Family Search: A Vastly Underused Resource

Janet Wahlburg

I recently returned from my annual trip to Salt Lake City where I spent many hours researching in the Family History Library. This is the largest repository of Genealogical resources in the world. It is owned and managed by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. You may know them as the Mormon Church. Their web site is Family Search and is a wealth of information for genealogical research. As I work with others who are doing family research, especially those who are new to the process, I find that many people are not familiar with this site. One very important fact about it is that it is free.

There are any ways to search the site; records, catalog, books, family trees, genealogies, and the Research wiki. It is this last category that I will focus on. The Research wiki is a how-to genealogy course within itself. And it does so for every conceivable ethnic group in the world.

Go to the Family Search Site. It will ask you to sign in, so you will want to create a username and password. This will allow you to take full advantage of the site. Now click on the Search Tab on the to banner. As it drops down look for the Research wiki label and click on this. When this page opens, you will see a map and a box that you can type in. If you know the specific country or ethnic group that you wish to research, type it in the box. If you prefer, you can use the map as it is interactive. Simply click on the area of the world that you wish to learn about. This will open with a list of all the countries in that region of the world. Select the one that you wish to research and click on it and it will take you to that Wiki page.

Keep in mind that the basic titles that I will share appear in nearly every wiki. For this article I have typed in Sweden. Now click on the go button and it will take you to the wiki for Sweden. The first title that you will see is Getting Started with Sweden Research. Under this you will find seven titles including finding place of origin, birth, marriage and death records. Click on the various titles for a brief tutorial in these topics.

You will want to look at the title Sweden Research Tools next. The items listed here are essential to finding your way through the records. You will find the Swedish word list most helpful as you progress in your research. Many of the wikis have a guide to words that you will encounter in that language.

On the right side of the page is a list of record types available. Some of the examples that you will use the most are Church Records, and Household exams. Look at each of the titles to get a perspective of the wealth of record types available. Remember that these titles are repeated in all of the wikis regardless of the country or ethnic group you are looking at.

You will also find a section titled Sweden Background that includes history, biography, maps, customs, holidays, word lists and many other topics. Reading through this section will give you a great foundation for learning about the country that you are working in.

Each country has a large button titled Link to Online records. This opens to a list that is organized into subject heading such as Birth, Marriage, and Death records, Emigration, Cemeteries, Court records, and many others. Clicking on these will take you directly to those sites. Sites with a cost to them display a $ sign.

The clickable interactive maps on each of the wiki sites allow you to select the area that you wish to look at closer and it will open to that site and give you the same subject headings as the larger geographic entity.

The various topics often give you a bit of background to the topic as well as giving you specific information on how to conduct that area of research. As I mentioned at the opening to this article Family Search is a vastly underused resource and it is free. I have been researching for many years but use it often to learn about a new topic or to refresh my self on a topic that I have not used for some time. Give it a try.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.