A Beginner’s Guide to Searching Records

July 19, 2019  - by 

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.

There are a few ways you can search records 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.

Screenshot of 1910 census

Another Quick Way to Search

Sidebar for searching records on person page

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.

Learn 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. Me parece maravilloso todo lo que hace la Iglesia por mantener los registros del mundo para miembros y todo el que quiera saber si Historia Familiar

  2. I would like to talk to a person regarding some difficulties I am experiencing trying to help a non member to do the Temple ordinances for his mother and grandparents. Will someone answer giving me a phone number to call, and talk to a person who could give me some inf. or help to proceed with the requirements ??.

    1. Thank you for being so diligent in helping your friend! You can contact a representative here and they can help you personally.

      1. Thanks for replying; I have sent his name, and email address and I have not yet received and authorization to do request the ordinances for his mother. Could someone call me and guide me on what to do in this case? You can contact me using my husband’s email address.

    1. Under the Search tab click “Family Tree”. From there you have two options. You can find a person by name or click “Find by ID”. If you click on “Find by ID” all you have to do from there is copy and paste the ID number and press search. Good luck!