Finding “Hidden” Records on FamilySearch


If you are reading this, you are most likely familiar with searching for records on FamilySearch.  What you may not be familiar with are three types of “hidden” records you can utilize on FamilySearch – images that aren’t indexed but are part of a partially indexed collection; browse collections; and digitized microfilm collections in the catalog.

Hidden Record Type 1:

Images that aren’t indexed but are part of a partially indexed collection.  I will use some Québec records as my example.  Let’s start with the Québec search page on FamilySearch:

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You will notice at the top of the page it reads, “Québec Indexed Historical Records”.  It is important to note that not everything in this list is completely indexed.  As I scroll down the page I can see a list of Québec records, which also includes larger collections that have Québec records in them.

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Only a few collections are showing until I click “Show all 21 Collections”.

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As I scroll down the list, I am looking for any collection that has a camera beside it.  That means there are images in the collection.  Close to the bottom is a collection entitled, “Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979”.  It has a camera icon which means there are images in the collection and it lists that there are 79,535 indexed records in the collection.  The question I have is, are there more records in the collection that aren’t indexed?  I simply click on the collection to go to the search page.

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Once I am on the search page I scroll to the bottom.  The collection has a browse option at the bottom that reads, “Browse through 1,399,175 images”.  This means that in this collection of 1,399,175 images, there are a little over 1.3 million records that are not indexed.  If I click that “Browse through 1,399,175 images” button, I can search the records like digital microfilm.

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I get this list of parishes to help me navigate the images.  I noticed one today that I have never seen before:

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How’s that for a parish name?  😉

Here is a parish that I regularly search:

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I click on the parish name again and get this:

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Then I can click on one of the date ranges and get this:

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It is basically a digital microfilm.  This particular collection is tricky to navigate because it contains such a large span of years and the years are written out like this “one thousand seven hundred forty seven”, except they are written in French.  Despite it being a bit trickier to navigate, it is totally worth it.  I get faster every time, it just takes a little practice.

Any collection that contains images has the potential to contain more images than indexed records.  If everything is indexed in a collection, you will not see the browse option at the bottom of the search page.  MANY indexed collections contain images that are not indexed.

Hidden Record Type 2:

Browse collections.  These collections are also accessed from a main search page.

We will go back to the Québec search page and scroll to the bottom.

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These collections are labeled as “Québec Image Only Historical Records”.  Most locales have several of these browse collections.  None of the records are indexed yet.  I clicked on “Quebec Notarial Records, 1800-1920”.

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You will notice that I have no search box, just the “Browse through 4,956,093” images link.  When I click that I am taken to this page:

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From here I can select a location, I chose Iberville:

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Then I choose a range of documents:

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Then I am once again looking at a digital microfilm.  This particular collection would be hard to use unless I have a time frame and location in mind for the record I am seeking.  That information would come from other good research.

Hidden Record Type 3:

Digitized microfilm collections in the catalog.  This particular type of record is brand new to me.  In fact, I have no idea when FamilySearch started doing this.  They snuck it in recently.  I discovered this record type while I was using microfilm at the FHL in SLC.  I had a list of Estate Files I was looking for.  I had found 6 and went looking for the 7th file when something wasn’t quite right.  That led me to look at the catalog entry for the microfilm to double check the information I would expect to find.  I thought maybe I had written the microfilm number down incorrectly.  This is the page I went to:

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I scrolled down to find my microfilm number in the collection of 419 microfilm to see this list:

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Ummmmmm… see those little camera icons on the right?!  This entire collection was digitized AFTER I had made my list of microfilm to search just shortly before going to the library.  When I click the camera I get a digital microfilm that looks like this:

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What on earth?!  When did FamilySearch start doing this???  The craziest part is that the images aren’t on the South Africa search page, not in the same grouping you can find here.


Check the catalog, and check it again, and check it again.  I know that the rate of digitization far exceeds the rate of indexing but apparently FamilySearch can’t keep up with cataloging in an orderly fashion either?

One important last thought – FamilySearch often has images available that go away once the entire collection is indexed.  If you find an image that is important to your research, PLEASE, don’t assume the image will always be there.  Save a digital copy of that image.

And while we are on the subject of disappearing images, it is important to know that the contractual agreements that FamilySearch enters into with the owners of records can change at any time.  In fact, several collections that matter to me and my research are no longer available.  FamilySearch still holds the microfilm, but they are under lock and key because the contracts were renegotiated.


Have you been using these three types of “hidden” collections on FamilySearch?



Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Part Two


Durban to The Drakensberg” by John Hone, 1988, photo of Durban, Natal, South Africa

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He is the younger brother of my 3rd great grandmother Catherine Boles.  John, his wife Christina, and his 7 living children who were all born in Scotland, just up and disappeared in 1890.

In 2014, a serendipitous connection with a kind stranger from Scotland, led me to an immigration record for all 7 Boles children traveling to Natal, South Africa without their parents.

Then there were the 3 marriage records for Elizabeth, Christina, & Helen Boles.  All 3 marriages took place in Natal, South Africa.  Helen’s 1906 marriage record stated that she had the permission of her parents to marry.

This was the first clue that indicated John & Christina Montgomery Boles might have also gone to South Africa.

I scoured FamilySearch and Ancestry looking for any record collection that might help me build on what I knew but I couldn’t find anything.  The collections were sparse and had very limited time frames.  I did some basic googling with no great results so I did what we all do at times, I set the John & Christina Boles family aside.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I revisited this part of my tree.  I was committed to adding something to this story.  So I dove into some google searching to see what record collections exist for Natal, South Africa.  The National Archives for South Africa led me to a bunch of potentially helpful records.  The only problem was that they look like this:


I wasn’t entirely sure where I could go next based on this data.  So I went to my good friend, the FamilySearch wiki.  But.  I went to it through google.  The wiki itself has a terrible search algorithm so it’s best to use google as your entry point.  I found myself on a page entitled “South Africa Natal Death Notices“.


Close to the bottom of that screenshot you can see the section “Microfilmed records at the Family History Library”.  This link takes you to a catalog entry on for microfilms containing Estate Files for Pietermartizburg (Natal).  The collection includes 419 microfilm reels organized by year and file number.

This discovery got me pretty excited so I searched the National Archives of SA website as thoroughly as I could to identify as many potential estate files for John, Christina, their children, and the 3 sons-in-law that I knew of.  I had quite a list.  I compared it to the FS Catalog entry to identify microfilm numbers.  My list of microfilms was growing.

My big question was this – What exactly will I find in those Estate Files?


When I go to BYU for research, I can order two microfilms from the FHL in Salt Lake City for free, every two weeks.  No more.  I was trying to decide how much of my precious research time to dedicate to this family.  Which films should I order?

While pondering on this set of questions, I discovered that there is a 5 year window of estate records available on FamilySearch in a browse only collection for Transvaal.  I checked this against my list and discovered one candidate: William Wise, husband of Christina Boles.

Hooray!  This meant I could view an estate file from home to get a sense of what this record type, for this location might tell me.  This was just what I wanted.

Because finding this particular record took several steps, I will outline those steps in detail.

The first step was finding William’s file number on the National Archives of SA website.


I was looking for file number 3681 in the year 1959.

It was time to take that information over to FamilySearch.  I went to the main “Search” menu on FamilySearch and got myself to the South Africa landing page that looks like this.


Then I scrolled down to the bottom to find the browse collections.  These are collections that only have images with no index.  You search them like a digital microfilm.


Then I selected the Transvaal Estate Files.


From here, I clicked on “Browse through 191,580 images“.


Then I selected the appropriate year of 1959.


That led me to a screen filled with file number ranges.  My file number was further down the page so I scrolled down.


I am looking for file number 3681 which falls into the very last number range of 3660-3736.  I clicked that range.


Now I am essentially looking at digital microfilm.  You can see that first image has a large stamped code of “3660/59”.  I am looking for 3681 which is only 21 files later.  I left this page on the “thumbnail” view and scrolled down until I could see the first page of file 3681.


There is my file on the third row, far left.  I can now click on the thumbnail to view the first image of my file.  Then I click the little arrow in the black menu bar to arrow through the file.  What I discovered was a 5 page estate file.  Page one is the cover sheet.  Page two is the death notice.  Pages three and four are William and Christina’s will.  Page five is “Acceptance as Trust of Executor”.

Just to give you a little taste, here is the death notice for William.


From this record I learned so much new information!  I added a birthplace in Scotland of Trenent, age at death in years and months (which helped me narrow down a time frame for birth), address at time of death, date and place of death, and the names of William and Christina’s 3 children (including their daughter’s married last name).

Finding this file got me really excited to see John and Christina’s Estate Files.  I moved those microfilm right to the top of my BYU list.  On my next visit I ordered both microfilm and hoped for the best!

Was I finally going to learn when and why John Boles went to South Africa?


…to be continued…


Browse Collections on FamilySearch


Marriage record for my 4th great grand aunt Marie Arsene Duval.

Have you ever used the browse collections on FamilySearch?  If you haven’t, I would like to introduce you to a new friend.  A very good friend.

See that beautiful record up there?  It comes from a FamilySearch browse collection.  Here is the ancestry version:

arsene - bad

Quite a difference.

I most commonly use the ancestry Drouin collection for records on my Quebec line simply because they are a bit easier to search.  Not because the index is good – it’s pitiful – but because the records are broken down by year and the FamilySearch collection is in very large clusters of years.  To use the FamilySearch collection I have to spend a lot more time “reading” the handwritten years.  To further complicate that the years are written out in word form.  That is slow going for this non-French speaker.  But I digress…  The ancestry marriage record for Marie Arsene was difficult to read and I couldn’t make out a few key pieces of information so I went through the process of finding the same record in a FamilySearch browse collection.  It was worth the effort.

So how did I do it?  Here are the steps.

Go to, click on “Search” in the top center.  In my case I wanted Quebec records so I clicked on Canada on the map and then chose Quebec.  This is the list of Quebec resources on the website:


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See that collection second from the bottom?  Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979?  It only has 79,535 records but it has a camera icon.  That camera tells me that this collection has images.  Any collection with images has the potential to be a browse collection.  The number of records refers only to the number of INDEXED records in this collection.  I clicked on the collection:


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I can search the indexed records like I normally would by typing info into the search fields.  But notice at the bottom of the page there is a hyperlink that reads: “Browse through 1,399,175 images”.  Bingo – I have found a browse collection.  These collections are like going though microfilm online.  I clicked on the hyperlink and then I get this page:


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For this browse collection I get a HUGE list of parishes.  I scrolled down and found my civil parish of Sainte-Luce and clicked on it.


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Then I get another page where I choose the ecclesiastical parish.  In this case I only have one choice so I clicked on Sainte-Luce again.


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I know this one is hard to read.  The important thing here is that I have three choices.  They are Baptism, Marriage, and Burial collections covering different year ranges.  I choose the appropriate range and click it.


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Voila!  Now I am in a set of images that I can click through.  This set has 727 images and covers the years 1842-1869.  Most collections are in chronological order but some are in alphabetical order.  You can usually figure out how your collection is organized fairly quickly.  Once I know how it is laid out, I like to skip forward and backwards in large chunks until I land really close and then I start using the arrows to go a page at a time.

Many of the collections you have been using may also be browse collections.  Here are two gems (images have links that will take you to the page you see here with one click):

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And there are so many more!  Give the website a look and see if you can find a collection that might include one of your ancestors and check to see if that collection is a browse collection.


Bonus tip:

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At the bottom of every location specific search page there is a list of image only collections.  This is the top of the Illinois list.  The entire list is quite long and contains some really great collections.


Have you ever used a browse or image only collection on FamilySearch?




Tell Me a Story – “Nao-ma”

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person.  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Note:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.

Naomi Skeen Peterson

Naomi Skeen, my great grandmother

My great grandmother’s name is Naomi.  Nay-oh-muh.  Usually when we see the name Naomi we think Nay-oh-mee, not so for my great grandmother.  I’ve heard a few family members of my father’s generation and my generation pronounce the name more traditionally.  I’ve even heard a few people say that they aren’t sure family tradition on her name is correct.

My grandfather, her oldest son was very plain in stating that her name is pronounced Nay-oh-muh.  Naomi’s living children refer to her as Nay-oh-muh.  Naomi’s youngest brother Evan was also very clear in saying Nay-oh-muh.  There is one record that exists to back this up.


1920 US Federal Census

Naomi is listed in the middle of her family on the 1920 Census.  We know that a census taker stood at the door and asked questions and recorded answers.  This census taker spelled her name “Naoma”.  Census takers wrote what they heard.  He heard “Naoma”.

You may be wondering about the other census records for her life.  They all spell her name Naomi.  But here in Utah where Naomi lived her entire life, Nay-oh-muh is a very common pronunciation of Naomi.  So the fact that only one census spells it Naoma doesn’t mean it’s the anomaly.  What it probably means is that only one of the many census takers that visited Naomi over the decades was unfamiliar with that pronunciation.  That one census taker did not know that in Utah Nay-oh-muh is spelled Naomi.  Bless that census taker.


One Minute Story

My great grandmother’s name is Naomi – Nay-oh-muh.


Top Ten Stories List for Naomi (well, in her case eight):

  • Picking Cherries
  • Chocolate Cake
  • Divinity and the Great Depression
  • Zucchini Bread
  • Letter to Grandpa
  • Selling Eggs
  • “You have my mother’s eyes.”
  • Nao-ma


If you have been reading my posts about Uncle Darrell, this is his mother.  I hope I didn’t just rock your world.  You’ve probably been saying Nay-oh-mee in your head.  Sorry.  😉



Multiple Windows

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It’s been a busy week at my house.  I’ve been helping my husband create a game for an upcoming event.  It required using three different websites simultaneously.  He was well familiar with having multiple tabs open and clicking between them but I took the three windows and gave each of them their own space on my desktop.  Our work was much faster and less confusing.  It’s especially great when you have a very large screen.  My laptop is average sized but the screens at BYU and my local FHC are huge and I LOVE having multiple windows open in a configuration that meets my needs.

In that top photo I have my ancestry tree open to Telesphore Brouillette on the left and his obituary on the right.  This way as I go through all of the family members listed in the obit and check to make sure I already have those married last names in my tree while seeing both sites at the same time.

I also like to use multiple screens when I’m dealing with French records.  I’m getting pretty good at “reading” them, but I usually have google translate open to help out and verify my work.  In the image below I have two tabs in the top window, my ancestry tree and the baptism record I’m working with and then I have a window open across the bottom with google translate.

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The French records from Quebec need the width of the whole screen so I do have to click back and forth between the tree tab and the record tab to add the dates.  Unless I’m using a computer at the FHC or BYU – then I can split screen them with google translate along the bottom.

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When I click on the ancestry tree tab you can see that my two windows actually overlap but I can see them both.  I need a little more work space in each one than is allowed by the size and dimension of each so overlapping windows allow me to see what I need, scroll up and down a bit without clicking on the other window and keep on working.

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Sometimes I like to compare a person’s entry in FamilySearch to my entry in Ancestry.  Putting them side by side can be faster than clicking between two tabs.

Whatever my project is, I usually need more than one item open at a time.  Multiple tabs in one window or some fancy configuration of windows on my desktop are my favorite.  I occasionally have multiple windows open and do the minimize/maximize dance but that isn’t nearly as efficient for me.

Are you a multiple window user?  Do you use tabs or different windows?  Or do you get fancy like me and put windows exactly where you want them based on what you are doing?


It’s a beautiful day to do some genealogy.  Happy Wednesday!




Help Preserve Records – 4 Pennies At a Time

Naomi Skeen, death record

“Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1964,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 March 2016), > image 1 of 1; citing series 81448; Utah State Archives Research Center, Salt Lake City, Utah.

That image is the death record for my great grandmother Naomi Skeen.  She’s the smart one who saved the divinity until her kiddos were craving a treat.

That image is available for free on FamilySearch.

Did you know that FamilySearch relies on LDS missionaries to volunteer their time and go to places all over the world to digitize records?  Those missionaries pay their own way but the equipment is provided by the church.  The church is allocating resources in an effort to preserve as many records as they can, as quickly as then can.

But, things happen.  Like natural disasters.  Sometimes records are destroyed before they are digitized.  The good news is that we can help!

LDS Philanthropies has various charities set up that meet different purposes.  Among those is the opportunity to donate directly to FamilySearch.  Ten cents saves three records – so my title is actually a little high.  That’s 30 records saved for every dollar donated.

One camera kit costs about $7,000.  Each new camera kit allows another set of missionaries to digitize away.  The LDS church has no trouble finding volunteers to serve missions.  So… more cameras, more missionaries, more records being saved.

Interested in donating a buck or two?  Click on over or call (801)356-5300 and reference Family Search acct #30-020-070.

Interested in a few more details?

Here is a list created by some of the folks at LDS Philanthropies:

  • The Church is literally racing against time as it tries to help gather and preserve the world’s genealogical records.
  • Historical records showing proof of life are disappearing at an alarming rate.
  • Records of our ancestors are subject to storage issues, decay, and natural disasters.
  • Last year’s typhoon in the Philippines destroyed millions of records in the Catholic
    diocese record archive.
  • Census records in India are destroyed every ten years.
  • The mass move to digital record keeping has nations throwing out handwritten records faster than ever.
  • Only 12 percent of the world’s top genealogical records are digitized and preserved,
    leaving the rest at risk of destruction or loss.
  • At current rates it will take 124 years to capture the top-tier records.
  • Governments are asking FamilySearch for help in preserving their records at three times the rate FamilySearch and its crews can capture.
  • Donations to FamilySearch go directly to the Church’s records-capture project.
  • 10 cents saves three records. That’s 30 records for every dollar donated. And that’s up to 30 people found. Imagine the impact of a $10,000 donation—that’s 300,000 people (the population of Cincinnati, Ohio) who will be forever grateful for your generosity.
  • FamilySearch is also helping loved ones find each other while they’re still alive. See how Mandy Phillips used the Church’s indexing program to reunite with grandparents she had not seen in 20 years. Click here to see her inspiring story.