The wealth of records on FamilySearch is constantly growing—sometimes so quickly that even experienced researchers aren’t aware of everything that’s available. There’s no way one article could cover all of FamilySearch’s record collections. Instead, I’ve chosen to highlight a few of the most exciting collections: some are newly released and growing collections, and some are tried and true collections. (If you didn’t know record collections could be exciting, that’s because you haven’t tried these yet!)
1. Italian Civil Registration Records
Civil registration records, which are vital records kept by the government, are some of the most important records for discovering families in Italy. These birth, marriage, and death records as well as unique state of the family records as early as 1806 and can provide details needed to link families together. Although this collection is still a work in progress, there are already many of these records online, and FamilySearch currently has 25 cameras filming more. Only a small percentage of these records have been indexed so far, but many are available for browsing. Browse the collection here. Choose Italy from the map, and type in your ancestor’s hometown, or use the box under “Find a Collection.” Check back often as more records are being added all the time.
2. US Marriages Records
At RootsTech in 2016, FindMyPast announced the US Marriages Project, a partnership with FamilySearch, which will be the largest collection of US marriage records in history. This will be done by digitizing and indexing marriage records covering 350 years for over 2,800 US counties and will include 450 million names. Although the collection will be found in its entirety only on FindMyPast and on FamilySearch for LDS members with FamilySearch accounts and at family history centers around the world, many US marriage records are already digitized, indexed, and available for everyone at FamilySearch. Try searching for marriage records in your ancestor’s county to see what’s available. If you don’t find what you’re looking for now, try again in a few months since this collection is still growing.
3. Freedmen’s Bureau Records
Just last summer, FamilySearch, in conjunction with the National Archives and Records Administration, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the California African American Museum, completed the Freedmen’s Bureau Project in which included indexing and making available online the genealogically important portions of the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. Created in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau helped the recently freed slaves adjust to their new lives. The records include nearly 1.8 billion names in marriage, hospital, school, and land records as well as labor contracts, affidavits, letters and other items. Although their usefulness extends to anyone with ancestors in the South in that period, they are particularly valuable in helping descendants of slaves link back to the pre-Civil War era.
4. Census Records (US and Beyond)
Anyone tracing their US family needs to know that FamilySearch has the indexed US census records—the most used collection on FamilySearch. US Census records began in 1790 and are available through 1940 (later census records are still protected by privacy laws). These aren’t the only census records available on FamilySearch; the index for the British censuses are also available here; although, to see the actual images, you will need to go to FindMyPast where fees may apply. Other countries, such as Canada, Argentina, Denmark, the Netherlands and some states in Germany kept at least periodic census records that are now available at FamilySearch as well. Many US states also took occasional censuses. To see what FamilySearch has, type “census” in the search box for the historical records collections.