I love FamilySearch. I love FamilySearch more every day. The records I have been able to find for my family just in the last week have included an 1854 church marriage record from County Durham in England, 1855 and 1857 baptismal records for that couple’s son and daughter, an 1885 Champaign County, Illinois marriage record, a 1931 Pierce County, Washington death certificate and more. I found all those images, for free, in just minutes, all from the comfort of my living room. Every day, FamilySearch adds more images to their vast collection of digitized records, which any researcher, anywhere in the world, can access to learn more about their family.
Many of these collections are not searchable by name on FamilySearch, but there are ways to browse the collections of images to find what you want. For example in addition to the volumes of death certificates for the City of Los Angeles, FamilySearch has also digitized the indexes to those volumes. Search for a name in the index volume to find the certificate number, and then look in the film of death certificates to find the actual certificate.
But I want to caution you a bit about the indexes. Sometimes FamilySearch puts the index books in the wrong place. What do I mean? Here’s an example.
FamilySearch has a wonderful collection, “California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994.” (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2001287). If you look on the page, you will see search boxes, but when you read the description, you’ll see some limitations – “The name index for death records covers Stockton, Lodi and Manteca cities and San Benito and San Joaquin counties.” If you want records for other counties, scroll to the bottom of this page to where it says “Browse through 2,915,415 images.”
When you click on that link, you’ll see a list of counties and towns. Here’s a small portion of that list.
“Los Angeles, Long Beach,” “Los Angeles, Los Angeles,” and “Los Angeles, Pasadena” will link you to records for those three cities, while plain old “Los Angeles” will give you records for the County of Los Angeles.
On FamilySearch when you drill down and click on the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” link. Over 700 links will appear, starting with links to Birth Certificates, then Death Certificates, then finally, at the bottom of the list are the Death Indexes.
Since these records appear under the title “Los Angeles, Los Angeles, they should be just for the City of Los Angeles. Should be. But this is where the researcher needs to beware.
Here’s just one selection from the titles of the indexes:
Look carefully and you will see some overlap. “Death index 1928-1929 vol 14, A-L” and the same for “…M-Z.” But the item immediately below that is “Death index 1928 vol 22, A-Z” and then “Death index 1929 vol 23, A-Z.” Same years. Why are they repeated, and why do they have different volume numbers?
Here’s what I see when I click on the 1928-1929 volume 14 item:
Image 1 of 308 shows the cover of the book, perhaps the most important image in that set. Because, although FamilySearch has placed this digitized item in the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” section of records, it is NOT for the City of Los Angeles, it’s for LA County.
Here is image 5 of the “Death index 1928 vol 22, A-Z”:
You can see it says “Los Angeles City” on the spine of the book.
If you find a certificate number in Volume 14, the book for Los Angeles County, and then try to look for it in the City of Los Angeles death records for 1928, it won’t be there. You’ll find whosoever's LA city death certificate has that number.
Be sure to look at the image of the spine of the book of records you're to see what it covers before you go diving into the index!
And the second issue is that when you look at plain old Los Angeles County, you won’t see an index to the LA county death certificates… because FamilySearch has incorrectly placed the index for the county under the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” title.
I have alerted FamilySearch to this issue and hopefully they will correct it soon. This is just one instance of digital images being put in an incorrect location on FamilySearch. I know that there are probably a few more. If you don’t see what you expect to see, dig a little deeper, look at the images of the book covers, and see if you can figure out where the image you’re looking for might be. With all the great documents FamilySearch give me, this researcher is OK with having to beware and dig a little deeper once in a while.
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.