FamilySearch, a service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, provides free to the public the largest collection of genealogy records in the world. There is a natural progression in working with the databases. The Research Wiki will provide guidance and important information on the locations being searched. The online search system can find individuals already in indexed records. It is then possible to browse through online images of records that have not yet been indexed. Finally, the researcher will work through microfilmed original documents, such as parish records.
Using FamilySearch Databases
Access the Research Wiki from the FamilySearch website main page by selecting "Learn" on the menu banner across the top of the page.
Enter into the search box the name of the locality that you want to investigate. The box will autofill once you begin typing. For example, type in "Cavalier," and "Cavalier County, North Dakota" automatically pops up in the search field. The search yields 9 articles including an overview of the county and genealogical resources, North Dakota church records and an article on Norwegian settlements in North Dakota.
Type an individual's name into the search box on the FamilySearch home page, and click "Enter." This is the main tool to examine and investigate indexed records already in the database. Searches for people and places in English-speaking countries and countries in Europe yield the best results, but ongoing worldwide transcription projects add millions of new records every month.
Scan the results list from the search, and find the one that is most likely the person you are investigating. Record the information for your records. The "Advanced Search" option allows you to enter location and other family members to narrow your search.
Select the general area where your ancestors lived from the "Browse by Location" option at the bottom of the main page of the FamilySearch website. Narrow the options using the menus on the left until the current set of databases for the area is shown. Many of these will be digitized images of documents, collections or parish records that have not yet been indexed. If the number of records is listed beside the title, then it has been indexed. If the phrase "Browse Images" is there, it is possible that the document contains valuable information. The document will need to be scanned online, page by page, to find the relevant entry.
Select "Catalog" from the main page of the FamilySearch website. The default search is for place name, and entering a place name will return the current document, book and microfilm holdings of the library. If there is a microfilm available that has not yet been digitized, which at this time includes most of the microfilms in the library, it can be ordered by individuals.
Ordering and Reading Microfilm from FamilySearch
Click on the "FamilySearch Centers" option from the main page of the FamilySearch website. Enter your location to see where the closest FamilySearch Center is located -- there are more than 4,500 facilities around the world. If it is feasible to go to the Center, then it is possible to order microfilms of original documents and read them at the Center. Visit the Center to receive free training on ordering microfilm.
Write down the film numbers of the relevant films found from the catalog search process. Make sure to look at the "Film Notes" for an entry to ensure that the correct film numbers are selected. Many catalog entries refer to a number of films generally broken down by dates in order to fit on a film.
Go to the FamilySearch site for microfilm ordering. On the first visit, it will be necessary to create a membership identity and register if you have not already done so. Membership is free, but it does require an email address and a credit card.
Order the microfilms that you have selected. Type the number of each film into the order form. Films are mailed out to the nearest FamilySearch Center, and a charge to your credit card is made to cover mailing costs only -- there is no charge to use the FamilySearch Center equipment or computers. The microfilms are available for reading for three months, but your can extend if you need more time.
Read and research the film when it arrives at the Center. Working through original documents is essential to research family history earlier than the 1800s. Most government vital records started about 1820 to 1850.