An Oops Moment Using the Family Search Catalog
June 26, 2023
I suppose everyone has an oops moment occasionally. I had one this week with the Family Search catalog.
Like nearly every other genealogist, I use Family Search (https://www.familysearch.org/en/) frequently. It’s on my list of go-to sites. I consider myself a seasoned user of the site.
As most people know, Family Search is a free genealogical website provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I’ve used its various features for years. My favorite part of the website is the Family Search Catalog.
The catalog is a guide to all the various genealogical resources available through Family Search. Some can be accessed online; others cannot.
After a hiatus of several months, this week I returned to an ongoing project to find out more about my Loyalist ancestor’s family. Parshall Terry, the Loyalist in my family, had two wives and with them he fathered approximately fifteen children (some died young and may or may not belong in this family).
My goal has been to find out what happened to Parshall’s sons and daughters. Some of them remained in Canada; others returned to the United States. This week I’ve been spending some time looking for records relating to those distant cousins who stayed in Canada. Most of them remained in the province of Ontario.
Family Search has a large collection of Ontario records, and I’ve been checking what is available. For example, I discovered a set of Ontario probate records that I hoped would provide me with information about my family. Even better, the records were digitized. The only catch was that the catalog informed me the records were only viewable at a local Family History Center or in Salt Lake City at the Family History Center.
Yesterday, I decided to check the catalog for other Ontario records. As I clicked onto the Family Search website, I noticed that I wasn’t signed into Family Search. While Family Search is free, they do ask you to register and sign in. You can search without signing in, but you will get much better access to records if you’re signed in.
At that point I had a major light bulb moment. Since I’d taken a few months off from researching, I’d forgotten about signing into Family Search (I’ve been using the site long enough to remember when you didn’t need an account so it’s not a surprise I reverted to old habits). I signed in and immediately had access to those probate records that had been locked to me earlier.
Since then, I’ve been digging into wills and other probate records for my relatives – all from the comfort of my own home.
The takeaway from all of this is that it’s important to check out the procedures of any website that you plan to use, even if you’ve used it for years. This is especially true if you haven’t visited it for a while. Things may have changed while you’ve been gone, or you may have simply forgotten its specific procedures.
You might just get lucky like I did and find a trove of records available to you!