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Use these strategies for success in finding your ancestors on FamilySearch.org.
Find relatives in the family tree. The FamilySearch Family Tree has a lofty goal: to create a family tree of the whole human race (at least since recordkeeping began). Other websites have large collections of family trees that often duplicate each other, errors and all. In an effort to increase accuracy and decrease duplication, FamilySearch has designed its tree with one profile per ancestral person, which anyone can edit. Unlike the rest of FamilySearch.org, you must register to use the Family Tree, but it’s still free.
Power User Tips
- Search with wildcards. The FamilySearch.org records search lets you use the ? wildcard in a surname to represent one letter, and the * wildcard to represent multiple letters.
- Use Exact carefully. If the death date is marked as exact, for example, your results will contain only records that have a death date—and most of your ancestor’s records were created while he was alive.
- Look for indexes in imaged volumes. Browsing an unindexed collection? Digitized volumes often contain handwritten or typed name indexes. Look for a volume with “index” in the title, and check the beginning and end of individual volumes.
- Start searching with a place. To focus your search on record collections related to a place, look under the Search tab, click Records and select a region on the world map. For example, click on the United States and select New York from the popup menu. You’ll see stats on the site’s New York records and a link to “Start researching in New York.” That link takes you to the New York research page, where you can search indexed New York records. Scroll down to see record collections that haven’t been indexed yet; click a title to browse.
- Search from a Family Tree profile. FamilySearch.org can help you find records faster by filling in the search form with details on someone in the Family Tree. In the person’s Personal Details view, look under the Research Help section of the right column and click Search Records. The site searches on the name, birth year plus or minus two years, birthplace, parents and spouse. You can attach a matching record to everyone it pertains to in the tree.
- Get research advice. The FamilySearch Wiki, which you can access under the Search tab, offers research advice, such as how to access records for a particular state or country or how to find military records.
- See recently updated collections. Because of FamilySearch’s fast digitizing pace, it pays to regularly check for new records from the places your family lived. Under the Search tab, click Records, then click Browse All Published Collections to see a list of all records. Click the Last Updated column heading on the right to move recently updated collections to the top.