Monday, December 31, 2012

Creative ways to use indexes for Familysearch record browsing has put many wills and related records (administration, orphan court, etc.) online, and while some are indexed, many have a link which suggests "Browse through... Images." In the ellipses will be a huge number, usually in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. This seems at first intimidating. and the researcher might be inclined to stop right there. Who could stand to browse through each of the thousands of records in order to find the one that is relevant?

But it is usually a prettier picture than that. First, clicking on that link usually takes you to a county list. Then you can click on the county of interest, which certainly narrows down the number of records. Within the list of records may be a wills index. It is almost always alphabetical.  You can find the name of your ancestor, note the will book and page, and then move on to find the link for that particular will book. The page described in the index is not the same page number used by in its indexing, so you need to make a few guesses, wait until those pages load, and page back and forth a bit until you find the manuscript page in question. The page in the will index listed as 100 might be 80 as indexed by Familysearch, but you will quickly catch on to looking at the numbers in the corners of the scanned manuscript for the original page numbers. It is a very tedious process, but it is very rewarding, as you will see the entire scanned will and all additional paperwork with notes by witnesses as recorded.

And don't forget to scroll down on the counties page. If you assume all the options are on the page in front of you, you may be very wrong.

Now, sometimes, there are even better indexes, and I will tell you about one of them. Pennsylvania Genweb Archives for Bucks County and for a few other counties has lists of will abstracts and indexes of the abstracts. The numbers given to the abstracts in the indexes correspond to the actual will books and pages. So if it says that my ancestor is in will book 4, page 203, for example, I don't need to consult the scanned index on I can go straight to the will book, and find that manuscript page. Again, it won't be the same page as indexed by Familysearch, so I still have to guess and turn the pages online. It still takes a bit of time, but is a much more streamlined process, and the information of who has wills and where is much more accessible, I have found it very worthwhile, and enjoyed reading through several wills which I found relevant to my research.

Yes, there are other indexes, too. For New York wills, try those at Sampubco. The wills are nicely listed by county and will book and page. You can order the will from Sampubco, and for many of the wills you can see a scanned image on

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good stuff at for New York research!

Update 12/23: It is a great resource, but why does it so often, after all the work the researcher puts in matching the indexing information to the page of the will or land record--not a quick task--tell the researcher to "try again later," or just spin indefinitely? What can we do to get it to be an efficient search effort? The scans are truly fantastic and it is great to have access, but very frustrating when that access just falls away. has put online some lovely scans for counties in  New York. Working with the scanned info is  time-consuming, but I am loving it.

Probate records were put online a few weeks ago, and by working with the index and then with the other microfilmed images we can all see many wills and probate records. Be sure to see the indexes. Then you can find the correct page in the will or probate records. Say it says your ancestor's name for will book 18, page 240. You find the scan of will book 18, then you plug in guesses for the page. Maybe you start with 100 and find that that is a bit short of the scanned page referred to. Keep trying, and you will get it. And there you go. You've got a will you wanted to see and then you can go on to others.

Even more recently, land records were put online. Again, going to each county you are interested in, looking at indexes, and then looking at the actual records, you will find very good information. Number one, you will see who was alive in that place at that time, and secondly, land exchanges were often between relatives, which provides a great clue for genealogy research.

Going through this process is time-consuming, and sometimes the website fails, but we now all have access to information that formerly we would have had to order as microfilms and view at a Family History Center, or order from town clerks or other sources as vital records.

If you are watching a slow-moving show on t.v., this is a perfect multi-tasking complement to that .

And I suggest, when you find a gem of information that you haven't seen online, share it with the rest of us.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gedmatch admix utilities are going strong!

The admix utilities (where you see your proposed ancestral populations in color graphics) at are continuing to grow and amaze. They work very efficiently with the data that the DNA tester provides. It is very simple to do, and the process is guided the whole way. You download your files from your testing company quickly and neatly, and then load them up into Gedmatch just as easily, and then the results are ready for you to see. There are several admix programs you can look at, and some of them link to the Oracle population analysis, which gives you  predicted populations for your ancestry. It is all in the process of refinement and development, so don't be expecting firm conclusions about your heritage, but as you compare one program against the other, and compare that to what you know about your ancestry, you can project some likely possibilities for ancestry. It is quick, easy, and a lot of fun to play around with. I highly recommend trying it out if you have that autosomal DNA data to upload.