Unofficial Guide to E-book


Find your ancestors on the world’s largest free genealogy website. This ebook offers step-by-step strategies for searching millions of historical records and family trees, and maximizing all the site’s valuable resources.

SKU: T9931 Category:


Discover your ancestry on, the world’s largest free genealogy website. This in-depth user guide shows you how to find your family in the site’s databases of more than 3.5 billion names and millions of digitized historical records spanning the globe. Learn how to maximize all of’s research tools–including hard-to-find features–to extend your family tree in America and the old country.

Illustrated step-by-step examples show you how to apply the book’s tips and techniques to your own research. Whether you’re new to or you’re a longtime user, the Unofficial Guide to provides the guidance you need to discover your ancestors and make the most of the site’s valuable resources.

Who Should Get This Book

You’ll love the Unofficial Guide to if …

  • You want to trace your genealogy online for free
  • You’re a user who wants to become a power user
  • You’re a newbie eager to learn how to use the site
  • You want tips, examples and worksheets to maximize your research on

What’s Inside

The Unofficial Guide to features:

  • Step-by-step strategies to craft search queries that find ancestors fast
  • Practical pointers for locating your ancestors in record collections that aren’t searchable
  • Detailed overviews of’s major U.S. collections, with helpful record explanations to inform your research
  • Guidance for using’s vast record collections from Europe, Canada, Mexico and 100-plus countries around the world
  • Tips for creating and managing your family tree on
  • Secrets to utilizing user-submitted genealogies, 200,000 digitized family history books, and the FamilySearch catalog of 2.4 million offline resources you can borrow through a local FamilySearch Center
  • Worksheets and checklists to track your research progress

Excerpt: Sample Tips

1. Start searches simply. Entering information in too many search fields will limit the search results you’ll get, so when you first start looking for records on, leave most of the search fields blank. The search results page will show a suggestion banner at the top if you need to add more filters to get better results.


2. Skip the Exact box. At the bottom of the main Historical Records search form, there’s a Match All Terms Exactly check box. If you check this box, will return results that are an exact match for the information you entered in all search boxes you filled in. If you’re trying to narrow your results, this could be beneficial, but it’s often wiser to use the check boxes next to the desired individual search fields. If you do select Match All Terms Exactly and you get zero search results, uncheck the box and try your search again.

3. Jump-start your browsing. Many international records have not yet been indexed on That means you need to browse through them, like you would view microfilm. But unlike scrolling through microfilm reels, helps you focus on the right records. If you click on the title of a browsable collection, it typically gives you options to narrow records by year and/or location. Once you get to the year and/or location relevant to your ancestors, you’ll need to jump from record to record to find a specific ancestor.

4. Check database dates. Before you begin browsing through a record collection, look at the collection description. Specifically, look at the dates of the collection. If it has death records from 1700 to 1800, but your ancestor died in 1820, stop right there and don’t waste your time. If your ancestor died in 1791, go ahead and start browsing.

About the Author: Dana McCullough

Dana McCullough is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes and edits content on genealogy and higher education topics. A former editor at Family Tree Magazine, Dana has written or edited content for twenty magazines and has contributed to the editing of eight books. Her writing has been published in Family Tree Magazine, The Artist’s Magazine, Family Circle, Brain Child, Better Homes and Gardens’ Simply Creative Weddings, My College Guide, The Iowan, Wisconsin Woman, and Scrapbooks, etc., among other national and regional consumer magazines.

Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University. When not working, Dana enjoys traveling and exploring new places, trying (and tweaking) new recipes, playing the piano, and of course, researching her family history–especially on

Contents of the Unofficial Guide to

Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: The FamilySearch Family Tree
Chapter 3: Searching and Browsing Historical Records
Chapter 4: Searching Genealogies, the Catalog, and Books
Chapter 5: U.S. Census Records
Chapter 6: U.S. Vital Records
Chapter 7: U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Records
Chapter 8: U.S. Military Records
Chapter 9: U.S. Probate and Court Records
Chapter 10: European Records
Chapter 11: Global Records
Chapter 12: More Historical Records
Appendix A: The FamilySearch Wiki
Appendix B: FamilySearch Indexing Projects
Appendix C: Research Worksheets

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