How to find your family history on FamilySearch

By Guest, 14 November 2019 - 10:26am

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the world’s biggest family history organisation, we share our tips for making the most of their free website

FamilySearch
You can use FamilySearch's filters to get more precise results

FamilySearch, the world’s largest free family history organisation, celebrates its 125th anniversary this week.

Many family historians have reason to thank FamilySearch’s website for their research.

Get more tips on getting the most out of FamilySearch in WDYTYA? Magazine Summer 2018

Of course, the website itself isn’t 125 years old.

But the Genealogical Society of Utah was established on November 13, 1894, under the direction of Wilford Woodruff, the 4th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The original purpose of the society was to help its members (who were predominantly immigrants from Europe) to gather genealogical records from their homelands so they could remember and build their ancestral connections.

FamilySearch’s website, launched in 1999, is now the biggest free family history resource on the web.

It has over two billion digitised records from around the world, including parish registers, censuses, probate indexes and immigration lists.

Many of them were transcribed by hard-working volunteers - some in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine's annual Transcription Tuesday event.

In addition, the website holds the world’s largest ‘global family tree’ – and your family may well be on it.

To celebrate FamilySearch’s anniversary, see if you can uncover more ancestors with these top tips on how to make the most of the website.

1. Search from within the Family Tree

Check out the ‘Search Records’ box to the right of the details page for someone in the Family Tree.

By clicking on ‘FamilySearch’ you will bring up a new tab with entries found for that person in Historical Records.

If you see an icon resembling a small family tree next to an entry, it means that the record is attached to someone in the Tree – you can identify them by clicking the tree icon.

2. Learn to use filters

These are found in the left-hand column of search results.

There are many types of filter, and you need to practise using them in order to get the most relevant results.

Try specifying a ‘Location’ for a place and year if you are struggling to find a family in a census.

3. Wildcards 1

You can use wildcards on FamilySearch.

For example, ‘*' takes the place of one or more characters in a word, although you must search for at least four characters, so ‘Sm*’ is not a valid search.

4. Wildcards 2

Up to three wildcards are permitted in one name, such as ‘H*p*z*’ and ‘B*rch*l*’.

5. Wildcards 3

You can use wildcards in both a given name and a surname, for example ‘Sus*’ ‘B*n*t’.

6. Search with a given name only

Life will be much simpler if you’re searching for an unusual first name, rather than a ‘John’ or ‘Mary’.

But if you can specify the location and the date, then you might just come up trumps.

7. Search with no names at all

If you’ve got a brick wall that you just can’t crack, you can always try searching without a name, again provided you can include a date and a location – though crossing your fingers couldn’t hurt.

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