Understanding the way search options work will help you find the historical records you need.
- Best practices
- Field-specific search tips
- Advanced tips and tricks
- What to do if you still cannot find a record
- Have a goal. Know what you are trying to find.
- Search for deceased people who were alive around 1940 or earlier.
- Start with a broad search. You do not have to enter information in all search parameter fields. In fact, you often get better results when you leave most of them blank.
- Expect records and indexes to contain errors, spelling variations, and estimations.
- Try your search several times with variations:
- Increase or decrease the date range.
- Add or remove information. For example, if you searched with a birth city and county, try searching only with the county.
- Search for a family member instead.
- Search for women using their maiden and married names. You can also search with just the first name of a woman and the names of her spouse or parents.
- Estimate dates and places.
- Use the filters on the search results page.
- Always look at the image, if possible. It often has more information than the index alone.
Field-specific search tips
|First Names|| |
Enter the first and middle names of the individual.
Search results ignore the order of first names.
|Last Names|| |
Enter the last name of the individual.
Search results preserve the name order of last names.
|Check boxes by name and place fields||Click the check box next to each field for which you want only exact matches.||If you use the exact search option and do not find what you need, clear the check boxes, and try your search again, even if you are confident that you know exact names and places.|
|Search with a life event || || |
|Search with a relationship: || || |
|Match all terms exactly||Click to find only records that match everything you entered exactly.||If you do not find what you need, clear the check box, and try your search again, even if you are confident that you know exact names and places.|
|Restrict records by: ||Click the type of restriction you want to apply to your search. Enter the requested information.||You can use more than one restriction. For example, you can restrict your results to marriage records from Canada.|
|Reset||Click to remove everything from search fields.|
Advanced tips and tricks
- To search for a child's birth records, enter the child's name, then click Parents. Enter the parents' names. If needed, try variations such as these:
- Both of the parents' full names.
- The father's full name only.
- The mother's full married name only; then her full married name only.
- The father's full name with the mother's first name.
- The mother's full maiden name with the father's first name.
- To find all of the children in a family, leave the first and last name fields blank. Then click Parents, and conduct your search using only parents' names. Use the variations listed above.
- Try variations such as these:
- Search for a person's name and an exact place.
- Search for residence with a year.
- To search for a marriage, try these tips:
- Enter the name of one person in the first and last name fields. Click Spouses, and then enter the name of the spouse. Try variations, such as the spouse's first name and the wife's maiden name.
- To limit your search results to marriage records only, click Type, and click the Marriage checkbox.
- You might find a woman's maiden name on her children's or spouse's death records.
- If the search results contain too many people from the wrong place, you can search just the records from a specific place.
- Search a specific collection.
What to do if you still cannot find a record
- Use the FamilySearch Catalog.
- Search for images by browsing the images in collections that are not yet indexed.
- Learn more about searching in a specific location from the FamilySearch Wiki.
- Look in the FamilySearch Digital Library.
- Look in the as online book collections of other libraries.
- Take advantage of record hints in Family Tree.
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