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.

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  1. Estoy buscando el Certificado de Casamiento de mis abuelos: ELISENA MARIA ZUNGRI con ARMANDO DEL BARBA, mas o menos fue en el año 1930 o 1929 probablemente en el Partido de Zarate Pcia de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Desde a muchs gracias

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: I am looking for the Marriage Certificate of my grandparents: ELISENA MARIA ZUNGRI with ARMANDO DEL BARBA, more or less it was in the year 1930 or 1929 probably in the Zarate Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thank you very much

    1. Hi Victor! 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 Spanish: ¡Hola Víctor! Gracias por su pregunta de investigación. Consulte las sesiones de estrategia de investigación virtual GRATUITAS en las que puede programar el tiempo con un especialista para que lo ayude con cualquier pregunta de antecedentes familiares que pueda tener. También puede conectarse con otros usuarios de FamilySearch que puedan ayudarlo uniéndose a la Comunidad de FamilySearch . ¡Buena suerte y gracias por leer el blog!

  2. Mi antecesor Joseph Antonio Leal de Leon, se caso con Maria Apolinaria Rodriguez de Montemayor en 15 Noviembre de 1739, diciendo que era viudo de Maria Apolinaria Perez de Leon, y casado ni menos viudo era y 8 dias despues ahora si se casa con ella, y tenemos 2 matrimonios en el mismo mes.

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: My predecessor Joseph Antonio Leal de Leon, married Maria Apolinaria Rodriguez de Montemayor on November 15, 1739, saying that he was a widower of Maria Apolinaria Perez de Leon, and he was married no less a widower and 8 days later now if he marries her, and we have 2 marriages in the same month.

  3. Ruben Rex and Ruben Rakes have the same individual number. K2J7 -L9P. My great grandmother and daughter of this man and all of her siblings have the Rex surname, but family tree shows Ruben and all the ancestors to have the Rakes name. Why? Is this just and error? or was the name changed for some reason. My grandmother said that she was one quarter Cherokee Indian, but my DNA test did not show that I had any. I just can’t help but think that there is a mistake here.

  4. Searching for Charles Seeks arriving on SS Baltimore FEB 26 1889 in Buenos Aires coming from Antwerp (Bel)

  5. Estoy buscando el Certificado de Casamiento de mis abuelos: Giuseppe Rondoletti o José Rondoletti con Clementina Barberis, ocurrido entre los años 1908 y 1911, en Capital Federal o en Libertad, Partido de Merlo Provincia de Buenos Aires. Muchas gracias!!!

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: I am looking for the Marriage Certificate of my grandparents: Giuseppe Rondoletti or José Rondoletti with Clementina Barberis, which occurred between 1908 and 1911, in the Federal Capital or in Libertad, Merlo Province of Buenos Aires. Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Roberto! 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 Spanish: ¡Hola Roberto! Gracias por su pregunta de investigación. Consulte las sesiones de estrategia de investigación virtual GRATUITAS en las que puede programar el tiempo con un especialista para que lo ayude con cualquier pregunta de antecedentes familiares que pueda tener. También puede conectarse con otros usuarios de FamilySearch que puedan ayudarlo uniéndose a la Comunidad de FamilySearch . ¡Buena suerte y gracias por leer el blog!

    2. Sería bueno si alguien de Argentina pudiera ver por sistema o te oriente. Yo busco nombres de personas en una página y sale los rut de las personas y entro directamente a la página de registro civil en chile y puedes buscar los datos. Aprox. De 1928 aprox. No sé cómo será en Argentina. Pero puede ser parecido. Espero tengas suerte. Yo así he encontrado muchos familiares. Suerte

      Google Translate – Spanish to English: It would be nice if someone from Argentina could see by system or guide you. I look for names of people on a page and it leaves the routines of the people and I go directly to the civil registry page in Chile and you can look up the data. Approx. From 1928 approx. I don’t know what it will be like in Argentina. But it can be similar. Good luck. I have thus found many relatives. Lucky

  6. I don’t understand how to find links to Deed Books in Botetourt County, Virginia? Some of the deed books I’m looking for are: 1. Rennick’s Run Deed Book 36 page 314, 2. Botetourt County Deed Book 25 1841-1844 images 128, and 3. Deed Book 29 1847-1849 image 126. Thank you for you help