A Beginner’s Guide to Searching Records

July 19, 2019  - by 
Woman searching through stacks of books.

FamilySearch.org is bursting at the seams with great records—some of which almost certainly have new information about your family. Learn from this beginner’s guide how to search these records and find your ancestors.

Start by going to FamilySearch’s main search screen, which you can find by selecting Search in the bar at the top of the screen and then, in the drop-down menu, Records. From here, you can see multiple ways to search.

The Basic Search: Search by Individual

A screenshot of the search records page, where you can find your ancestors.

There are a few ways you can search records and find your ancestors on FamilySearch, but one of the most basic ways is to search by individual.

To search this way, focus on the Search Historical Records box on the left of the main search screen, and follow these simple steps:

  1. Fill in information about your ancestor. It’s easy to assume that the more detailed information you put in about your ancestor, the better. Actually, the opposite is generally true. Put in as little information as possible that brings up a reasonable amount of results.
  2. Click Search to get a list of results. In the example here, we entered information for Charles Mulford. Results look like this (only the top match is shown here):
How to View Historical Records on FamilySearch

If you think one of the items on the list is a match, select anywhere in the row to see the record details. A transcription of the document opens on the left, with a link to the document image on the right. Choosing View the original document below the thumbnail of the document image in this example brings up the 1910 census with Charles and his family.

Find your ancestors in the 1910 census, which can be found at FamilySearch

Another Quick Way to Search

Sidebar for searching records on person page so you can find your ancestors

There’s also another way to search for individuals. If you are using Family Tree, go to the person’s page. On the right side of the page, in the Search Records box, select FamilySearch. The details of this person will automatically be used to fill in the search fields.

Once you find the individual you’re searching for, you can add the information to Family Tree so you can expand your family tree and find the record easily in the future.

Keep in mind that only indexed collections are searchable in this way. FamilySearch has many online records that aren’t yet accessible from this kind of search.

The Sad Case of Unsuccessful Searches

Not every search will yield the results you are looking for—but have no fear! A record with information about your family might still be out there. Learn how to refine your searches, or try different search methods, so that you can find your ancestors.

Books looks through binoculars

All about the FamilySearch Family Tree

Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. Hladam umrtie mojho prastareho odca JAN TALIGA nar.v hornych hamroch 16.1.1867.Do Ameriky DO BAFALA odisiel v roku 1909.nikdy sa nevratil a tam aj zomrel a neviem kedy.

    Google Translate – Slovak to English: I am looking for the death of my ancient child JAN TALIG, born in the upper hammers on January 16, 1867. He left for BAFAL in America in 1909. He never returned and died there and I don’t know when.

    1. Hi Stanislav! Thank you for your research question. Please check out the FREE Virtual Research Strategy Sessions where you can schedule time with a specialist to help you on any family history question you may have. You can also connect with other FamilySearch users who may be able to help you, by joining the FamilySearch Community. Good luck and thank you for reading the blog!

      Google Translate – English to Slovak: Ahoj Stanislav! Ďakujeme za vašu výskumnú otázku. Vyskúšajte BEZPLATNÉ zasadnutia o stratégii virtuálneho výskumu , kde môžete naplánovať čas so špecialistom, ktorý vám pomôže pri akýchkoľvek otázkach týkajúcich sa rodinnej anamnézy, ktoré máte. Môžete sa tiež spojiť s ďalšími používateľmi aplikácie FamilySearch, ktorí vám môžu pomôcť, pripojením sa k komunite FamilySearch . Veľa šťastia a ďakujeme za prečítanie blogu!

    2. Hola. A qué parte de América se fue Bafal no me suena ese nombre. Has intentado la búsqueda con algún apellido deformado ya que hay muchos apellidos mal escritos. Suerte

      Google Translate – Spanish to English: Hello. What part of America did Bafal go to does not sound like that name to me. You have tried the search with a misspelled surname as there are many misspelled surnames. Lucky

  2. I am searching for a cousin who used to correspond with my sister who would like to resume contact, if she is still alive.

    1. Has visto con alguna variación del apellido. Me ha pasado que el de mis familiares está mal escrito. Trata de colocar lo menos posible en datos he tenido buenos resultados. Suerte

      Google Translate – Spanish to English: You have seen with some variation of the surname. It has happened to me that the one of my relatives is badly written. Try to put as little data as possible I have had good results. Lucky

  3. hladam predkou mojeho rodu jozef betyar agnesa berkyova soporna

    Google Translate – Slovak to English: I am looking for the ancestors of my family jozef betyar agnesa berkyova soporna

    1. Hi Stefan! Thank you for your research question. Please check out the FREE Virtual Research Strategy Sessions where you can schedule time with a specialist to help you on any family history question you may have. You can also connect with other FamilySearch users who may be able to help you, by joining the FamilySearch Community. Good luck and thank you for reading the blog!

      Google Translate – English to Slovak: Ahoj Stefan! Ďakujeme za vašu výskumnú otázku. Vyskúšajte BEZPLATNÉ zasadnutia o stratégii virtuálneho výskumu , kde môžete naplánovať čas so špecialistom, ktorý vám pomôže pri akýchkoľvek otázkach týkajúcich sa rodinnej anamnézy, ktoré máte. Môžete sa tiež spojiť s ďalšími používateľmi služby FamilySearch, ktorí vám môžu pomôcť, pripojením sa k komunite FamilySearch . Veľa šťastia a ďakujeme za prečítanie blogu!

  4. I have been searching for my father-in-law´s grandfather. He was from Lampezia, Catanzaro and migrated to Guatemala City in Central America during the first world war. We don´t exactly the birth date. We do know he was married to Alba Ciani Ciani from Domegge di Cadore, Belluno, Veneto

  5. i am looking for my grandfather and his brother and grandfather’s mother grandfather name = dhim-reci brother name mico-reci .grandfather’s mother-in-law vitori-thanassis .went to argentina before1922

  6. searching for my Gt.Gt.Grandfather Anthony Torbit. married to Jean meikle 1840 They had 5 children and I have their birthdates and where born. Anthony torbit is buried in Galston Ayrshire cemetery as UNKNOWN

  7. There are lots of variations on last names spellings caused either by the official of country registration official in my case Chile-Arauco,or the ones that have written this search.This errors I can see in my own family that I know how to spell my last name, mother side.Also the person that have got the info.have classified somebody female as male.Lack of understanding names in spanish in this case.I wish I would have done the research, but thanks anyways, at least there is something.Thanks

  8. porque el rollo que especifico no me sale en la ventana

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: because the roll that I specify does not appear in the window

  9. I am looking for information about my cousin Nancy Cogley Finn. I have not been successful. Can you help. Thank you

  10. I find all the information on Ancestry – why to can’t find any of it I don’t understand. I am just trying to get a copy of it. So I may see all of it. I gave you name’s date and place of marriage. That I am sure of for I can read that much on ancestry but bottom is not showing so I wounder is something else is there. So guess I won’t waist your time or mine .I will try to contact older family member to see what they may have on it. Or others in that line of family tree..

  11. I am trying to trace my great grandfather, James J Lucci (his American name) back to Italy. I have been unable to find any documents with his Italian name and information (including his Certificate of Landing or his Declaration of Intention). Do you have any advice?