Family Search .org Unofficial Guide Book Review

Book Title: Unofficial Guide to – How to Find Your Family History on the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Website

Author: Dana McCullough, Copyright © 2015

Publisher: Family Tree Books, an imprint of F+W Media, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio. First Edition

Second Edition: December, 2019

Family Search. Org - Unofficial Guide - Book Review

Let’s get to know Dana

Dana became intrigued by her family history at a very young age, which turned into a passion as the years passed. She graduated from college with a degree in journalism and started working at Family Tree Magazine. While at the magazine, her interest in researching her family history grew, and she was introduced to FamilySearch. The results of these new elements in her life developed into a passion. And her love for Family Search .org continued to grow and became her go-to genealogy research site.

As Dana started her career as a magazine editor and later became a freelance writer and editor, she never imagined she would write a book one day.

Well, we are glad she did; with this book, you will soon discover it as an excellent guide to follow as you learn to use FamilySearch to find your ancestors. The author states, “As you research your family, I hope the tips and insights in this book help you fine-tune your searches to locate a genealogy gold mine of records for your ancestors.”

Getting Started, 1-4

In the first chapters, you will be taken on a journey of discovery as you explore FamilySearch, described as “a Hidden Gem, an underutilized resource.”

The author takes us through the first four chapters with an introduction that walks us through several features of her favorite Free genealogy website. Following are just a few of the free resources you will learn about:

  • Family Tree: tab on the home page used to create your free family tree after registering for free.
  • Historical Records: are the gold mine for genealogists, with thousands of records collections covering more than ninety countries. Consisting of censuses and vital records to probate, court, immigration, and military records, as well as some school, church records, and city directories.
  • User-Submitted Genealogies: the original searchable data on FamilySearch came from information collected from the Ancestral File, International Genealogical Index (IGI), and Pedigree Resource File.
  • Family History Books: have more than 150 thousand digitized genealogies, family histories, county and local histories, genealogy periodicals, gazetteers, and more.
  • FamilySearch Wiki: is the destination for genealogy newbies and if you need to bush-up.
  • FamilySearch Catalog: allows you to search the holdings of the Family History Library.
  • Memories: tab you can submit your photos, stories, documents, and audio recordings.
  • Indexing: is available if you decide to become a volunteer.

Step By Step

You will begin your research and give sound advice to get you started, even keys to success, getting started checklist, and more.

As we proceed through these first four chapters, we are given a detailed walk-through into the workings of the above list.

The author is extremely detailed in her explanation and instructions, with additional information to assist in your research. She even gives detailed step-by-step instructions on creating your free account. She does an impressive job, and you can easily follow along and use FamilySearch as you read, with images to keep you on task.

Family Search .org - Unofficial Guide - Book Review

These chapters were excellently designed as the base toward a great understanding of FamilySearch and all the exceptional features available.

US Genealogical Records, 5-9

In the next five chapters, you will discover the wealth of information that is available for free on FamilySearch as the author uses detailed instructions on how to use the following records:

  • US Census Records
  • US Vital Records
  • US Immigration and Naturalization Records
  • US Military Records
  • US Probate and Court Records

Seriously the author does a fantastic job explaining the importance of the above records in your genealogy research. She goes into great detail, with easy to following instructions for each group of records. She provides additional hints and tips to enhance your experience.

Global Genealogical Records, 10-12

In these three chapters, the author explains that “America is a melting pot. The majority of the population has ancestry overseas, particularly in Europe. The most prevalent European ancestries in the United States today are German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, and Scottish.”

You will discover the immensity of the European records available for free in FamilySearch. You will learn how to get the most out of the following:

  • UK and Irish Records
    • England collection dating back to 1538
    • Ireland collection starting 1814
    • Scotland collection dating back to 1564
    • Wales collection covering 1821-1851
  • Continental European Records for most countries often date back to the 1400s.


Many records are still in the process of being indexed. But, many are available on FamilySearch, and here you are instructed in the process of extracting those records.

The author provides a step-by-step example of how to browse the European records collection

  • Canada collection by province dating back to 1661
  • Mexico collection dating back to 1560
  • Africa collection majority date back to 1800s, but some go back as far as 1660
  • Asia collection some records start as early as 1239
  • Australia and New Zealand starting about 1792
  • South America earliest date back to the mid-1500s
  • The Caribbean and Central America collections beginning in 1590
  • Pacific Islands a variety of records starting in 1712

At the end of this group of chapters, you will discover additional historical records and get the best result when using them.

Extras with Family Search, A-C

The author provides three appendices:

A: The Family History Research Wikki: provides an excellent resource to learn about the ancestors you’re researching, as well as the places and periods in which they lived.

B: FamilySearch Indexing Projects: Hundreds of thousands of worldwide volunteers each year are the reason why so many records are indexed and available to search on FamilySearch.

C: Research Worksheets: help track those family facts so you can make sense of what you’ve found-and, so you don’t waste time duplicating your efforts.

In each of these appendices, the author’s explanation is extensive. She doesn’t skip in detail; you will learn a great deal about each of these valuable resources.

Valuable Resource

All-in-all, this book is a must; it will save you much time in learning all the valuable resources available within FamilySearch. Dana achieved her goal of creating the perfect guidebook and showed us her passion for genealogical research and FamilySearch. And with that, she has shared the secrets to this awesome “Unutilized Hidden Gem-Family”

I have spent a great deal of time putting this book to the test. I have been using FamilySearch for a few years now, along with some other popular genealogy websites.

After reading and following along with Dana’s instructions, I have discovered how much I have under-utilized the wealth of resources available to everyone just by registering with FamilySearch.

It is truly a remarkable website that I will not take for granted, but will cherish it for the great gem it is and thank Dana for introducing this genealogy gold mine.

“Seriously!” If you desire to start your genealogy research, whether you are just beginning or picking-up from where you left off. FamilySearch is the place to start, and the “Unofficial Guide to” (available on Amazon) It is the guide to use as it provides a smooth transition to the world of genealogy research. There is also a second edition available on Amazon.

It would be great to hear your opinion and or experience with the topic. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kindest Regards


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