Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Version of the Find-A-Record Research Assistant

Today we released a new version of the Find-A-Record Research Assistant. It is now focused on finding specific research opportunities for you. It scans your tree in FamilySearch and tells you where work needs to be done. Our goal is to help beginners get started with their research and to help experienced genealogists when they don't know where to work next.

There are five different types of opportunities:

  1. People who are missing information, such as birth or death facts.
  2. People who are missing relationships, such as parents or spouses.
  3. People with information that is not supported by a record.
  4. People with information that is obviously wrong, such as dying before you were born.
  5. People with messy and duplicate data, such as multiple events for the same marriage.
Each opportunity contains specific details that guide you through the research. We tell you where to search for records and how to update information in the Family Tree.

While working on this new version, we often got sucked into doing research because the Research Assistant makes it so easy to be productive. We know it will be helpful for you too.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Updates to Research Assistant and the Chrome Extension

The Find-A-Record Research Assistant has been updated to now display information about marriages. For each spouse a person had, the records attached to that relationship in the Family Tree will be shown. If a marriage date and place is available for the relationship then we will also show collections where you might be able to find marriage records.

The Find-A-Record Chrome Extension was updated so that it now sends you to the Research Assistant from ancestor profiles in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Previously, the B M D buttons displayed prominently on the left side of the screen. We have removed those and instead put in icon on the right side of the URL bar, as is more conventional for Chrome Extensions. When the icon is clicked, it will send you to the Research Assistant page for that ancestor.

Old buttons inserted by the Find-A-Record Chrome Extension
New URL icon inserted by the Find-A-Record Chrome Extension
This change only affects the FamilySearch Family Tree. The B M D buttons will still appear in Ancestry member trees.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Discovering Fred Kiefer's First Wife

During the development and testing of the Find-A-Record Research Assistant, it helped me find the SSDI entry of many of my ancestors including my great-grandfather Fred William Kiefer. Fred was born March 16, 1883 in Oakley, Summit, Utah. On September 9, 1924 he married Ida Dolder. Fred died January 30, 1964 in Idaho.

While reviewing his profile on the Research Assistant, I noticed the Idaho, Death and Burials collection from FamilySearch. Since his entry in the SDDI index didn't provide too many details, I hoped to find a more helpful death record.

Clicking the Idaho, Deaths and Burials, 1907-1965 link took me to FamilySearch and searched that collection for Fred William Kiefer. One result was found: a death certificate for Nan Kiefer where F. W. Kiefer was listed as the spouse.

This was obviously not my F. W. Kiefer because mine was married to Ida. But there was only one person in that area at that time who ever went by F. W. Kiefer. And then I noticed that Nan died in 1918, six years before Fred married Ida. I needed to know more. A quick search for a marriage record on FamilySearch returned nothing[1]. I would have to do this the hard way; I would need to learn more about who Nan was.

A search for Nan Kiefer born in Minnesota returned another version of Nan's death record that included an image. F. W. Kiefer wasn't listed as the spouse, he was just listed as the informant. Could we infer that W. W. was the spouse? First, the record didn't have a place to list the spouse. I think that was a huge oversight, especially since they asked for the parents names and places of birth, but nonetheless there was no place on the form to list the spouse. Second, Nan was married (not widowed) and her married surname was Kiefer. With F. W. being listed as the informant, it is most likely that he was the spouse.

Thankfully, Nan's parents were listed on the death record as P. A. Cenell and Mary Munson. Another stroke of luck is that Cenell is a very uncommon name in the U.S. Further searching revealed a wealth of information on Nan (Nannie) and her family[2] but no definitive evidence that her husband F. W. Kiefer was my great-grandfather Fred.

Then I thought to search for a marriage record on Ancestry instead of FamilySearch. Sure enough, marriage records were available. Even more surprising is that the top results were from collections that were given to Ancestry by FamilySearch. So I returned to FamilySearch determined to defeat the darn search engine and find that marriage record. I accomplished it by doing a collection specific search for Fred Kiefer in Utah Marriages. The birth date and location on the marriage record confirmed that it was my Fred. What a story it revealed.

Nan died from pneumonia and influenza just four years into her marriage with Fred. They had no children. Six years after her death, Fred married Ida Dolder and had two children. Thirty years after Nan's death, Fred's daughter Clara (from his second wife) would also contract pneumonia, only this time the recent development of antibiotics would save her life. Clara is my grandmother, and she's still alive today.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Find-A-Record Research Assistant

We have released a new feature called the Find-A-Record Research Assistant. After logging in to the FamilySearch Family Tree, the Research Assistant helps you find new records for your ancestors.

We would love to receive feedback about the Research Assistant. Leave comments below or use the Feedback link at the top of our website.