Search Online

Family Search

FamilySearch is a publicly available database where you should start your genealogy research right now. There is no fee. You do not have to subscribe. You do not even need to sign in and have to remember to cancel sometime later so you won't be charged. It is an online search, after you've interviewed family members and others who may know about the family history, written down what you know, and gathered any relevant documents.

Although there are lots of websites set up as subscription based, and you can join them for the first few months free, you can wait to do that. In the future you may want to subscribe to those sites because they will have some data that you cannot find in FamilySearch. The value of subscription services is an entire discussion left for another time and place. Well, at last another time, as I've looked into the subject and hope to write about it sometime.

Let's Find Something About Your Family!

Run a Search

  • Go to

  • Choose the icon of a magnifying glass over a computer to "Search."

  • Enter the first and last name of a family member who was living with the family between 1900 and 1930, or earlier. You can choose anyone in the household, but the best person to choose is someone with a relatively unique first name. It is also helpful if the first name is not the type subject to a lot of nicknames or variations. Also, choose a person for whom you a you are sure about their date of birth.

  • For now, leave the "Type" field blank. If the results of your search are too extensive, you can go back and restrict the information you want, but for now, keep the results broad.

  • Skip down to the section "Search with a life event" and choose "Birth" Do not enter any location information unless you are certain of where the person was born, and if so, enter the state, or the country if born outside of the US. Also enter the "From" and "To" years (all four digits, not just two). Expand the range of years on each side, beyond what you think it is, by two years to a wider range -- even if you feel certain you know their brith dates. For woman it is advisable to expand the "From" date another five years (or more). . .

  • Enter the name of a state for their "Residence" if you are certain of where they lived during this time period. If not, leave it blank.

  • Now press "Search." Depending on the information you put in, and most especially how common or unusual the last name is, you may have too many or too few results to look at. If too few, use the go back button and try leaving out the first name. Or leave out the place of birth. If too many, see if you can add additional, restricting information to narrow your results. For example, if you ve entered the name of the father or mother in the family, add their spouse's name.

  • The first records to look at should be census returns because you can get lots of context -- other family members -- to be sure you're looking at the correct family. When you're certain you've found the correct family you can use the information for the individual you searched for to look for other kinds of records in your search results.

  • How did you do? Good start? I hope so! Try more!