Research Your Family Tree Map with FamilySearch Places Tool

August 13, 2020  - by 
family uses places tool

Anyone who has tried to uncover family history knows that place is an integral part of every family’s story. The places our ancestors lived shaped their lives and experiences. The places in our family tree map also determined what records were created about our family. It makes sense then that to find our ancestors and understand their lives, we need to learn something about the places they came from.

The FamilySearch Places tool makes learning about where your family came from easier than ever. It provides a summary of the records, demographics, and history of the places your family came from, giving you a glimpse into the lives and experiences of your ancestors.

screenshot of family tree map places

Search by Town, Parish, County, State, or Other Place Term

Getting started is as easy as typing a place-name in the search box in the top left corner of the page. The place-name can be a town, parish, county, state, or any other kind of place.

If you aren’t sure of the spelling, use wildcards in the place-name, such as “Neubrandenb*rg,” or use a tilde (~) to search for similar spellings. (The tilde is usually found just left of the 1 key on a keyboard.) With this flexibility, a search for “Providance~, Utah,” would also find “Providence, Utah,” and any similar place-names in Utah. A search for “Providance~” will look for similar place-names worldwide.

screenshot of search places experience

If any historical constraints exist for a place on your family tree map, those will be included in the search results. For example, a search for “Chatham, Connecticut” will show that the town changed its name to “East Hampton” in 1915. Such information may help you understand how your ancestor’s home has changed through the years and how record-keeping may have changed for that location.

screenshot of places tool with timeline

Explore the Research Sections

After you have searched for a place-name and narrowed the results to one that you are interested in, click a result to view further details about the place. The details are organized into sections, starting with Basic Information and History.

Basic Information

This section may include a few paragraphs summarizing the basic information about the place you are researching, including the origin of the place-name, an overview of the government, and other relevant and interesting facts about the place.

Historical Information

This section may include a short paragraph about the place’s history, or it may have several paragraphs and an extensive timeline.

This section can be especially helpful in identifying which jurisdiction the place was under during different time periods. Knowing the jurisdiction can help you determine where to look for records in each period.

Research Links

Below the History section of a selected place, you will find the Research Links section. These links connect to outside websites with place-focused information. For example, WhatWasThere.com pins historical photos of the selected place to Google Maps.

family tree map of places

The other research links can provide a list of nearby places or other places found within that jurisdiction.

Alternate Names

Below the Research Links section, you will find the Alternate Names section. This section lists other names the place was known by over time. Such information could be particularly important for places that have changed names or that have different names in different languages.

Citations

The final section of the basic search results is the Citations section. It refers to books or websites from which information about the place was gathered

With this place-centered resource, FamilySearch has made it more convenient than ever to lay the foundation you need to understand where your ancestors came from and how to find them!

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Comments

  1. This is a great article! Could I have your permission to include it in a genealogy newsletter for my genealogy group? I am the newsletter editor for the Family History Society of Arizona based in the greater Phoenix area. Of course, I would credit you and include the link to your blog.

    1. Hi Jessie! Thank you for your question. Yes, you can share FamilySearch Blog articles with your genealogy group. Please link directly to the blog article. Thank you!

  2. You say “Another research link you should use is Search for Records for This Place on FamilySearch.org. Clicking that link will search the FamilySearch historical records.”

    On the examples I checked, that link simply is NOT there.

    1. Hi Adrian! Thank you for your feedback. You are correct. The link is not there. The article has been updated with that section now removed. The Places Team has been notified that the link to the Places tool is currently not available for simple access on the FamilySearch site. Your feedback regarding the connection between the Places Tool and researching historical record has also been shared with the Places Team. Thank you for reading the blog!

  3. I can get to the link for Family Search Places Tool from this blog. How can I get to it when I’m in Family Search?

    1. Hi Carolyn! Thank you for your question. There is currently not a link to the Places tool available for simple access on the FamilySearch site. I have shared your feedback with the Places Team. Thank you for reading the blog!

  4. Will a link to the FamilySearch Places tool be added to the Help menu in the FamilySearch web pages (e.g., along with the Research Wiki). All research tools should be available on the FamilySearch webpages in a similar fashion.

    1. Hi Jeff! Thank you for your feedback. A direct link is currently not available for simple access to the Places Tool on the FamilySearch site. However, you can access it via the Site Map. I have shared your feedback to the Places Team. Hopefully in the future a direct link will be available. Thank you for reading the blog!

  5. As Adrian Bruce commented: the link is missing to Search for Records for This Place on FamilySearch.org. It should be under “Research Links” after one enters a place name and goes to its page.

    In addition, the FamilySearch Places Tool has been hidden long enough. How about adding it to one of the menus?

    Here are some suggestions:
    1. In the Help Center where an icon could be added to the 12 that are already there.
    2. On the “Search” drop down menu where it could be added to the 7 items that are already there. Perhaps “Places”.

    Thanks for all the great improvements! They just keep coming!!! Cheers.

    1. Hi Kevin! Thank you for your feedback. Many agree that the Places Tool should have a direct link on the FamilySearch website. I have shared your specific feedback with the Places Team. Hopefully in the future there will be a direct link. You can access the link currently via the Site Map at the bottom of the FamilySearch site. Thank you for reading the blog!

  6. Could you please add the FamilySearch Places tool to the Search menu option on the FamilySearch web pages? The only way I’m able to access it is by coming to this blog article and using the link. It’s a useful tool and should be incorporated into the main menu options for easy accessibility to FamilySearch users.

    1. Hi Joel! Thank you for your feedback. Having the Places Tool accessible from the Search menu would be a great feature. I’ve shared your feedback with the Places Team. In the meantime, you can access the Places link from the Site Map at the bottom of the FamilySearch page. Hopefully soon it will have easier access. Thank you for reading the blog!

  7. Other than by clicking the link in this article, how exactly do I connect to PLACES? I would like to explore this feature AND share the information with others…

    1. Hi Nancy! Thank you for your feedback. Having the Places Tool accessible from the Search menu would be a great feature. I’ve shared your feedback with the Places Team. In the meantime, you can access the Places link from the Site Map at the bottom of the FamilySearch page. Hopefully soon it will have easier access. You can share the blog with others! Thank you for reading the blog!

  8. Érdekes,de egyenlőre nem látom hogyan kezdhetném!

    Google Translate: Hungarian to English: Interesting, but I don’t see how I can start yet!

  9. I really would like the Places Team to explain how the tilde mechanism works, if only because it doesn’t produce the results I expect it to.
    Is it doing a Soundex search?
    Is it comparing strings?
    A search for ‘Jezio~’ produces Betio, Czechia, Berio, Cevio, Jezīn and 75 others.
    I don’t understand how Czechia is like the search parameters and the only similarity with Berio and Cevio is that they’re both the same syllable length and end in ‘io’ like the search parameters.
    Understanding how the search works would help me refine my searches.

    1. Hi Peter! Thank you for your feedback. The Places Team is working on providing more help resources on how to best utilize this feature. They will be coming in the future.

      They have also provided the following to help you right now:
      Most of the searches done are exact matches against normalized names. Thus searching for “Provo” will match places that have names of “Provo” or “Provö”. However a few additional options are available:
      1. * (asterisk) will match zero or more characters. Searching for “Prov*” will match “Provo”, “Prova”, “Providence”, etc.
      2. ? (question mark) will match exactly one character, so searching for “Prov?” will match “Provo”, “Prova”, but not “Providence”.
      3. ~ (tilde) will find any name that is no more than two changes from the original text. Any place that has a name or variant name that is close (one or two changes) will be found. A change can be moving a letter, removing a letter, adding a letter, or changing the position of a letter.

    1. HI Manuel! Thank you for your question. Currently the Places tool is not listed in a menu option at the top of the FamilySearch website. It is, however, available via the Site Map. You can access the Site Map from the footer of the FamilySearch website. It is listed at the top of the Historical Records section.

  10. This is cool, but you left off at least two very important links – the FS Wiki and Catalog pages for the place. I was expecting both under the Research pull down.