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.

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

The Basic Search: Search by Individual

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. Desperate, after 25 years of research, to find the immigration records for Roma Rooney and Chauncey George Rooney, who arrived in the U.S. around 1893. Roma was born in Serbia and Chauncey was born at sea. They were my great grandmother and her son, my grandfather.

    1. Hi Kathleen! 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!

  2. I am looking for an ancestor Admiral Edward Vernon Born Nov 12 1684 Westminster London England. Death Oct 30 1757 Suffolk England. His Father James Vernon. Mother Mary Buck. He had two wives Anne Fuller and Sarah Best. My Grandmother Emily Georgina Boreham or Borham. Born 1886. Died1936.My Great grandfather was Thompson Vernon Borham or Boreham Birth 1832. Death1884. Emily left in her journal referring that Admiral Vernon was her great great grandfather. Emily stated that there were 8 descendants with the name Vernon passed down from the original Admiral Vernon. I cannot trace through the Boreham ancestors to Edward Vernon. When I Did an Ancestor search there was no results. Would the Australian Boreham Family have any data on this matter?

  3. I have been searching for the death dates of my maternal grandparents without success for many years. They are John McKee born 1879 Antrim married 1st wife Jane Mcnaul, she died in 1901 and John remarried my grandmother Agnes White in 1906 in Antrim. I can find both marriages but have to information re deaths and location. Any information would be gratefully received.

  4. Mi madre es huerfana y no puedo avanzar

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: My mother is an orphan and I can’t move forward

  5. Me deprime y me duele mucho el no encontrar informacion de mi madre Angelina Flores Sanchez, de Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico; ya que ella es huerfana. tristemente.

    Google Translate -Spanish to English: It depresses me and it hurts me a lot not to find information about my mother Angelina Flores Sanchez, from Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico; since she is an orphan. sadly.

    1. Hi Fabiola! 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 Fabiola! 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 ayudarlo 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!

  6. I feel sad searching for my ancestors because I knew were not educated, their locations are now forest. we are on the fourth settlement the previous three is forest. whom will i consult.

  7. I am very grateful for these FamilySearch records. I have been able to find the original baptism records and the true parents of Maria Dolores Tello Castro, I have found her parents, their marriage and her siblings

  8. Daniel L. Harvey was my great grandfather. I know he was married 3 times. I cannot find any records of his marriages.

  9. My Great Grandfather was Daniel L Harvey, 1827-1906. He lived in Hinesburg, Vermont. I know he was married 3 times but I can’t find any records.

  10. Busco comuna de nacimiento de mi bisabuelo: Antonio DE SABATO,(DI SABATO)…El año de nacimiento:1.867-1868…según censo de ARGENTINA de 1895: es Forllano(o Porlano)…se casó el:20/6/1892 en ESPERANZA ,Departamento LAS COLONIAS,Provincia de SANTA FE, ARGENTINA con: LUISA SOPHIA ADELA LAMY(o: LAMIE).

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: I am looking for the commune of birth of my great-grandfather: Antonio DE SABATO, (DI SABATO)… The year of birth: 1.867-1868… according to the 1895 census of ARGENTINA: it is Forllano (or Porlano)… he got married on: 6/20/1892 in ESPERANZA, LAS COLONIAS Department, SANTA FE Province, ARGENTINA with: LUISA SOPHIA ADELA LAMY (or: LAMIE).

    1. Hi Rodolfo! 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 Rodolfo! 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 ayudarlo 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. Hello I look for my grandfather and brother him ? Name brother him it’s mico surname reci Father koco mom’s name nisse

  11. Busco datos sobre mi tatarabuelo Zenón Moyano, no puedo encontrar nada, solo tengo de referencia un solo apellido,mi padre me decía que era Italiano no tengo ningún otro dato…. Espero algún día saber algo más, seguiré intentando

    Google Translate – Spanish to English: I’m looking for data about my great-great-grandfather Zenón Moyano, I can’t find anything, I only have a single surname reference, my father told me that he was Italian, I don’t have any other data… I hope one day to know something else, I’ll keep trying

    1. Hi Mirian! 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 Mirian! 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 ayudarlo 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!

  12. looking for marriage record Sarah Vaux Recorded in “England and Wales Marriage Index 1837-1983 Oct, Nov Dec Marriage date November20,1843

  13. England and Wales marriages are easy to find, look for district, for example, Lancashire and then the city, and name and year.