Finding Your Ancestors with Guided Research

October 24, 2020  - by 
a person with a laptop and a bunch of books

Wondering how to find the best places to search for your ancestors? Puzzling over where to begin and what to do next? FamilySearch is building and expanding on its Guided Research feature to show you step by step where to go and what to do.

Guided Research will lead you to successful results in less time and with less effort. It’s like having your own professional genealogist coaching you in a journey of discovery!

What Is Guided Research?

Guided Research outlines the most complete and comprehensive places to search for your ancestors’ records in a specific timeframe and area. If you are looking for help, the most promising sources are presented first. Then, Guided Research offers additional sources and resources to keep you progressing to successful results.

With this new emphasis, FamilySearch is expanding Guided Research to more countries. Guided Research is also being improved, with better workflows that will connect researchers and genealogy records in dynamic and exciting ways.

an old family photo

FamilySearch’s goal is to have guided research experiences for each country regardless of whether records exist online in FamilySearch databases or elsewhere online.

Expert genealogists and subject matter experts are working on the guided research experiences. They are prioritizing countries and customizing research for you, while building on existing guided experiences. That way, you can count on the most current and reliable information to help you find your ancestors.

countries with guided research available

How Do You Use Guided Research?

  1. Locate Guided Research in the FamilySearch Research Wiki (from the main Search menu) or find the link to Guided Research in the left pane from anywhere in the wiki. Hover over the map to find a location where your ancestor lived that has a guided research experience, or use the link at the top of the map to see an alphabetic list of all current research experiences.
the guided research map
  1. Pick a location, and begin answering guiding questions using what you already know or have learned about your ancestors. The process is built around finding birth, marriage, and death records, but the guide will also suggest other resources to help to bring you ever closer to finding the answer to your research question.
  2. Follow hyperlinks in the “What else you can try” section of the guided experience to locate additional online resources, substitute records, important tips, and supplemental information about possible missing records or additional places to look. Bear in mind that additional online sources may come from paid subscription services; these paid services will be marked with a dollar sign ($).
  3. Build on what you learn in one source to search other sources, following the prompts and suggestions. You will be led both to free FamilySearch collections and to subscription services. The process will take you to indexed records, unindexed collections, browsable images, and catalog sources with both digitized and undigitized records.
  4. Let the step-by-step flow guide you to the most productive sources first and then to other sources you might not know about.
how to on a marriage index in guided research

How Do You Get the Most out of Guided Research?

You will want to start with a focused research question, such as locating a date for an ancestor’s life event. Keep on track by following guiding questions and making choices in the order prompted.

Make sure to write down where you look, what you find, and what you don’t find with the date you looked, so you don’t duplicate efforts and forget where you left off.

With your goal in mind, these tips will ensure a successful guided research experience:

  1. Use name and place variations in combination when searching records. Follow the workflow to learn why some records may not actually exist and to discover additional places where the same information may be found.
  2. Start out with broad searches, and then add or subtract details in search fields to see what you can tease out of the records.
  3. Try spelling variations and use wildcards to search within the same database in different ways. If you’re unsuccessful, look in adjacent locations in the same record set.
  4. Consider using known relatives, such as siblings or children. Use waypoints in records to speed up searching images.
  5. Be persistent, and use suggested tips to solve research problems.
a dad and his sons on guided research

What If No Guided Research Experience Has Been Built for You?

The development of Guided Research is ongoing, with more research experiences coming to FamilySearch.org based on best practices and best record sources. Watch the Guided Research introduction page for updates. Keep up with recent updates to collections and planned pages for countries around the world.

Don’t hesitate to get started with Guided Research to move you forward in your family history finds!

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Comments

  1. I need help connecting with my Native American ancestors. I found my ancestors all the way back to 1700, but not the Native American. I am 47% Native American according to my DNA results.