Finding Elusive Records on FamilySearch

February 27, 2018  - by 

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. A printable version would be much more valuable than trying to watch video instructions while searching. Also, for some reason the audio on the video is terrible.

  2. Robert Kehrer’s presentation on finding elusive records at FamilySearch is the most valuable and helpful information I have ever found regarding, how to search in the huge FS database. I was astounded that 77 percent of historical records on FS can’t be found with the basic search. The tutorial is straight forward, concise. I particularly liked the various techniques of working with un-indexed image sets and the advanced search features that even the novice researcher can understand. Outstanding work! Thank you so much.

  3. I wonder if you can help answer a question. The Northern Illinois Naturalization records are browse only. I have found my relative’s record in the Illinois Northern District Naturalization Index, and it indicates his Petition of Naturalization is on a particular page number. It does not indicate a volume or petition number. How were these records organized so that I can find the page number of my relative’s record?
    (He was naturalized on Dec 23 1919. The page number given on the index card is 35421.)

  4. Thank you for a presentation with usable, extremely helpful information, including the breakdown of the video by topics. It was refreshing to watch a RootsTech video that wasn’t a pep rally mc’d by a game show host.

  5. What a terrific class! I came out of this class eager to get into and being using the tips and techniques. Such a valuable lesson for all of us. Very good!
    I was a bit dismayed at the Q&A portion when folks were talking, getting up and leaving without showing respect to the speaker and those asking questions. Granted the ‘lesson’ portion was over but we call could have benefited with the Q&A portion.

  6. Every record group I look at with a camera beside it has a key above the camera and these records are all locked. Why? You just did a presentation on how to use these records and I can’t get into any of them?

    1. Pat, FamilySearch works to make as many records publicly available as possible, but many records are restricted because FamilySearch does not own the records and must work within the contracts granted by the owners. See this video or read this article for more information.

  7. I am trying to find an Aunt she is Japanese and has a Visa and Passport number but how do I find out the info from that passport and visa ? They both are from Japan . NOT USA

  8. Wonderful tips. I found one of my ancestors from just following along with split screen watching and pausing and found him rather fast. Thank you and will now go back and see the records I have missed.

    Thank you Robert

    Tim Rosenlof
    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°))

  9. Thank you so much family History Research for all the wonderful work you do. without you I would never have the pleasure of my family history.

  10. I am having a hard time when trying to get Uruguayan records from the 20’s up to date. Is there any way in which FamilySearch might help?
    Best regards