Most family historians are familiar with the FamilySearch website which provides access to databases and digitised images of genealogical records, along with family trees, digitised books and other useful tools.

Not all, however, are aware of the large number of digitised records on FamilySearch which have not been indexed but can only be browsed, rather than searched by name. Until recently, the only way to access most of these was to search the site’s catalogue by place or other keyword.

This week FamilySearch announced a new way of accessing these digitised collections called ‘Explore Historical Images’ ( This should help in making researchers aware of these records, as well as providing a new way of searching them.

The ‘Explore Historical Images’ search screen on FamilySearch.

This weekend I’ve been playing around with the Explore Historical Images search to see if there might be any records I had previously overlooked. Like others, I’ve found a few problems with placenames being mis-identified. For example, searching for Bute, Scotland, brings up a suggested 39 collections, but many of these actually relate to Butte County, Idaho!

Scrolling through the results I did eventually find some records relating to Bute in Scotland, including a digitised copy of the Index to the Particular Register of Sasines for Argyle, Dumbarton, Bute, Arran and Tarbert 1617-1780 and several registers of poor for Rothesay, Bute. A record identified as land records for Edinburgh covering 1887 appears to be a baptism register from 1680 which I couldn’t identify but was certainly not for anywhere in Scotland.

I have occasionally found records mis-identified in the FamilySearch catalogue but not to this extent. In some cases the issue probably stems from the fact that records come from digitised microfilms held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, which contain several different items (sometimes totally unrelated and from different countries) and the individual items have not been correctly identified and linked to the right location.

For now, it seems that searching the catalogue is still going to be the best way of locating most records but I am sure that many of the problems will be resolved in the future. At the moment this is a new tool that family historians can play around with and which may possibly turn up some useful records; but it is certainly something to keep an eye on for the future.