The Power of Three

Is Routine Boring?

Routine,  boring, humdrum. Or, habits which free you from confusion and endless decisions! Routine helps you get to work quickly and move through a process efficiently. Do you have research routines and templates for your genealogy? Lately I've been trying to develop research routines and templates, and recently saw a video that snapped into focus what I was trying to do. Call it the power of three

Connie Knox's Genealogy TV episode Ancestry and FamilySearch, FindMyPast or MyHeritage: Family Tree Trifecta Strategy describes her professional routine for each person: work three sites with three search strategies each (3x3x3) with the goal of 27 new facts and sources. Complete this cycle for each person you are reviewing, each new place, and each new FAN club member as they come into view. The power of three can keep you focused and successful. 

Become a Fan of FANs

FANs are Family, Associates and Neighbors. Sometimes we race right past the names of those folks, only to run head-on and full-speed into a brick wall. Slow down, and take note of family and neighbors living close to your person, and reassess them once you figure out parentage of a wife or mother in the family and find who the children married. Often neighbors turn out to be kin or future kin. 

Associates are the folk your person worked with, who witnessed deeds, wills, those they bought and sold land to, who are named on bonds, whom they appointed executors and chose as pallbearers. Sometimes associates turn out to be kin as well. Researching the FAN club can be key to getting beyond a few dates and places, to where you can get to know a person. 

Where Are We? Locality Search in

Begin by researching the place where your person was born or lived. Locality is important because of the shared history of inhabitants of that place, and because many records were created and are found only in the locality. At, begin your locality search in the "Card Catalog" which you can find near the bottom of the Search tab, pictured at left.

In the Card Catalog you will not be searching for your person at first; instead you will be looking for datasets where your person can be found. The Card Catalog can be filtered by category, locality or date. Filter by country and state and then try both a county filter and using the county name as a keyword. You may get different results, as shown below. If nothing else, you will know what is available for your locality at Ancestry. If you're lucky, you will find something that can give you the background history of your locality, giving you a clue why your people may have come there, and why they might eventually have moved on.

In the example above, the keyword 'nelson county' in Kentucky found 5 datasets, whereas filtering by Nelson County, Kentucky, USA got only the Nelson County, Kentucky, Marriage Index, 1765-1815, which I had already found.

Searching by Name at

Searching by name is a strategy most of us use all the time. Ancestry does this for us, and offers hints, the little green leaves. I'm sure I'm not alone in scanning my tree for little leaves occasionally, just to see what Ancestry might have found. Usually it is images I've uploaded myself, but sometimes it is a record which correctly applies to my person.

However, the hints come from only about 10% of Ancestry's databases. The Card Catalog gets you to far more of the collection; searching All Collections will get to them all. As with any search, start broadly, perhaps with the surname, then narrow the results by adding more details. 

If you begin your name search from the person profile page, many of the fields are auto-filled. However, you may have better luck by removing some or most of those auto-filled fields. 

On the other hand, I've found that adding facts to a nearly-empty person profile, such as spouse name, and residence date and place which you may find in an obituary, help Ancestry zero in on the correct person. Adding an estimated date of birth often helps as well, even if your guess is off by a decade or more. 

Linking to each person named in an obituary, probate or pension file is work, and adding the relevant facts to each FAN club member profile is yet more work. However, this is working the FAN club in action. Make it part of your routine, and your research will flourish!

Before we leave Ancestry, remember that all local blog readers have access to the Library Edition of if you have a library card. If you do not yet have a card, apply for one at You will get an ecard instantly! 

The same is true for Pierce County Library System; King County residents can get a card there as well. Check it out: In addition, all King County residents can get a Seattle Public Library System card, and access: GenealogyBank is available from SPL!

FamilySearch Locality Search

The power of three sends us next to FamilySearch. Start with the FamilySearch Research Wiki:

Again, search for the locality. At the Kentucky page, look at the riches right at the top:

These articles will keep me occupied for awhile! Right now I'm researching Asa Ruby, the first husband of my person of interest, Jane Rogers. She may be not only the mother by Asa of two women who married into related Baysinger lines, but also the mother by her second husband of Elizabeth Rice. Elizabeth Rice married my third great-grandfather Peter Baysinger and is my third great-grandmother! If I can find evidence to prove this, again a FAN club member becomes ancestor. Of course I will also try to disprove what until now seemed a crazy connection. Multiple DNA matches make it necessary to consider it seriously though. 

Then next portal to search by locality is the FamilySearch Catalog. As in the wiki, drill down and see what's available at each level, from general to specific. Don't overlook databases which are "not indexed" because many of them are indexed internally! Probate files, death certificates, deed books and so many more records await the researcher with a bit of patience. 

Searching By Name at FamilySearch

Searching trees at FamilySearch

There are two ways to search the FamilySearch Family Tree; through your own tree, or searching by name in the entire tree database. Why search both? As in your locality search, you want to see all of what's available. 

If you use the FamilySearch Family Tree heavily, as I do, the site steers you to your own part of the tree automatically. However, the Search menu gives an entirely different way to view the tree database. Try searching for just your person's name, if it is somewhat unusual. Take note of how many profiles there might be for the person of interest, because the work of merging those profiles will be part of the work ahead. Your cousin researchers will thank you for sorting this out! And the tree will work better for you. Fill more fields in the search to narrow the results.

Searching the Genealogies from the menu at left might be interesting, although there is some old information. Many of the trees come from the old IGI, the International Genealogical Index. Genealogies also contains trees from the Guild of One Name Studies, Partner Trees: American Ancestors, and many other sources. Those trees may give valuable clues, however, as with any other clue, every fact and relationship must be verified. 

Searching Records at FamilySearch

Similar to Ancestry, searching records at FamilySearch from the profile page pre-fills the search fields. Add and remove search filters to limit the results. Don't forget to use the Collections tab, which can further focus your results.

Finally, research the FAN club! As you find more FAN club members, search their localities, do the name searches, and add them to the tree. Eventually you may want to add or link to them anyway as you find that they are relatives.

The Power of Three

We're not done yet! The power of three unlocks more records and facts as you move to a third site, such as, GenealogyBank, MyHeritage, Geni, Find-A-Grave, American Ancestors, FindMyPast, Geneanet, Filae, Scotlands People, and others. Use what you have found in your search so far to find even more events and records, using the same methodology: Locality, name search, FAN club.

The image at left shows the sites available to you now from each FamilySearch Family Tree profile. However, a site membership is necessary to make the best use of each site, unless you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which created and operates FamilySearch. LDS members can log into FamilySearch with free access to each of these sites. 

The free searches can yield valuable clues, and sometimes a free week or month membership is available. Take note of what you need, and make good use of your free access! The search links in the person profile make a great jumping off point, and will remind you to work the cycle one more time. Each of these sites will yield results to you if your search matches the strength of the database collection. If you are looking for French people, use Geneanet or Filae, not Scotland's People! 

Another Genealogy TV episode discusses favorite internet sites they call "clearing houses" but I call gold mines! The last 20 minutes of this video about how to use ArchiveGrid for unpublished manuscripts is priceless. 

Sites discussed besides ArchiveGrid and the FamilySearch Wiki: Linkpendium for data, Cyndi's List for historical background, DPLA for historical images, miscellaneous, and sources of more records, and WorldCat for published sources. 

Don't overlook web searches for localities, for people's names, and for FAN club members. Randy Majors' web search is a great way to start a name search: Sometimes a web search finds an obituary or wedding announcement that isn't on the newspaper sites! 

The Power of Three as a Habit

Whether you use research logs, templates, or checklists is up to you. However, by developing good research habits and helpful templates such as the "reason statement" templates discussed recently, you will save time and be more effective in your research. 

As you find each event or record, develop a routine for processing that event or record, perhaps with a checklist. Your goal is to always remember to download images to your own computer, always transcribe records before moving to the next search, remembering to upload the image if that is appropriate, and follow through by linking the record to the people mentioned there. 

Sometimes it helps to review what you have already found, and check that each of those steps has been done. In Ancestry, I find it useful to link each image in the gallery to a fact by editing the fact and using the Media tab to find the image. Just click the + to add. Doing this makes it much easier to review how relevant the facts listed really are. Do they build a case, and show a life? Or are two people with the same name entangled?

Get in the habit of doing locality searches before beginning name searches, and also add FAN club localities and names to your searches, and see the records mount up! The power of three cycle can be repeated as often as needed to find more records. Analyzing multiple records is much more productive than just a few sparse names, dates and places.

Valorie Cowan Zimmerman, SKCGS Vice President

Valorie Zimmerman


  1. That was a very well written blog. I think you should turn it into a presentation for a a general meeting.

  2. This is great Valorie! Very helpful.


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