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How to find an ancestor using
Symptoms (Problems)
  • How can wildcards be used in search fields when searching all collections, in both basic and advanced searches?
  • Can I search all collections if I only know the last name?
  • Can I do a global search for children of parents I know?
  • What kind of events can I look for when doing a search of all collections?
Answer (Resolution)

A search initiated on the home page of is global, meaning that it searches all historical records, including both "index-only" and "indexed with images" collections. So it is helpful to use the following search techniques to reduce the number of results returned.


You can leave fields blank or estimate information. Unless you are looking for a specific type of record, it is often better to leave many search fields blank, even if you know the information. FamilySearch may contain records about this individual, but not all the records contain all of the information that you know. Entering less information may help your search criteria match records for the individual more closely and increase the likelihood that the records will appear near the top of your search results.






The following tips are essential for successful name searches:

  • Enter the name of only one person in the First Names field.
  • Try adding or omitting middle names.
  • Try nicknames.
  • Try spelling and language variations. If the individual moved to a new country, try spelling the name as it is spelled in the old country and in the new one.
  • Leave the First Names and the Last Names fields blank, and try searching by Relationships (see below).
  • When searching for a woman, search with her maiden name to find records that were created before her marriage; use her married name to find records created after; or try your search with just her first name and the names of her spouse or her parents (see Relationships below).
  • Try using wildcards.
    • Enter * to replace multiple consecutive characters.
    • Enter ? to replace a single character.

Various Search Options

Search by Restricted Records

Search by Live Events

Search by Relationships

Using the Exact Match Feature

Reset Feature

Search Results







1. Location--Country: This search is limited to the country entered. A drop-down list of countries appears.

2. Type: This lists the types of records you want to search. You may search multiple types.

3. Batch Number: The following tips are essential for successful batch number searches:

  • By entering a batch number, your search is limited to records from the collection with that batch number. For example, batch number C00371-2 refers to records from the England Births and Christenings, 1538–1975 collection, specifically from Ampthill, Bedford, England.
  • The batch is also searchable from the record details screen. Click on the batch number to see all entries.

2. Film Number: Enter the 7 digit number that is found in the Family History Catalog. Please include the leading zeros.

NOTE: If you open an item and decide to not use it, click the X associated with the event on the upper right. You do not need to delete the information from the field.

Return to options





The following tips are essential for successful life event searches:

  • Try your search with different life events: select Any or one or more life events (Birth, Marriage, Residence, or Death).
  • In the Place field, try these tips:
    • Try searching for a more or less specific place. For example, if you searched by town, try the county, state, or district instead. Try entering just the country name.
    • Try using wildcards in place-names (see above).
  • In the year fields, try these tips:
    • Increase or decrease the year range.
    • Fill in both the From and To ranges, or the program will populate both with the same year.
  • Use Any Place if you know a date and place for an event other than birth, marriage, death, and residence. For example, a search with an Any Place event might find military enlistment, emigration or immigration, court or probate records, and so on.
  • Use Residence Place to find records that identify where a person was living. For example, a record might contain an address or identify the individual’s last place of residence. Birthplaces, marriage places, and death places are not the same as residence places, because someone may have been away from home when these events occurred.
  • You can include multiple life events in your search but do this ONLY when you are looking for a specific type of record that contains all of those events. For example, a death certificate often includes both birth and death information. A birth certificate would not include death information.


    NOTE: If you open an event and decide to not use it, click the X associated with the event in the upper right corner. You do not need to delete the information from the field.

Return to options




The following tips are essential for successful relationship searches:

  • Try your search with different types of relationships (Spouse or Parents).
  • Enter the names of the father, mother, or spouse using the same name tips listed above.
  • When entering the name of a mother or wife, try searching by the woman’s married name and maiden name. If you do not know her maiden name, leave the last name field blank.
  • A search by Parents may pull up a list of possible siblings.
  • A search by Spouse only (leaving the First Names and the Last Names fields blank may result in finding the individual you are looking for).

NOTE: If you open an item and decide to not use it, click the X associated with the event in the upper right corner. You do not need to delete the information from the field.


Return to options



  • To activate the Match All Exactly or the exact match option for any field, place a check mark in the box to the right of each name, or in the Match All Exactly box.
  • Use this option to have the system retrieve only those records that match everything you entered exactly.
  • If you use this option and do not find what you need, try your search again without it. Repeat the search even if you think you know the exact names and places.

Return to options


RESET FORM: Click this option to clear the search fields.



Click on Reset to clear entry's and start a new search.


Return to options






Click Search to view results. The information that you entered for your search is listed at the top of the search results screen, along with the number of matching records. The records that match your search most closely are near the top of the list. A brown line divides the best matches from the rest of the results.



Scan your search results for records of interest to you.


  • Collections that have a camera icon include images. Collections without a camera have only the indexed records.

  • Click on the name for indexed details.

  • Click on the arrow (left side) for brief details.


If you do not see the records that you want, you can refine or filter your search results. To refine your search, try either entering more information or deleting information from your search criteria. See Document 114099 How to apply filters to your search results in Historical Records.


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