Finding Elusive Records on FamilySearch

February 27, 2018  - by 
How to find elusive family history records.

If a basic search on is the only approach you use to find your ancestors, you might be missing out on a lot of potential discoveries. The records you can find by performing basic searches represent only a small portion of what’s available on FamilySearch.

In fact, 77 percent of the free historical records on can’t be found by searching. That’s a lot of information about your family just waiting to be discovered! In order to tap into these hard-to-find records, you’ll need to know how to use resources like unindexed image collections and the FamilySearch catalog, as well as some more advanced search features.

A new video presentation is available from Robert Kehrer, senior product manager for FamilySearch’s search and hinting technologies. This tutorial will walk you step-by-step through the process of locating elusive records in your family history research.

If you haven’t found what you’re looking for using FamilySearch’s basic search tool, don’t give up. There are many other ways for you to access information about your family that you may not have known before. Check out the presentation “Finding Elusive Records on FamilySearch” to learn these valuable research skills and break through the roadblocks on your family tree.

Download here.

This presentation covers the following topics:

  • Techniques for working with unindexed image sets
    • Navigating image waypoints (1:14)
    • Indices in the image sets (6:40)
    • Indices created from image sets (14:44)
    • From the FamilySearch catalog (23:43)
  • Advanced search features
    • Using the batch number (32:02)
    • Filter results by collection (38:04)
    • Exact searching (42:06)
    • Searching with wildcards (46:39)
    • Analyze search results in a spreadsheet (52:30)
    • Questions and answers or feedback (55:32)

Watch Videos by Topic:

Clicking on these links will take you to the YouTube video described.

  • Finding Elusive Records Introduction (Download here)
    Robert Kehrer introduces his presentation “Finding Elusive Records in FamilySearch.”
  • Navigating Image Waypoints (Download here)
    Waypoints are markers in an image set that divide the records into logical chunks, making the collection easier to navigate. Robert Kehrer explains how to use image waypoints when browsing free record collections on FamilySearch.
  • Search Indices Created from Image Sets (Download here)
    Many image sets on FamilySearch have indices that are contained in a separate book or set of images. Learn how you can use indices created from image sets to find records with information about your ancestors.
  • Search from the FamilySearch Catalog (Download here)
    If you’re not finding your ancestor’s records by searching, the records you are trying to find might be available only through the FamilySearch catalog. Learn how to use the catalog in your genealogy research to find images of historical records that have not yet been grouped into searchable collections.
  • Search Using Batch Number (Download here)
    Using batch numbers in your search can help you narrow the results by place and type of record. Robert Kehrer explains what batch numbers mean and how you can use them to find multiple generations of a family.
  • Filter Search Results by Collection (Download here)
    When your searches return a large number of results, it’s helpful to know how to sort them to see only the relevant ones. Filtering your results by collection can help you narrow down your search results to find the specific records you’re looking for.
  • Exact Searching (Download here)
    Exact searching is an advanced search feature you can use when you want to see only the records that match your search exactly. Learn how to recognize when you should try an exact search and how to do it.
  • Searching with Wildcards (Download here)
    Wildcards introduce more variability into your search results, helping you find records that contain spelling variations or may have been indexed incorrectly. This video explains the different types of wildcards you can use and shows examples of how to search with wildcards on FamilySearch.
  • Analyze Search Results in a Spreadsheet (Download here)
    Learn how to easily sort, tag, and analyze your search results by exporting them to a spreadsheet. This advanced search feature on FamilySearch helps you keep track of your research findings.
  • Questions and Answers or Feedback (Download here)
    Robert Kehrer concludes his presentation “Finding Elusive Records in FamilySearch” and provides instructions for giving feedback at


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  1. When trying to use the search techniques described for unindexed imaging I note that my search pages are different from those in video. Should I be using a particular web address?

  2. Robert Kehrers’ presentation of “Finding Elusive Records” is one of the best and informative I have seen.

  3. This was an excellent learning tool!! I have used FamilySearch several years, but learned new ways to do things by watching this video that will be sure to help me.

  4. This presentation on Finding Elusive R ecords using by Robert Kehrer is so full of hints, helps, and ways to better use that it needs broad circulation. Thankyou Mr Kerher.

  5. I have really enjoyed listening to Robert Kehrers’ presentations as I have several problems I need to solve. One question I have is where do I find a list of the letters that are in the front of the BATCH NUMBERS?

  6. Can you tell me the meaning of these columns in the exported spreadsheet:
    easy_unique_id, person_url, record_url, source_media_type? Are they somewhere defined in FS Wiki? If not, shouldn’t they be? It seems some of this info may help us identify those persons in the spreadsheet.

  7. Robert Kehrer indicates that “77 percent of the free historical records on can’t be found by searching” and information in various sources indicate that 5 billion plus records are searchable. What is the approximate real number that are not currently indexed? Is it in excess of 15 billion? Can someone help put this issue/opportunity in real numbers??

  8. This is one of the best presentations I’ve seen on this topic. Very clear and understandable. Is there anyway that the Powerpoint can be printed?

  9. Have three Constables sign Oath of allegiance & fidelity to colony of maryland during the revolution…Have names only… unknown if related…can search start at that point ?