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