Some tech tips on the workings of

By V Hubbard, Updated Feb 6 2022 is constantly expanding and improving. has many videos available for Family History and FamilySearch.  

Family history can be done from your phone's Family Tree App as well as on the PC or laptop.  

The  FamilySearch Tree app on the smart phones is primarily designed to help when you have short periods of time available.  Things it can do.

There are 1200+ people available 6 ½ days a week. It is Monday in Australia when it is Sunday in the U.S., that is how we get ½ day coverage. Family search functions are being updated constantly. This is great, but sometimes confusing.

FamilySearch is not always “fast”, but you will get a feel for its speed

System may overload with Sunday afternoon genealogists.

Opening a name in a new tab/window, a way that always works

First select the name with the Left mouse button and a brief description pops up. Then select “Person” with the Right mouse button to open another tab/window. Selecting the name directly with the RMB may work, but in some areas of the FamilySearch pages it doesn't.  This should always work.

When you first create a memory for a person, you attach a Tag name for that person or any others you want linked to the memory.   The Tag name is in your data, not seen by everyone else.   You must attach the tag name to a person in your family tree for the memories attached to the tag name to show in the persons Memory area.   Linking to a person in the tree needs to be done once, after that the tag name will be linked to the person in the tree each time it is used.   Once the tag is linked to a person in FamilySearch, when applied everyone will be able to see the FamilySearch link in the memory.  

Why is it done this way?   For me I have ancestors, cousins etc. with similar names.  Calling one Tag name Grandpa David Calder vs Cousin David Calder Jr makes it easier for me to find the correct tag when adding more memories.

When you start typing a tag name, the system will show "matching" names in a list. Pick from the list to use an existing tag name.

When you select “people” under the Memories menu, you see all the tag names you have created.You can also see tag names others have created that are linked to people in your tree. It also shows the record number it is linked to.

What is the difference between Pictures, documents and Stories? All can have multiple tags, but:

Picture Memories 

The picture file is uploaded to family search.  A .jpg type file is best. (I haven't tried .gif, . png etc ).

Multiple tags can be added to a picture.  When a picture is added to the first person, the tag is made covering the complete picture and may need to be edited to fit the person.

From then on when adding a tag you pick on the picture and add a frame around each person/face in the picture and add the Tag name to each frame. Set the frame size and location first then add the tag name.This example shows I have typed in “bate” and it found 2 of the existing tags that matched.

A title can be added at the top in the picture page and comments at the bottom of the picture page are available.   Comments are where you can enter the notes you find on the backs of pictures.

Document Memories

Documents are similar to pictures, some scanned document in some picture format.  Tags can be added and now you can set a frame on a document, just as you can with the pictures, but the frame is rectangular, not oval.   Here when I picked James’ tag, it showed where it had been framed on the document.

Stories Memories

Stories are typed into the system. I prefer to copy from a document I have on the PC and paste on the web site when in edit mode.   There is a spell checker this way.  Function is similar to word pad.   Multiple tag names can be added.    When you are tagging people in the story, it may seem obscure to some people why Teddy James is tagged to a story about Grandpa Calder. In some cases, I put an index to the names in the story and their relationship to the primary person in the story.   I do this at the top of the story.  Teddy James, cousin to Grandpa Calder.   Jane Smith, transcribed this story, etc.   Father, mother, son, daughter, cousin, friend and so on. 

Searching on

There are 2 search areas in Family search.  One in the top menus.  This is for general searches.

When you have a specific person called up, there is another search area on the right of the page. “Searching” with the FamilySearch link on the right of the record.   There are some things you can do to make the search work better.    Below shows the search option being discussed, the one available when looking at the detailed data of a person in your tree.  There are other Search methods on Family Search and they act similar, but this is the one you may use heavily.

When the search window opens a search has been done.     See below.   The problem is it is often too narrow or it wont find the records you need.    Areas I often change and then re-do the search.

  1. Eliminate unwanted search fields.   Select the X in the upper right corner to remove a search field. 
  2. Add fields.  In the various areas of the search menus there are horizontal menus.  Grayed out means not used.  Picking one of the grayed out menus will open a entry to add specific search information.
  3. Birthplace.  Too much information here severely limits the search.  I often change it to state & country or even country only.  Some records, especially census records, may not show proper birth location.  Also when City is listed in birthplace and only the State is in the record being searched, the search engine may not see it as a match.
  4. Residence.   Fill this out if you know or suspect the person may have lived for a time outside the state/country of birth.  Example if born in England and emigrated to Utah soon after birth, you may not see any Utah records since the search engine only has the birth country to use.    Adding Utah to the Residence with a year range will help in searching records in Utah.  Setting it to United States will expand the search also.  Adding USA for all US searches etc.
  5. Names.   Use initials for first name or even the middle name.   What people used and what was transcribed in records did not always match.  Some census takers only put initials for first, middle names.   Women after marriage are usually listed with the married name, so change their last name on the search page, to the married name to look for after married records.   First names could be a nickname.   The search engine tries to match common nick names or similar names, but does not always work.  Example  Angelina  was called Lena for one of my ancestors.   If you are looking for a census or family record.  Pick the weirdest, or most uncommon name in the family to do the search.   A John Smith name will bury you in something to search through.   Taber Jenkins Smith a son, may have a much better chance at finding the family records you are searching for. 
  6. Adding spouse or parents first names may help to discriminate to the correct records.
  7. If the spelling of the last name can vary or be indexed wrong easily, use wild cards.  Example  Boude is often Bonde in indexing.   So using Bo*de in the last Names area may find both in one search.   Example U is often interpreted as an N by many indexers, depending on the handwriting.  In many cases, spelling was fluid before 1900.
  8. When you know the death year, enter it to narrow down the searches for grave, social security and death records.
  9. 90% of the time the record can be found in FamilySearch, and should be linked that way.  FamilySearch will maintain the links.  Linking to web pages is OK, but will they still work 10 years from now?   Sometimes it is easier to find a record in first.   Note Ancestry often has the full index of Social Security records that show all names a female may have used in multiple marriages and may also list the parents of the person.
  10. Reduce information.   Removing death and marriage information may make it easier to find Census records.
  11. Death records, FindAGrave and BillionGraves records often need the “Residence” or Death location filled in that matches before they will be found.  Try deleting residence and Birth location in the search page to find Find A Grave or Billion Grave records.   If they were entered without a birth/death place, having a birth death place in the search engine will screen them out.  Backwards I know, but this is how it works.

Search example and fields below.


Getting the right age   

Finding the right birth year for a person is important.  Family search by default will use a +-2 year search range.  Often this must be made a bigger range.   Use multiple records to validate age where possible.   Some examples.

A.  When a male ancestor's information was initially entered, they estimated his birth the same as his wife.   No records could be found.   I opened up his age +- 10 years and found him.  The stumbling block was he was 6 years younger than his wife.   Often a matter of embarrassment if husband was much younger.  One census showed age at marriage and it confirmed he was married at 18 when she was 24.   

B.  Who is answering the Census?    Mother, child or father?     It makes a difference.   As parents get older and live with the children, ages often get rounded.   70,75, 80 etc.   Along with this birth place may not be as accurate either.  Imagine family with 6-10 kids, answering all their ages.  Sometimes things are off a little.   Parents or the Census taker gets confused.

C.  Census/indexer miscalculation.    Many records show age, year was a calculation in indexing or when the record was created.  Check the math!  Sometimes the year entered doesn’t match the age entered.

D.  White lies.    Marriage records are the most prone to this.   A 18-20 year old may end up being 21 on the marriage record.  Or if you told a date you were younger than you were, the age may follow thru on marriage, census etc later on.   I have one extreme example where I documented one of my distant cousins through her life.    As she grew older she got younger.   When married a second time in her mid 40s she became 11 years younger.    Initial birth record and census show one year, her birth certificate she had made when she was in her 70s shows a birth date 11 years younger, counter signed by her sister, who was younger, but by the “new” date was now her older sister.   Yes it took a lot of work comparing records, siblings, families to be sure, but this was well documented.   I have even had rare cases when parents attested that their 13 ½ year old daughter was 16 when married.

E. Hard to read,  4 vs. 9, 7 vs. 1,  6 vs. 8, and more when hand writing is not as good or the ink is faded.

Passwords: some general rules on the internet.  
  1. Do not re-use passwords.   Especially ones for work and financial institutions.   Each “site” should have a unique password.
  2. Phrases are usually better, easier to remember and more secure.    Example   My kids think I am great could be Mikidsthynk@amgrate!  Fairly easy to remember and altered just enough to make it real difficult to hack.
  3. Easy passwords should not be used.   God, General, Dictator, boss, your name,  are all common passwords that hackers try often.

What is the difference between .jpg, .bmp, .png, .gif for pictures and how do I tell what I have?  

These are all file formats for pictures.  .bmp is raw pixels, usually the largest size for the same picture.   .png, and .gif are “compressed”  formats.  .gif is an older format, .png is pushed by Microsoft.  .jpg or .jpeg is a compressed format and it can store text data in the data file.  IE tags, stories etc but special software is needed to see it.   .jpeg /.jpg is preferred currently.   

How can you tell what your picture on the computer is?   You have to turn on the display of file extensions.   Windows has it turned off by default.    In file explorer select tools, from the list pick Folder Options…..   When the window pops up, select the View options.   From the list find and UNCHECK “Hide extensions for known file types.”  This will let you see the complete name of files, with the suffix.  The suffix tells windows what kind of file it is and what software will work with it.   (Changing the suffix name does not automatically re-define the file.   It usually just becomes junk since the system no longer knows what it really is anymore.)