Tips for using browse-only records
Of course, it can be very tedious browsing these records and it is much harder than using search fields. However, these record sets can be a “gold mine” and may even help you break down a brick wall. Remember, if these records haven’t been indexed on FamilySearch, it’s unlikely that will have been on Ancestry either. So, they’re definitely worth investigating!
Before you start browsing a record set, it’s a good idea to have a look at the other sets from that area. Sometimes, you may find an index that hasn’t been digitized, so won’t be in the general search.
For an example of this, if you are looking for church records in Quebec, Canada, there is a record set called “Quebec Index to Civil Copy of Church Records, 1642-1902” You can drill down a few steps and eventually you’ll get to scans of alphabetical lists where you can find, names, dates and churches. With this information, you can then go to the parish register for that church, and scroll through until you find the right year and name.
Some parish registers have indexes at the start of each year, written at the time by the minister. If you are not sure of a year, it’s easier to find an index first and to look for a name. If the name is not on the index for that year, go to the next one, and so on.
This is what I do if I can’t find an index, but I have an idea which parish an event took place in:
It’s often much slower looking through scanned images on a computer than using a microfiche reader in an archive. So, rather than browsing a whole register on my laptop, I’ll try and work out which pages I need to look at and just focus on those. For example, if a baptism register has 1100 pages and covers the years, say, 1842-1896 (ie 54 years), that gives an average of just over 20 pages per year.
If I think a person was born around 1860, I’ll start by looking at 1858-1862. So, this should approximately be pages 320-420. I’ll make a note of the pages I look at so as not to go over them again. If I don’t find the record I need in those pages, I’ll keep going with other page ranges until (hopefully) I find it.
Of course, this will have to be repeated several times with different parishes, if you’re not sure where an event took place.
I’ve previously written about how historical books can help you with your research and where to find them. FamilySearch has a huge collection of digitized books that can be very useful to genealogists. These books include family histories and local histories that reference families.
Please note that some books can’t be accessed online (those with protected access), but you can usually view them by visiting your local Family History Center. However, most books can be viewed online; you can focus your search to just the unrestricted books by selecting access level “Public”.
A note of caution though; often references in a book about a specific family are unsourced, so you need to verify them. They can, however point you in the right direction and can be very useful.
For tips on better searching see this post.
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