Genealogy Quick Guide to

By Rick Crume Premium

Membership Options


 Level  Benefits  Cost
 US & Canada  access all US and Canadian records, build a family tree  $9.95 per month or $99.48 per year (12-month subscribers also get Find My Past Firsts webinars, priority support and special offers)
 World  the above, plus access to international records  $19.95 per month or $199.56 per year (12-month subscribers also get Find My Past Firsts webinars, priority support and special offers)
 Pay as you go  access to records and transcriptions in exchange for credits 5 to 10 credits each for most records or transcriptions; $13.95 for 100 credits good for 90 days

Overview, a UK-based genealogy site, began with a focus on UK and Irish records, but has since added large collections for the United States and Canada. The acquisition of Mocavo added to the site’s resources which include vital records, church records, military records, newspapers, passenger lists and censuses, including all US census records from 1790 to 1940. You can build your family tree on the site and attach records to it, but you can’t yet search all the site’s family trees.


Search strategies

Find ancestors on with these tips:

Search all the records. On the home page you can search on first and last names, an event type (birth, death or other), a year or range of years, and a place. Place options include World, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, or United States and Canada, plus a state, county or city you type. You might start by typing just a surname into the home page search form.
If you get too many irrelevant results, add more details using the form at the top of your results page. This form’s fields echo the search form on the home page, plus checkboxes to deselect first and/or last name variants, effectively producing an exact search.
To the left of your results, further narrow your matches by adding a keyword and using filters for category of records (such as Immigration & Travel), the country, the record collection (such as Passenger Lists) or the record set (such as Passenger Lists Leaving UK, or Germans to America). 
My ancestor Evan Powell died in 1819 in Boughrood, Radnorshire, Wales. Search on the name with the year of death and location (Boughrood) and you get one match. A transcription, created by the Powys Family History Society for the National Burial Index, says Evan Powell was buried March 3, 1819, at age 80 at St. Cynog Anglican church in Boughrood. Available online only through Findmypast, this index has more than 12 million names of people buried in England and Wales between 1452 and 2005 (mostly from 1813 to 1850).
Search a category of records. On the home page under Search Records, select a category such as Census, Land & Substitutes or Military Service & Conflict. Each category has a customized search form. For example, the census search form lets you enter a house number and street name. From here, you also can select databases within the category to search, such as US Census 1900.
Try searching the Newspapers & Periodicals category for a name plus a place of residence or another term closely associated with your relative, such as an occupation or a spouse’s name. My ancestor Samuel Jones, for instance, lived in the parish of Llanigon, Breconshire, Wales, so I searched on his name plus Llanigon as a keyword. The 15 matches in British newspapers include an article in the Jan. 29, 1806, Hereford Journal, which says, “To be sold by auction, At the Fountain Inn, in the town of Hay, in the county of Brecon, on Thursday, the Sixth day of February, 1806 …  All that messuage, farm & lands, called Brynglessey, Situate in the parish of Llanigon, in the county of Brecon … now in the occupation of Samuel Jones.” He’d died the previous year at age 39.
Samuel’s son Evan moved to the Ludgate Hill area of London, where he worked as a draper and a tutor in Latin and Greek. A newspaper search on the name Evan Jones and the keyword Ludgate produces 876 matches. Narrowing the date range to 1800 to 1849 brings the matches down to 68, including a list of “Bankrupts” in the Hampshire Chronicle of Feb. 17, 1817. Among them is “Evan Jones, Ludgate-hill, haberdasher.” 
When you search newspapers, your search terms aren’t highlighted on the pages, so it can be hard to find the reference to your ancestor. If the print on a newspaper page is too small, try downloading the page, then opening the file and zooming in.
Search a specific collection. From the Records tab on the home page, select A-Z of Record Sets to find a collection relating to your research. Select “Show list of everything,” or select a country on the left to see collections associated with that place. Then type a British county or a US state or county into the Search box at the top. For example, to find Devonshire records, select United Kingdom on the left and search for Devon. Matches include baptisms, marriages, burials and an index to wills. Click a match to use that collection’s customized search form.
Find PERSI articles. The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) indexes articles in genealogy and history magazines, newsletters and journals dating back to the 1700s. Old versions of the index are available through Heritage Quest Online (which you can access free through many libraries) and Findmypast has the entire index up to the present. The site is linking the index entries to digitized articles they reference, but only a small percentage of articles are online to date. (If the article you need isn’t available, you can order a copy from the Allen County, Ind., Public Library, whose staff produces PERSI.)
To search PERSI on Findmypast, select A-Z Record Sets from the Search Records tab and then search for Periodical. The PERSI search form here is harder to use than on other sites and doesn’t have a box for the surname. To search for a surname, type it into the Optional Keywords box near the bottom. (Remember, you’re searching an index, not the articles’ full text, and the index includes only the key surnames mentioned in an article.) To search for a place, use one or more of the Town/City, State, County and Country boxes. Use USA for the United States.

Power user tips

  • Try it free with a 14-day trial membership. You’ll need to enter your credit card information on the next screen. Remember to cancel before the trial period ends to avoid charges.
  • See all your records. If you’re a Findmypast member, click the My Records tab at the top of the page to see a list of all the records you’ve viewed on the site. 
  • Look for hints. Findmypast is testing automated hints when the site’s records match people in your Findmypast family tree. Start a tree under the My Family Trees link. A number by a person’s name in pedigree or family view indicates hints are available. 
  • Save time with saved searches. After you run a search, click Save Search at the top right of your results page. When you want to run the search again, click Saved Searches under the My Account tab.
  • Search with a wildcard. You can search with a wildcard at the end of a name to find results with names that start the same as your ancestor’s. Use a question mark to stand in for one letter and an asterisk for zero or more letters. Johns*, for example, finds records for Johns, Johnson and Johnston.

Helpful Links

From the March/April 2015 Family Tree Magazine