How to Search for Records in FamilySearch


How to Search for Records in FamilySearch

By Dale E. Lee



  • Signon to FamilySearch
  • Click into Family Tree, then Tree in FamilySearch
  • Find and Click into the person you want to find records for
  • Verify that you are in the correct person and haven’t clicked through to someone else
  • Review Sources and Memories to find out if the document has already been attached
  • Click on the menu item called Search on the top of the page (not Find)
  • Click on Records
  • Enter as much of the info as you can about the ancestor as you can in the Search form
  • Helpful to have 2 sessions open, one on the person the other on the record search
  • Click Search
  • Review up to the 1st 10 pages of info returned
  • Look for relationships with other people
  • Verify which if any of the entries apply to your ancestor
  • Look to the right of the entry. If it has a pedigree charge icon, it has already
    been attached to this person.
  • Click into the record and review the information. View the original doc if available.
  • If it applies to your ancestor click Review and Attach Record
  • Review the information displayed to see if it is for the right person
  • Click Attach (if it has not already been attached and is the right person)


One of the most important things you can do to build your family tree is to prove the information you have found. Without proof, it is all just hearsay. Hearsay is a good starting point to give you clues of where to look, but it is after all only hearsay unless you can find documentation to back up what is being said.

FamilySearch has provided ways to find the documents you need to get that proof while searching for your ancestors. It used to be a very time consuming and expensive to find documents. My Grandfather went from the United States of America to England to search for records in the Parishes there. He found that some Parishes would not allow outsiders to even view the records. It was up to the Parish to decide. More and more Parishes have realized over time that it is a good idea to microfilm the records they have to preserve them in case of natural or man-made disasters such as wars. After records are microfilmed, they are digitized and presented to Indexers over the internet, who then extract pertinent information from the images and enter the text into the database. The text can then be used by FamilySearch’s algorithms to allow customers to search through the records that have been indexed. FamilySearch will even search on its own for possible connections to records that have been indexed, which may be associated with one of the people in the customer’s family tree. The customer is then notified of the possible connection as a Hint and allowed to either attach or deny the connection.

To find records on an ancestor, click into your family tree and find the person you wish to do record searches for. Then click into that person and verify that it is the right person. Be careful to be on the right person when you start the search because if you click through to someone else from that person, such as clicking through to a child or a parent, the computer will be on the wrong person when it comes time to attach the records you find. Always start your search from the person whose records you are searching for.

It is useful to pull up and sign in to FamilySearch in two different sessions on your PC, one where you are doing the searching and the other where you are displaying information on the individual in question. Then if you need additional information to fill in the search form, you can refer to the 2nd session instead of having to exit all the way back to that person to get the information and then hope you’ll be able to get back to where you were before in the search. Using two sessions is also useful in reviewing the records that may have already been attached to the person in Sources, you won’t waste time looking through records that have already been attached to that person.

When you are ready and have clicked into the individual you are searching for, click on the menu at the top of the screen and to the right of Messages (the icon with three parallel lines). Then click on Search and afterward Records. You will be presented a form asking for information about your ancestor. Note that the more information you give the form, the stricter the search will be. If you give too much, it may not find your ancestor. If you give it too little, it may find a lot of people that are not your ancestor. If you don’t find anything the first time, try again, varying the search criteria. The first thing to search on is probably the name, birth date, and place. If you give a birth year, my understanding is that the search will automatically search within plus or minus 5 years of that date. But if you need a different date range than this, you can specify it. Entering a Spouse, Father or Mother can help if your first search returns too many people with the same name that are not your ancestor. So you’ll first want to search without them but afterward may need them if you don’t get close enough to the results you want. When you are ready for the application to search, click the Search button.

The FamilySearch server will then search its database (actually multiple databases) using the search criteria you specified. It will return the most probable findings at the top of the list and the further down the list will appear entries that are less likely to be the person you are looking for. However, sometimes you’ll see that entries are bunched up from one set of records, such as birth and death, before going on to another set of records such as marriages. I have found that most of the matches that are true matches will appear on the first page, but I’ve also found matches on the 5th page. I have not been at all successful in going beyond the 10th page of the resulting entries. FamilySearch can only find the records that have already been indexed, but the database is expanding daily, and it is possible that if you can’t find records today, you will be able to in the future.

If you find an entry that looks like it is very similar to the person you are looking for, click into the record and review the information. It is always a good idea to try to look for information on relatives if they are present in the record. You may find John Brown in the right county in about the right time frame but associated with the wrong spouse or set of parents. If you can get the right person, date of birth and place with the right set of parents, or in the case of Censuses, the right set of children, it is a good indication that you’re on the right track and it is probably the person you’re looking for.

If an image of the original document is available, I would definitely click into the image, as it is possible that the indexing of the record was incorrect and that what you see on the original record can clarify if the person is who you are looking for. Some records do not have the original image available, and you have to rely solely on the text presented. If you find information on the entry that indicates that it is related to the person you’re looking for, look to see if the record has already been attached to your ancestor. If it has already been attached, you will see a pedigree chart icon to the upper right of the entry. If not, you can click the Attach button, and the record will be attached to your ancestor.

It is a good practice to review your ancestor after attaching a record to see if it shows up under the correct ancestor and listed under Sources (the link at the top of the entry for that person to the right of Details). If all went well and you connected it to the right person, it should show up under Sources, and you can click into the View Source of the Source entry and view the information and/or possible image if the record has an associated image of the record.

You did it! The record has been attached to your ancestor, and now you have proof!

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