Monday, August 15, 2011


Recent changes and modifications in the ‘search’ features in the FamilySearch search engine now provide researchers with powerful functionality for running their “searches”. Not only from a professional genealogist’s view, but from any researcher’s perspective, these upgrades now make the FamilySearch search engine one of the most powerful search engines on the world wide web. And users/researchers may now customize their very own “search” parameters in order to maximize their chances of finding correct data. No other search engine allows such search features!

In past versions of FamilySearch, how many times have you or others—knowing critical data on an ancestor was in FamilySearch’s databases, yet the limited functionality in the “search” engine prevented you from being able to perform or set the kind of “search” parameters necessary to successfully obtain or glean that data. And a huge frustration it has been!

Not anymore!

Here are eleven important “search engine” features available to users in the current FamilySearch which help you find data in the FamilySearch system. Each feature and filter can be an important in making your search experience effective and more successful. Few users, researchers, professional genealogists know about these critical and helpful search features—that they are even offered or that “searches” can even be run in such ways. These “search” parameters/strategies are not yet mentioned in the “Help” tutorials, but will, shortly.

The eleven key points and features (and there are certainly more than these) are worthy of disseminating and sharing as they will help more researchers have more successful experiences. These features apply not just with conducting England searches, but for just about any and all countries with data in the FamilySearch system.

Eleven “Search ” Features & Filters
The current FamilySearch search engine now allows users to--

1. Search given-names only, for a specific or very localized area and narrowed time-frame (with no surname): Great for 1) performing a marriage search when the surname of a spouse isn’t known at all; 2) when you don’t find an ancestor under the standard spelling of a surname; this feature also is crucial for 3) effective searches i.e. in all patronymic countries, such as in Scandinavia, Iceland, Wales, and in Jewish research, etc. Example: Try searching for “Elidad Davis” born in London 1611. Then try searching just under the given-name only—“Elidad”. Note: Of 2 London entries, one is “Elidad Dauis”[sic]. (It should have been indexed under the surname “Davis”, but wasn’t.)

2. Similar to the above: Search on just the surname only (if known)! Great for performing 1) a marriage search when the given-name of a spouse isn’t known at all or is not known precisely, i.e. Mary or Mary Ann or Marian[n]e. Or 2) when you’re researching a person with two or more given names (and it’s not known for certain which name they used in life).

3. Search a birth year and a small place-name ONLY—such as a town, a chapelry or small parish--i.e. I typed the year “1833” and “Brierley Hill, Staffordshire, England”—without typing in ANY names—given or surname—and found an ancestor’s brother. This is because the system now provides users the ability to bring up ALL entries pertaining to a specific place-name/parish, and for a short range of years!

4. After running a search, and after the data "results" appear, users now have the option to utilize 1) the "filters" which appear in the left-hand margin, such as "Collections", "Birthplace", "Marriage Place", etc. However, not all of these filters are yet completely installed, but will be shortly; these filters allow you to drill down to a specific place-name or year[s] and a particular surname--which may result in some very clean "hits"; and/or 2) users can re-run their search by clicking "Refine your Search". This can be done by picking a specific year and/or a more specific place/church name, etc. or, 3) at the Main Menu (of FamilySearch's main page), users can scroll down and click “Browse Records Collections” (scroll towards the bottom of the page), and pick a specific database in which you want to run your search. Your search will be relevant strictly according to the record data pertaining to that particular record type; i.e. allows you to search census only, or church only data.

5. Users may now run searches using a wildcard(*). For example, on just the surname of “Sm*th”, type in “St Gregory by St Paul, London” for the year 1590. Unlike the former search engine, as long as the search parameters are set at a specific level. Note: Scroll several times and Smyth[e] with Smith and even Smeth all appear under London.

6. Finding difficult, variant-spelled surnames, i.e. Thibou--T[h][i/e]b[a/eau/ou etc., is much less a problem to locate in the system: Users can now perform searches with up to at least three wildcard characters (asterisks—“*”), for any names. Type thus: Th*b*, or, T*b*u*. See searching only on the last portion or surname prefixes (see no. 9 below).

This is a great way to locate as many possible spellings for difficult, variantly-spelled surnames, such as in cases of Polynesian, old French, Native American, Huguenot, and Slavic (especially) etc., surnames. Note: The search “results” or “hits” may now be filtered by specific locality, time period, gender, residence, record collection etc.

7. Search for “Smyth” ONLY returns “Smyth[e]” results! No more Smyth mingled with Smith! Type in “Smythe” and then click the little “Exact” match box, which brings up only those “hits” which match your (search) criteria, i.e. Smythe only—no Smith with Smeth or Smeath entries!

8. To conduct a Parent search (to find all the siblings of an ancestor in the FamilySearch system)--can be performed by clicking on "Parent"; then type in just the given and surname of the father; type no given names of any children at all.
In pre-1700 England searches, use the father's given and surname only; often mothers' given-names are not recorded in baptism registers prior to 1650 and thus are not retrieved when typed in.

Also, by utilizing the "Parent" search, users can now better determine all children born to a single parent (i.e. illegitimate births/baptisms). Click “Parent” and type in her her given and maiden name.

9. Use the wild card feature: When you don’t know or are unsure of the spelling of the prefix or a large portion of (the beginning of) a surname, no problem—users may use the wildcard (*) in front of the surname, then merely type the last portion of the surname as it is known, i.e. as in the above surname of Thibou, thus: *bou. Or, visa versa, at the end of the name—Thi*!! Frankly, what family history search engine allows users to search on a i.e. surname without the first two or three letters (prefix) on it?

10. "Exact Match" only. This little box sits on the right-side of each given name, surname, place-name, parent and spouse name[s] boxes. Check-off this box if  you are completely certain of the spelling. Even if you believe you are certain of the correct spelling, use only with keen discretion and caution! because it will dramatically change the "hits" returned! It used prudently, it tends to return "hits" which are more accurate, clean and relevant to each search. And instead of returning i.e. 5,678 "hits", most of which are irrelevant, 'fluff' or otherwise unwanted "hits"!

11. Learn immediately if a Parish or Town vital records have been indexed.
Did you ever wish to know if any parish and its church registers are indexed and searchable, and for a certain range of years?  Similar to number 3 (above). You can search to determine if a parish registers of  i.e. marraige or baptisms or burial data content is (indexed) and in FamilySearch's databases system: Merely type in the accurate spelling of the parish or township place in either the "Birth", or "Marriage", or "Death" text box--without typing anything else! (See the F.S. Catalog for correct place-name spellings.) This search retrieves every single entry from an indexed/extracted church or township record!
Batch Number Search: Back—by popular demand!
While redundant of no. 3 above, the ‘old’ batch number “search” has been restored as a “search” feature of FamilySearch. Now, you have the option to run searches on old batch numbers; you can include searches to be run on parents’ names, names of spouse[s], or users can view all names pertaining to a single Batch number (see no. 3 above)—by leaving the names fields blank.

These “search” features in the FamilySearch search engine now prove to be a tremendous boon to users and researchers worldwide. Moreover, these new “search” standards establish FamilySearch as a trendsetter with benchmark “search” capabilities other websites (with databases) may wish to follow—including archives, libraries, repositories, societies, universities and even business corporations!

Improvements on “Results” - forthcoming:
We are promised that the “hits” resulting from initial searches in the above “search” features, are still being heavily worked on and ‘tweaked’ even more in order to become more discriminant, relevant and specific by being better ranked, more alpha-arranged, and arranged more by country and county—without having to use the, i.e. "Advanced Search" or “Exact” match features!

Your Feedback
If you are still having problems finding your ancestor[s], and wish to notify FamilySearch of a specific problem, send us your “feedback” with specific step by step instructions to program engineers so they can accurately reconstruct (validate) your problem[s]—in order to correct the problem[s] or issues!
We encourage constructive feedback for suggesting enhancements and/or corrections to FamilySearch. Feedback which engineers use is that which isolates a specific problem, step by step to help them to validate it, and then fix it--and is that which receives their highest priority.