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Using the Family History Library catalog to find microfilmed records

Using the Family History Library Catalog to identify microfilmed records
Using the Family History Library Catalog to identify microfilmed records
Michael Hait

The online case study involving Jefferson Clark of Leon County, Texas, used only online records. While skillful analysis was able to discern certain clues about Jefferson’s ancestry, it simply was not enough to form any valid conclusions. You simply cannot meet even the first condition of the Genealogical Proof Standard—conducting a reasonably exhaustive search for all relevant records—without consulting offline records.

Microfilmed records are next most accessible after online research, due to the option of ordering microfilm from the Family History Library. Using Jefferson Clark and George W. Tubb, the subjects of this online case study, as examples, this article will demonstrate how to identify records of interest using the Family HistoryLibrary Catalog.

Researchers can access the Family History Library Catalog directly from the FamilySearch homepage. When you click on the link labeled “Catalog,” the default search option is to search by Place Name. This is also the most useful search method.

Several county-level records should be sought in this case. The counties of most relevance to this case are Leon County, Texas; Noxubee County, Mississippi; and Perry County, Alabama. Other counties may also contribute to further understanding of these two subject families, but we will start with these three.

When we begin to type the first county into the search box, FamilySearch completes the name for us: “Texas, Leon.” Clicking the Search button brings up the record groups available for Leon County, Texas. The following record groups seem most likely to provide relevant information:

  • Texas, Leon - Court records (1)
  • Texas, Leon - Land and property - Maps (1)
  • Texas, Leon - Land and property (3)
  • Texas, Leon - Probate records (1)
  • Texas, Leon - Taxation (3)

Clicking on any of the record groups expands the headings to reveal the specific microfilm series available from the Library. Clicking on the heading for Court records, for example, reveals the following series: “Court minutes, 1846–1937.”

Each microfilm series has its own descriptive page. These pages contain notes important for using the microfilm. The Notes for the “Court minutes” microfilm series reads, “Microfilm of originals at the Leon County courthouse in Centerville, Texas. Includes general index with some volumes individually indexed. Some pages wanting.” This informs us that we will have to first order the microfilmed index before accessing the corresponding records. Many records may not have an index on microfilm, and these will have to be searched page-by-page.

When searching for relevant records, you must not limit yourself to county records. You must also search for state-level records. To access these records, simply type the name of the state into the search box.

Under the heading “African Americans - Texas (23)” you will find several microfilms of records of the Freedmen’s Bureau. These do not have indexes. Other relevant records may include the “Internal revenue assessment lists for Texas, 1865-1866,” under “Texas - Taxation (7).” Some states have more records available than others.

Once you have identified a list of relevant records that you would like to search, you can order the microfilms to be delivered to your local Family History Center. The next post will discuss this process.

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