connect with others. These three methods all involve interacting with content that other people have posted. The first step in getting involved is to show other people that you've connected with what they've shared.

3 Ways to Ease into Social Media to Connect with Other Genealogists

#1 Liking

Liking is the easiest way to engage with a social media post. Depending on the platform, liking consists of clicking on an icon showing a thumbs-up, heart, or another image. This indicates that you agree with the post's message. Liking only takes a second. The drawback is that if someone wants to see the names of everyone who liked the message, they need to hover their mouse over the icon to see the names of those who engaged with the post. 


The other drawback of liking is that you don't know why the person "liked" or engaged with the post. It could have been in support of the poster. It may have nothing to do with whether they agree or know the information is accurate. However, it is a good, fast way to show support.

#2 Commenting

Commenting on a post is one way to engage with the poster and its audience. As genealogists, we read social media posts that include news, methodology questions, and events. Commenting can lend support to the person posting or sharing information. So, for example, a comment can show our support to people when they are celebrating an accomplishment. 

Commenting allows us to crowdsource problems. Some genealogy groups are precisely for that purpose. For example, if you're a member of the Legacy Family Tree group, you can learn the latest and ask questions about using Legacy Family Tree. A staff member or another Legacy user will answer your question.

Replying to a comment on social media provides the opportunity to type or like a previous comment, as in this example from Facebook.


My one caution about commenting is to remember that an online conversation differs from one done face-to-face. In person, I can get clues from your body language, facial expressions, and tone that you are joking or being sarcastic. It's more difficult to judge that from a typed message. Remember that commenting doesn't allow for nuances, so keeping remarks straight and to the point is best. Keep in mind that some Facebook groups have community guidelines that must be adhered to.

#3 Reposting

On Twitter, reposting is called Retweeting. On Facebook, it's called Sharing. Simply, reposting is when you share what someone else has posted. Reposting shows the original post, and you can add information at the top. In this example from Facebook, I shared a post from Legacy to my News Feed and added some info.


Reposting is perfect for adding to the conversation by providing more information, agreeing to the post, sharing to benefit others, or supporting the poster.


Social Media is a Conversation

Stop using social media as a passive news source and start engaging. Its time for you to interact with other genealogists. I use social media to share information that will benefit others, promote my presentations and blog posts, and support the genealogy community. Social media is where we can gather, so don't scroll by, add your expertise.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

What Are Your Hidden Sources?

What Are Your Hidden Sources?

In 2000 the book, Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places by Laura Szucs Pfeiffer was published. The premise was simple. The book was essentially a list of sources that genealogists rarely used. Each article included information about that record, why it was helpful, where to find it, and additional readings. While this book is focused on American research, some of the record sets can be found outside of the United States and may help the reader consider what records they are missing in their research. 

When this book was published, I devoured it. I wanted to know how to do good genealogical research. That quest required me to know records that held genealogical context, including records that genealogists didn't typically use. Now, mind you, this was when many of these records had to be found by doing in-person research at a government office, library, or archive. While there were a few items online, there wasn't anywhere the number of digitized records we enjoy today.

Some of the records discussed in the book are today considered familiar online records, such as city directories, newspapers, obituaries, military records, court records, and deeds. The main reason they are familiar to today's researchers is the benefit of digitized documents. As more records are made available, we as researchers become more familiar with records that were once difficult to obtain and may have been ignored because of the difficulty. That's why even if an older relative researched your ancestors, you need to see what you can find. Access to records changes over time.

But even today, some of the records written about in Hidden Sources are still what I would consider "hidden" or unusual. They include:

  • Admiralty Papers
  • American State Papers
  • Bankruptcies
  • Fraternal Organization Records
  • Homestead Records
  • Necrologies
  • US Government Documents and Publications
  • Works Progress Administration records

As I peruse the book today, I realize I use most of the records listed and benefit from the digitization of many. But there are some I have never used and don't think about when researching.

One of the records mentioned in the book is midwife records. I have seen some of these records, but overall I haven't used them in research. And although I do know where some are located, I need to do a better job of looking at what might exist where my ancestors lived. I plan to work on this gap in my record knowledge.

So my question for you is, what are unusual or hidden record sources that you haven't used? What records do you want to know more about?


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Three Resource Wikis for Genealogy

Remember when you were young and needed to know more about a subject? You might go to the library (or your front room if you were lucky) and consult an encyclopedia. The encyclopedia had articles on just about everything. 

Today, encyclopedias exist online, but they are not the only works to consult. Wikis are like crowdsourced encyclopedias that can help you with answers to your questions. They introduce a subject, define key terms, and help you learn about a subject. All kinds of wikis exist, with the most familiar being Wikipedia. For genealogists, there are some genealogy-specific wikis that can help us learn more and conduct better research. The following are three examples.

FamilySearch Research Wiki 

FS Wiki


Any discussion of wikis has to begin with the wiki that is synonymous with the phrase "genealogy wiki." The FamilySearch Research Wiki has over 105,000 articles (and growing) about everything from locations to methodology to individual records. Use it to better understand the location you're researching and what records exist. Also, check the wiki for record sets found on FamilySearch.

Remember that this is not a place to search for your ancestor. The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a place to learn about genealogy, record types, methodology, and research in your ancestor's location.



The ISOGG Wiki (International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki) is the place to learn about genetic genealogy. According to the homepage, "The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) was founded in 2005 by DNA project administrators who shared a common vision: the promotion and education of genetic genealogy. Our mission is to advocate for and educate about genetics as a genealogical research tool and promote a supportive network for genetic genealogists. This wiki was established for the benefit and education of the genetic genealogy community."

With 734 articles currently, you can learn more about DNA tests, DNA testing companies, methodology, and topics of interest to those searching for birth parents. Take some time to scroll down the homepage to learn more about how to search the wiki.



A German wiki, this website explains: "The aim of the GenWiki is to collect information from all areas that are important for genealogical research and to make it freely accessible. Above all, GenWiki wants to help people to help themselves. The aim is not to present finished research results or theories, but to provide instruments and show ways and means that every genealogist needs or must know to achieve their research results." Use the menu on the left or the center to find pages of interest.

What Wiki Are You Reading?

Wiki's can be helpful to refer to when you are researching. They can enhance what you know about research, a location, or a methodology. If you're not using a wiki already, try some searches today and see how you can enhance your research. 


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


How to Analyze a Letter for Genealogical Clues

How to Analyze a Letter for Genealogical Clues

Last week we discussed analyzing envelopes, so this week, let's look at what lies within the envelope, a letter.

Like an envelope, there's more than meets the eye when looking at a letter. The letter may not seem to hold genealogical value because it does not include vital record events, but it can provide insight into both the writer and the receiver's lives.

Analyze and Transcribe

As you begin your analysis, take a look at the letter and note:

  • Who is the letter addressed?
  • Who is the letter from?
  • What are the dates listed?
  • What is the return address?

Most of us know there is a standard format to letter writing, but that format may or may not be present in a letter written to a family member. The information listed above provides some foundation information about the letter that should be noted as you transcribe and analyze.

Now, transcribe the letter. You may be asking, why? In my opinion, not only does transcribing the letter make it easier to read (in the case of handwritten letters), it helps to preserve the letter, and it also allows you to annotate and make a note of important aspects of the letter, such as:

  • Names
  • Places
  • Events
  • Descriptions
  • Stories

As you transcribe, you can use square brackets [ ] to add information, add clarification, or correct misspellings. You could even use tools in your word document program to highlight and add comments.

Once you have transcribed the letter, you might want to add a page to summarize what you have learned from the letter. What are the key points? What information should be followed up on in records or newspapers? What questions do you have? What are your research plan and research questions?

I also like to create a timeline in a table. In the first column, I add the date the letter was written (or postmarked) and list them chronologically in the first column). Subsequent columns include the place, the name of the writer/recipient, a few points of the letter, and a source citation. You can also add a column to include next steps or records to look for.

Letters as Genealogy Sources

Letters are an excellent genealogical source, regardless of who wrote or received them in your family. Analyzing them can lead to clues and records that will enhance your genealogy. Take some time to take a second look at the letters in your files to enhance your family history story.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



How to Analyze an Envelope for Genealogical Clues

How to Analyze an Envelope for Genealogical Clues

I love antique stores. When I go to an antique store, there are a few items I can't resist. Yes, vintage cookbooks are a weakness, but another is one that many genealogists have. I can't resist the allure of vintage postcards and letters.

I am naturally curious about history and people who lived generations ago. Their writings can help us understand them, their lives, and their era. So I buy other people's correspondence, take them home, and then get to transcribing, researching, and analyzing. Researching those letter writers and receivers is a natural step. That requires transcribing names, dates, and places and then seeking out those names in "name lists," such as the census or city directories. But how do we analyze correspondence before we even start the research?

We must consider all parts of the correspondence as essential, not just what the letter tells us. One often overlooked item is the envelope. 

The Envelope.

Letter 3 annotated

1. Recipient's name and address. 2. Sender's name and address 3. Postmark 4. Stamp 5. Cancellation


What can an envelope tell us? Consider the following:

  1. Type of envelope. What is the size and color? Is it part of a letterhead set?
  2. The front of the envelope. Notice the envelope in general. Is the envelope hand addressed or typewritten? What language are the words in?
    • Who is the letter from? Is there a name and return address? Is it from a different person or the person receiving the letter?
    • Who is the letter addressed to? Is there a formal title (for example, Mrs./Miss/Dr) if it is addressed to a "Mrs"? Is the name that follows her husband's? Is the name a "proper" name, a nickname, or incorrect?
    • What address is the letter addressed to? Is it a street address, "general delivery," a P.O. Box, APO, or a non-residence?
    • If this letter is part of a letter collection, timeline the addresses to determine the recipient's movements.
    • Is a postage stamp used? If so, what kind? You can look online or in a stamp catalog to learn more about it. If there is no postage stamp, why?
    • What does the postmark indicate? What place, date, and time (if applicable) was the letter postmarked? Is it far from the return address? Was it postmarked several times in different places? How did the envelope travel? (by air, for example?)
    • What about the stamp's cancellation mark? Does the cancelation mark have words or just lines? Does it appear to have been done by a machine, a stamp, or a hand? Does it provide any clues?
    • Are there other marks on the envelope, such as a black line outlining the shape, that may indicate a death?
  3. The back of the envelope
    • Is there any writing on the back? Perhaps a return address or a note?

Studying the envelope might explain how a person was addressed at a particular time, whether they were married or not, and possible immigrant origins.

Philatelic + Genealogy

Haven't considered the envelopes of your ancestral letters before? It's an excellent time to take a second look. The website PhilGen has several articles that include an analysis of envelopes that you might find helpful. The website's author, James R. Miller, has written a book that further delves into the topic. "Philatelic Genealogy, Old Envelopes, Letters, and Postcards as Genealogical Sources presents 100 old envelopes and postcards to show how they serve as sources of genealogical information." Websites such as Linn's Stamp News provides information about the history of stamps worldwide. Postal museums may include online articles and exhibits that can shed light on our ancestor's use of the postal system of their country. Wikipedia has a list of postal museums by country.

As we analyze sources left behind by our ancestors, we need to consider the whole source and, in the case of correspondence, including the envelope. Taking a second look might provide you with additional clues to follow up.

Next read: How to Analyze a Letter for Genealogical Clues


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Finding and Using Digital Collections for Genealogy

Finding and Using Digital Collections for Genealogy

Are you using digital collections in your genealogical research? They are an essential resource that can easily be accessed from your home or in the repository you are researching. 

What are Digital Collections?

Digital collections are one of the benefits of an online repository that can scan and host all types of records, images, periodicals, and books. Anderson Archival defines a digital collection or a digital library as:

 …any collection of files that has been digitally preserved and is accessible on the Internet or through software. A digital library may contain manuscripts, newspapers, books, journals, images, audio, and video.[1]

For family historians, digital collections provide ease of access to documents, images, books, periodicals, and other materials that would typically require us to travel to a repository.

Where to Find Digital Collections

Digital collections can be hosted by libraries, archives, museums, businesses, or even individuals. While some are housed at a repository in a specific location (for example, the New York Public Library), that doesn't mean they only have materials for their city, state, or country. Exploring large repository digital collections may provide opportunities to discover items pertinent to the family or location you are researching.

Digital collections exist because of the dedication or mission of the entity that wants to take items they house and make them available either for free or by an online subscription. It makes sense that a university might scan and make available its yearbooks and then make available subscription digital collections for their students and faculty. In addition, there are examples of individuals making digitized materials available from their own collection or because of their passion for that record (consider Thomas Tryniski's Fulton History).

As you contemplate your research, consider what repositories exist in your research location and the state/province. Then look at their websites and notice any digital collections pertinent to your research. In addition, consider more extensive national and international collections to add to your research plan.

Examples of Digital Collections

The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list of digital collections, they are instead some that you might want to look into or will inspire you to search for those that would benefit your research:


Because it's online doesn't mean you can use a digitized item for publishing projects. Digital collections provide copyright statements. Consult these before using the digitized item in any publication online or off.

What Digital Collections are you Using?

Are you using a digital collection for your research? Is it a collection not mentioned above? Please share with us your favorites. Together we may discover digital collections that can break down a research brick wall.

[1] "What Is a Digital Collection or a Digital Library?" Anderson Archival ( accessed 8 February 2023).


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Finding Online Records

Finding Online Records

Most likely, you have heard of and/or used the FamilySearch Research Wiki. There's a lot to love about the wiki, with its over 105,000 articles about locations, records, and genealogy methodology. But there's one wiki page you should be looking at each and every time you start researching a specific location.

That Blue Button

When you search the FamilySearch Research Wiki by location, such as a country or a state/province, you will have access to information that can help you further your knowledge of that area and the existing records. But there's a shortcut to help you understand what records are online to help you start your research.

FS Canada Wiki homepage

This blue button is labeled [Location] Online Genealogy Records. Click on it to find a list of links for online genealogy records. These links are for records found within FamilySearch and other websites, including subscription websites.

FS Wiki

These online records links are grouped according to category. These subject categories will be familiar to those who use the FamilySearch Catalog. These categories include the following, as well as additional categories that are specific to that country or region:

  • Vital Records (subcategories: Birth, Marriage, Death, and Divorce)
  • Adoption
  • Bible Records
  • Biographies
  • Business Records
  • Cemetery Records
  • Census
  • Church Records
  • Compiled Genealogies
  • Court and Criminal Records
  • Cultural Groups
  • Directories
  • Histories
  • Immigration Records
  • Land Records
  • Military
  • Naturalization
  • Newspapers
  • Obituaries
  • Occupations
  • Periodicals
  • Probate Records
  • Religious Records
  • School Records
  • Taxation
  • Voter Lists

The list will indicate the title of the collection, the entity that hosts the collection (such as FamilySearch), if the collection includes indexes and/or images, and if there is a cost (indicated by a "$"). You should start with the country, then go to the state/province page, and then you can search a county page, but those pages will only contain links for a larger region (depending on what is available).

FS Alberta wiki

Keep in mind that for a country or state/province page it will not show links for records "lower jurisdictions." A country list will not include links for a state or province, and a state/province page won't show links to a county or parish.

Why Click the Blue Button?

There's no doubt that exhausting what's online is an excellent first step to researching an ancestor. Once you exhaust online sources, you can move on to identifying what you need from a library, archive, or government office. These lists of online records are incredibly helpful as you scan them but keep in mind that they might not include everything. The FamilySearch Wiki is a wiki, and because it relies on a community to update it, it may not include everything it should. However, the blue button is a great first step to understanding what is available online.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.