How do you search?
Do you always go in with the same method, or does it depend on what you're looking for?
To maximize your results, you should take different approaches to searching based on the situation. Sometimes you'll want to search all records at once and sometimes you'll want to search a specific record set and nothing else.
There are five different ways to approach searching on Findmypast, and each one has its rightful place in your repertoire.
Let's get to it.
Use hints to jump start your research and save your energy for the more challenging research ahead
If you do not want to tackle all of records at once, you can also choose to begin your search in a specific category of record:
When you click on a category of record, you'll be able to do an advanced search and input search terms that are specifically related to that category.
For instance, in our Birth, Marriage and Deaths category, there are extra fields to fill in based on birth, marriage or death years:
You'll also notice that you can drill down even further into the category - each category has several sub-categories for even more specific searching.
When you want to use this search method: If you know the kind of information you're seeking on a specific ancestor, this is a great way to bypass tons of irrelevant results you would get from searching all records at once.
When you want to use a different search method: If you aren't sure what you're looking for, or don't know what each category might hold, it's best to start out by searching all records and then narrowing down the results from there. Remember, you'll still be able to see categories and sub-categories from the "all records" search.
Categories and sub-categories search multiple record sets at once. But you also have the ability to search an individual record set by selecting the last option on the drop-down menu:
You'll find a search engine where you can search or browse all of the records on our site. For instance, if you wanted to search within the 1940 census, you can find it here:
The advantage to searching a single record set is that you're able to use much broader search criteria than if you were searching multiple collections at once. You can search for name variants, use wildcard searches and broaden your possible date ranges.
This is a good way to "leave no stone unturned" when you're pretty sure that your ancestor should be in a certain record set but isn't coming through on category searches. Mistakes can happen, both in family lore and record keeping - one way to find someone filed under a misspelled name or incorrect date is to dig into the specific record set.
When you search an individual record set, a huge number of advanced search capabilities are opened up to you. You can search by many of the pieces of information specific to this record set. Look at all of the advanced options for searching the 1940 Census:
When you want to use this search method: This method is best for exploring specific record sets in great detail. If you have extra information (like the types seen above) and want to really narrow down your results, searching a specific record set is the way to go.
When you want to use a different search method: If you only have a little bit of information on your ancestor, or aren't quite sure what you're looking for, a broader search tactic is definitely better here.
An important thing to know is that when you search all records, newspapers and periodicals are not contained in that search.
So it's a good idea to click on the newspapers category and do a separate search:
You'll be able to search for your ancestors in newspaper collections from around the globe.
And don't forget about PERSI!
We have tons of newspapers in our collection, and the same "less is more" mantra applies here - the less information you enter, the more results you'll get. Fortunately, we have a great set of filters so you can sort through results by publication, date, location and more.
When to use this search method: Always search the newspapers! As I mentioned previously, an "all records" search will not comb newspapers, so you'll always want to do another search in this database. Not only will you find genealogical information, but you'll be able to re-create the world your ancestors lived in and learn more about the times they lived in.
When to use a different search method: If you're looking for a specific piece of genealogical information, such as information contained in a census, this isn't the best place to start. You will find things like marriage announcements and obituaries though, so it's still worth a shot if you have the time.