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, 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. Make sure you have sources to back up your information. compare information carefully. Often people with the same name and close birth dates live in the same area. They may even be related and it can be deceiving. Go to the person page and Edit the information you are now ready to correct. Leave a short reason, perhaps refering to the source you may have attached.

    1. trying to find any information on my gran margaret bella begg hutchison who married david raitt in scotland thank you evelyn wallace

  1. deseo saber donde mueren mis bisabuelos luis o luigi bima y ana o anna alladio.

    I want to know where my great-grandparents die Luis or Luigi Bima and Ana or Anna Alladio.

  2. Why does an ancestor show up on an 1850 census when searching on Ancestry but the same search on Family Search does NOT have the 1850 with that family on it come up as a ‘hint or source’? I need to attach that info from th 1850 census to Family search but I don’t know how to get it from Ancestry (showing the 1850 census as a source for that family) to Family search…HELP!!

    1. When you find the 1850 census on Ancestry open it by clicking on it. Copy the URL and paste it in the right place in sources. Copy a Title and paste that in the source. Copy information on the page and paste or write it down in the last box labeled reason or information from this source.. Sometimes doing this Family search will brong up a hint (blue box) with the same information. Just add it also.

  3. Busco el día y mes de mi bisabuelo y municipio italiano donde nació. Es Alejandro Quaranta nacido en 1884 Italia zona norte. Falleció el 18 de agosto de 1855 en coronel fraga, zona rural de la provincia de santa fe Argentina. Se casó en clucellas misma provincia con Juana viale el 01 de septiembre de 1911.

    Translation: I am looking for the day and month of my great-grandfather and Italian municipality where he was born. It is Alejandro Quaranta born in 1884 in the northern Italy. He died on August 18, 1855 in Colonel Fraga, a rural area in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina. He married in clucellas same province with Juana viale on September 1, 1911.

  4. I am trying to find the birthdate and death date of my mother-in-law. Vivian Rainford Poss Meginnis. I know she died in 1980 in Whittier Ca. but is only in Los Angeles County”s records. She is buried in Illinois