• Devon Noel Lee

Find Elusive Ancestors in the Unindexed Records on FamilySearch


Typing on keyboard looking for  genealogy records on FamilySearch

The FamilySearch family history website offers free access to genealogical records from around the world. However, most users of the platform have not found much because they're missing 70% of the records which lack a search form index.


Accept the challenge to search form and explore the Unindexed Records that you can digitally browse for your ancestors.


Why Are Some Record Collections Unindexed on FamilySearch?


According to FamilySearch, the free genealogy website plans to digitize and publish all microfilms in the Granite Mountain Records Vault, which is connected with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, they digitize record sets faster than volunteer indexers can process them and make them searchable.


This manpower gap means that billions of records in geographically arranged collections can only be viewed by digitally flipping through the virtual pages. In my research, these collections include land, tax, and probate records to name a few.

Regardless of whether you call them browse-only, image-only, or unindexed records, each image is a path to discovering more family members to add to your family tree.


Using the FamilySearch Card Catalog, you can access the browse-only images as if you were sitting in front of a microfilm reader or handling a book. However, you can access these resources online anytime you want.

How to Access Unindexed Records on FamilySearch


While I can explain in words how to navigate to the Card Catalog, you'll want to watch this video for step-by-step instructions.


Video: Finding Elusive Records in FamilySearch Through Browsing

While many unindexed record collections appear on the Research Wiki, you will have more success accessing the records through the Card Catalog.


You can access the FamilySearch Catalog from the top menu bar or the Search sub-menu bar and click "Catalog." You can also use this direct link.


Use the search box and type in the partial name of a location. For instance, you can type "Wake" and quickly navigate through a drop-down menu prompt to Wake County, North Carolina.

After you select a location, you'll reach the catalog page for that location. You'll likely find a listing with categories such as:

  • Probate

  • Tax

  • Land

  • Court

  • Immigration

  • Vital Records

  • School Records

  • Biographies

You never know what you'll find. You just have to look for your location.


↪️ Are you new to genealogy? Grab your copy of this FREE Beginner Guide:


laptop and writing notes with title Free Guide: 5 Steps for Successfully Starting in Family History

Some Browse Only Images Have Indexes

While using the image-only records on FamilySearch, you will find waypoints into the images.


Some collections have digitized images, separate from the records you want to research. For instance, in the video about land records, you can view how an index to the deeds is a separate link from the actual deed record books.


Some collections have digitized books that contained an index at the front or back of the item. The index provides reference page numbers to the individuals named in the book. In the video linked above, you will see such is the case with the Wake County, North Carolina Alien Registrations.

Finally, some records lack an index, either separately or within the collection. In the video linked above, this is the case with a Jail Register for Licking County, Ohio, with this format.


With each digitally unindexed record collection, browse until you find the digitized paper index for the documents. If you find such a listing, the track book volumes and page numbers in your genealogy software To-Do list, on a spreadsheet of records to search, or in your research plan.


For the collections without any index, you will flip through the record, page by virtual page.



Church records from FamilySearch with title researching FamilySearch Browse Only images
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For more Tips on Research FamilySearch


FamilySearch is a free genealogy website with a vast array of resources. Continue learning about how to use FamilySearch


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