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Searching the New FindMyPast

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Count me among the thousands of frustrated users of subscription genealogy website, FindMyPast, who woke up one day last month to find their search experience turned upside down. For those of you who were already using FindMyPast.com, this probably hasn't been a blip on your radar as the search features on the US .com site have been in place for over a year. However, those of us who preferred the search features of the original UK version of the site have some serious changes to get used to. Here are a few resources to get you started:

FindMyPast Responds to Website Criticism - An informative Q&A from Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine published on 8 April 2014.

ReviewCentre.com: FindMyPast.co.uk - Upset reviews from customers, some valid and some just griping. But if you want to learn more about what the fuss is all about...

How to Search FindMyPast - This recent blog post from FindMyPast provides some basic tips for navigating their new search features. The goal of the new interface seems to be to make it easier to search across multiple record sets, but also seems to cause additional scrolling and refining if you (like me) generally prefer to search within a particular record set or location.

My suggestion would be to always begin a search by selecting a particular record set from the "Search" tab at the top of each page (e.g. Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records), or use the "A-Z of record sets" link to search a particular collection (this will take you to the most detailed search form specific to that record set so you don't have to wade through so many irrelevant results). On the A-Z page, first select your country/region of interest, and then use the search box to narrow to the specific type of record you are looking for. For example, selecting "United Kingdom" and then entering "marriage" in the search box, brings up this list of Marriage Records. Alternatively, you can rank the complete list by category and sub-category.

FindMyPast: What's New -- Keep up with all of the search features and tree features as they are added, including some of the search options that were previously available on the UK site and are now being added to the new search (such as the ability to filter UK census search results by gender).

A Handy Video Guide to FindMyPast's New Features - There are still a lot of search features missing for long dedicated users, but if you are only an occasional user of FindMyPast this video will help you become familiar with their new search features.

Findmypast's new site - mismanaged or misunderstood? - Peter Calver shares some great FindMyPast search suggestions in his Lost Cousins newsletter.

The new search does represent a few improvements. There is the option to search census records with a combination of different fields such as occupation and relationship to the head of househhold, for example, but other features are still in "refinement" mode such as the popular ability to search by street address. While they may not have handled the new search rollout as well as they could have, FindMyPast seems to be responding to user suggestions and making changes.

Did You Turn the Page?

Tuesday April 15, 2014

You've found your ancestor's name in an online database, and better yet you can even view the actual digitized record, possibly packed with more details than you were hoping to discover. It's so easy to stop right there and celebrate! Yet, no matter where you find that "ah ha!" clue to your ancestor, take a deep breath and calm yourself down long enough to turn the page. Browse the index at the back of the book. Turn over that marriage record and look at the back. Click the "previous" and "next" buttons to view additional pages in an online record collection. Flip to the beginning and end of the record set to learn more about the records, or view addendums.

Just because your answer isn't found in alphabetical or chronological order doesn't mean it's not there. And finding an answer doesn't mean there isn't even more to see. Here are just a few of many, many examples where turning the page, whether physically or virtually, may yield additional information on your ancestors. Read More...

Researching French-Canadian Ancestors

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Even if you can't read French, tracing French-Canadian and Acadian ancestors can be easier than many people expect due to the excellent record keeping of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada and the remarkable level of French-Canadian records preservation. Generally, all you need to begin a search are the names of the couple married in Quebec, or the Maritime Provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), and parts of Maine (U.S.), and an approximate marriage date. From there you can often extend the family line back many generations, in some cases to the village or parish of origin in France. It's also not uncommon to find ancestors in the border states such as Vermont and New Hampshire living in the United States, but marrying or baptizing children in Canada...or just moving back and forth across the border.
Researching French-Canadian Ancestors

Using DNA to Solve Adoption Mysteries

Tuesday April 1, 2014

DNA adoption. Photo by Getty Images/Cultura/Liam NorrisStories of DNA being used to help solve an adoption mystery have been in the news quite a bit in recent months, inspiring many adoptees to look into using DNA as a tool in their adoption search. Case in point, a recent article by Erin Alberty in the Salt Lake City Tribune tells the heartwarming story of two parents and the son they gave away for adoption almost 50 years ago recently reuniting because they both happened to have their DNA tested with AncestryDNA. Ken Drake took the test out of curiosity about his ethnicity, while Richard Larsen, the biological uncle of Ken Drake, received the test as a Christmas present from one of his daughters. Both families were surprised but excited when the DNA test turned up a "close match" between the two men.

Now before you adoptees out there get your hopes up, most DNA searches aren't quite this easy. As a matter of fact, this wasn't exactly a search at all --- more luck than anything. However, some of you will get lucky and may find a close biological family member has also tested. The rest of you still have hope as well, as genetic genealogists and adoption groups have worked hard to formulate tools and methodologies for using DNA to help connect adoptees with their birth families. It can be an interesting, but emotional ride, and you may find you happen to match some genealogists out there who--like me--don't mind taking out a few hours to investigate our shared matches and what that might tell you about your biological family. If you don't have the time or interest in learning how to use the technology yourself, you can hire a genetic genealogy expert who specializes in this type of research.

All of those who are not adopted benefit as well, as these same methodologies and tools can be applied to any number of our own tough genealogical mysteries...

Learn how in Using DNA in Your Adoption Search.

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