Lesson 3

Workshop 3 - FamilySearch Search Tab


What is FamilySearch?

As discussed in the first workshop, it is important to remember the difference between “FamilySearch” and “FamilySearch Family Tree”.  


FamilySearch is the family history website for the church. On it you can search historical records, peruse the FamilySearch library catalog, learn how to research, start indexing, and more.



    If you are unfamiliar with FamilySearch, this video is a great introduction. Pay attention to the process to get these records online.



5 Step Research Process

Since we’ve already covered Family Tree (steps 1 and 2), today we’re going to focus on the website’s research resources. These fall under steps 3 and 4: Select Records to Search and Obtain and Search the Records.


Step 3: Select Records to Search

    This step is important to help you determine what information you are looking for and what record type will help you find it.


  • Looking for a birth date? Try a birth record, christening record, or newspaper announcement.

  • Need a death date? Try looking at headstones, death records, obituaries, or cemetery records.

  • Trying to document a relationship? Try a marriage, census, birth or death record.


Step 4: Obtain and Search the Records

    This step is the next logical step, actually searching! You’ll be learning a lot of options in class and the next workshops, but the three primary ones to be aware of are:

  • Historical Records—original records indexed by volunteers and searchable through the indexes in the Records section on FamilySearch.org

  • FamilySearch Library Catalog—a listing of all the records, books, and resources available in and through the Family History Library in Salt Lake.

  • FamilySearch Wiki—lists resources and information by location; may contain links, film numbers, or websites that have specific types of records for that locality



    Each of the following can be found under the “Search” tab on FamilySearch. You will need to sign into your account to access these.



There are three ways to search the historical records through this option.

  1. Name Search

A name search can be a valuable tool if you’re not sure what you’re looking for or if you want to make sure you catch a broad summary of the website’s content on your ancestor.

  • Type information into the fields on the records page of familysearch.org

    • You can click on the different category links (such as “Birth”, “Marriage”, or “Parents”) to add further search restrictions.

    • Keep in mind that if you start by searching with all of the information you have, you might want to take some out piece-by-piece if you don’t find what you’re looking for. And, if you start really general—with just a name for example—you might want to add more information piece-by-piece to narrow your results

  • If your search returns too many results or if none of the results are relevant, you can alter your search on the left sidebar using various filters.


*Be aware this is not the most efficient way to search* This is searching through ALL the records and can bring up more results than you are willing to sift through. This is also NOT how you are to search to complete your assigned research log.


  1. Search by Location

By clicking on the map under “Records” you can go to a specific country or state and search within the collections for that area only. This can narrow down your results, but can be difficult to record in your log.


  1. Browse all Published Collections

This is the best of the three options as you can control exactly what you are searching. Here you can search by a “collection” or a group of similar records. This will likely be the best way to find what you are looking for and is easiest to record in your log. To do this you will:

  • Click on the small button that reads “Browse all published collections”.

  • Notice the side bar where you can narrow collections by Place, Date, and Type.

  • Once you find the specific collection you are looking for, click on it to search within that collection.

You will notice that some of the collections have a number in the “Records” column while others state “Browse Images”. If there is a number it means the collection has been indexed and you can search it by name. Those without a number have not been indexed, but you can still go through the images one by one to find the record you are looking for.



Wild Cards

You can use these when searching on FamilySearch or any family history website, including Google. These are best used when you are not finding your ancestors; they help by expanding the search to different spellings of the name.


  • Use to replace a character

    • ? replaces a single character

    • * replaces any number of characters

  • These can help with names commonly misspelled


Family Tree

This just allows you to search the family tree, not records.



    Under this tab you can find all of the various user-submitted trees. They include the Pedigree Resource File and Ancestral File databases. Just remember these are not sourced, so use these as a hint to possible relationships, not documentation for your family.



    The catalog is where you will find a list of all the genealogical materials available by FamilySearch and in the Family History Library. Remember that we are still in the process of digitizing and indexing records and that everything is not online. Searching the catalog will help you find other resources for your research.


  • You can search by Place, Surname, Title, Author, Subjects, and Keywords. Most often you will search by place, looking for the area your ancestor was from.

  • Once you search you will be given a list of the types of resources they have such as church records or vital records. Clicking on these topics will allow you to see the resources. If you find one that is applicable to your research, selecting this will allow you to get more information.

  • On the specific page you will see a lot of information. What you want to pay attention to is the Physical format of the source; which will often be microfilm.

  • This page will also give the call number and location for the source. If it is already digitized, there will be a note. If not you can locate where you will need to go to view the record such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or the Family History Center here in the HBLL.


If you have any questions about the catalog please come into the lab and ask us, we would love to help you find resources in your search!



The books tab links to books that have been digitized and are available to anyone through FamilySearch. The books include selections from the Allen County Public Library, BYU, BYU-H and the FHL among others. The neat thing about this feature is that the scanning technology uses character recognition-- in other words, the scanners scan a book and can recognize the letters so you can search through the book using keywords.

  • This is useful to us as family historians because many family histories and published transcriptions have been scanned.


Just note that searching this is a hit or miss situation, you may find a gem or you may not. It is always worth searching though.


Research Wiki

    THIS SHOULD BE YOUR #1 SPOT WHEN STARTING YOUR RESEARCH. At the research wiki you will find information to learn about areas your ancestor might have lived and different types of records.

Note that you cannot search for your ancestor here, just information that will help you in searching for them elsewhere.

Some things of note you can learn on the WIKI:

  • When the area your ancestor lived started keeping records

  • If a disaster destroyed the records in that area

  • How to read documents written in another language

  • Where to find records you can search


Research Help

Click on the button ‘Get Help’ in the top right-hand corner. This is where you can receive all kinds of research on your family history through live chats and even helpful videos.

  • Contact Us: you can find your local family history center, email or live chat with missionaries

  • Help Center: This should take you to a new page with lots of links. This is where FamilySearch stores their help videos, articles, and slideshows.

  • Because research varies from place to place, you can find out how to begin research in a certain area through these tutorials.

  • Handwriting tutorials are also available.