Monday, June 8, 2009

One More Generation Found...

I had to report on my first big success using the pilot program for Family Search. As many of you know from my previous posts, I do indexing on a regular basis as a volunteer for the LDS Church's Family Search Indexing project. As fast as these records get completed, they are being put up on the pilot site for the public's free use. The pilot site can be reached by going to the Family Search website. That link takes you directly to the pilot search homepage; however, you can also get to it by going to familysearch.org, clicking on the Search Records tab, and then selecting Record Search pilot.

I recently decided to do some lookups for a line on my paternal side that came to the United States from Czechoslovakia in the 1870s. The last of the line I had was a Frank Pejsa and his wife, Mary, both born in the 1850s in Czechoslovakia. I had never been sure whether they were married right before or right after they immigrated in about 1871. Because I didn't know Mary's maiden name, I was stuck on this line and couldn't get it onto Czechoslovakian soil, so to speak.

Well, Pejsa is not an extremely common surname, so I just typed it into the pilot search box. On the first page of search results, there she was. Well, not her, but her death certificate from an Ohio vital records database. And what's more, I got the actual death certificate image saved to my computer. Although the handwriting is a bit difficult to discern, I was able to discover that her father's name was Josef Urban.

I now have one more generation back on this particularly difficult line. The best part is that I didn't have to pay a dime for a copy of the original certificate, and I didn't have to leave my house or order microfiche from some repository.

Here are some things to keep in mind from this solved mystery I just shared:

  1. The Family Search Indexing project is only barely beginning. Keep checking back on the pilot site to see what new records are being made available. It's a great and free way to discover more of your genealogy.

  2. Using a variety of resources on the Internet is your best option for getting the most out of your online research. I carry a subscription to Ancestry.com, use Cyndi's List often, check county and regional record sites, and use some free sites, as well. What you find on one site won't necessarily be on another. At this point, no one website has it all.

  3. As more and more records are being digitized and genealogy moves more into the online realm, you'll need to keep checking back at sites you may have tried in the past. For example, I may not be able to find a record for my ancestor on Ancestry.com, yet, but if they add a new database six months from now, I may find it then. Keep good records of sources you've searched, including the dates you searched them (even if they were unsuccessful searches), and you'll know when you need to check back again for fresh content.


Be sure to check out the Family Search pilot site and see what you can find. And if you haven't, yet, sign up to be a volunteer indexer for the Family Search project, as you'll only help yourself and other researchers in the future. Finally, happy family mystery solving to all of you genealogical detectives out there! As always, if you would like me to cover a particular topic, answer a specific question, or review a specific website in a future post, send me a note. I'll try to oblige.