Full disclosure: I love the FamilySearch Catalog! For those collections that are available online, and the books that have been digitized, there are tens of thousands to choose from. For the online collections and books, I can use my PC at home to scroll through digitized page after digitized page, just as if I had my own microfilm reader, only without the hassle.
But, there are a couple of hidden secrets that you need to know if you wish to maximize your results. And they are not easy to discover, which is why I am relating them to you now.
Secret 1 – Use Keyword Searches
The first secret relates to searching through the catalog for records. Let’s first look at the catalog’s search box.
The logical place to start is to enter the place for which the collections have been digitized.
The first two screens are where I enter the Place, and the Online catalog will show me which collections are available.
As you can see, it presents me with (1) Funeral Home collection. Only 1. This is what is presented when I click on that line – a collection for Pierce Brothers Mortuary.
Now for the Secret Trick that will optimize the number of collections returned to you
Secret 1 – Always use keyword searching when looking for online collections from the FS Catalog, and make sure that you click the Online button before clicking on Search. You will receive way more pertinent results.
When searching in FamilySearch, however you are doing it, you need to first have a free account and be logged in (or signed in). It is really easy to sign up.
But here is the kicker – FamilySearch logs me out all the time when I am using the site, unbeknownst to me. I am going to show you the results of a FamilySearch Catalog search, and one of the collections that is in the results list.
The first image example is when I am logged in, and the second image example when I have been logged out, and I will show you the differences.
The differences are stark when you are looking for online collections, which I will discuss.
Nope. See at the bottom under “Format”? The logged in image has a camera icon, and the logged out image has a camera with a key.
What’s the difference, you ask?
Near the bottom of each collection page under Film/Digital Notes is the name of each sub-collection. If there is a camera icon at the right of the name (in the Format column) then the collections’ images are browsable online. If there is a camera with a key icon, it is only available at a Family History Center or affiliated library. If there is a film reel icon, then it is only available in microfilm format, not digital. Finally, if there is a magnifying glass icon, the collection is searchable.
Secret 1 – Always stay logged in. And regularly check if you are on the site for a long time, because FamilySearch will log you out regularly if you are on a long time, and you won’t even know it unless you look at the top right of each page where it tells you if you are signed in or not.
That’s all there is to optimizing your results that you can browse through – online – at home – in your PJs if you are so inclined!