A beginner's guide on how to search Findmypast's family records

4-5 minute read

By Niall Cullen | August 13, 2021

How to search Findmypast records

Your family's amazing story is waiting to be discovered on Findmypast. This handy guide shows you the records you'll need and how to search them.

Getting started with searching Findmypast's records is easy. Our billions of individual records are divided into categories.

Here's a summary of what you can expect to find in each of those collections and how they'll help your family research.

Birth, marriage, death & parish records

This is one of the categories of records you'll probably use most often. These records, commonly known as BMDs, detail the most important events in your ancestors' lives and are essential for every family historian.

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Enter a few details to see your family's records at your fingertips

Parish records consist of baptisms, marriages and burials and will usually help you take your research back further.

Census, land & survey records

Like BMDs, census records are some of the most used resources in genealogy. As censuses were usually taken every decade, these detailed collections are fantastic for tracking your family over generations.

1911 UK census record

1911 Census of England and Wales.

Where censuses don't survive, other land and survey records make useful substitutes including electoral rolls, rate books and estate records.

Military, armed forces & conflict records

Most people have a connection to the military in their family's past. Findmypast's military collection is one of the most comprehensive online and includes service records, rolls of honour and regimental resources from history's most pivotal wars.

What's more, military records tend to be very detailed - a real boon for genealogists.

Travel & migration records

Our ancestors were travelling the world well before trains, planes and automobiles arrived. The records that those movements have left behind help to tell their life stories. Findmypast has a fascinating array of passenger lists, naturalisation records and other travel resources to help you trace globetrotting relatives.

Newspaper archives

Our historical newspapers are some of the most popular resources on the site and it's easy to see why. If you can't find your ancestor in our other records, be sure to try the newspapers where you could find them mentioned in an article or even see a photo of them.

There are hundreds of titles to explore from all over the UK, Ireland and beyond, and the collection is continually growing.

Institutional & organisational records

These records are fantastic for family research because they include some of the most detailed sources available. From crime, prison and punishment records to workhouse registers and government collections, you'll make some of your most jaw-dropping discoveries with this collection.

Education & work records

You can explore your relative's school life and how they made a living with our exciting collection of work and education records. You'll find all sorts of resources in this category including apprentice registers, trade union memberships and Merchant Navy records.

Directories & social history records

Examining social history records provides a window into the world in which your ancestor lived. Street and trade directories are particularly useful if your relative ran a business. You'll also find an eclectic range of almanacs and publications amongst our directories and social history records.

Church & religious records

One of the smaller collections of records on Findmypast but still useful in its own right, our churches and religion category includes records of the clergy and church ceremonies.

How to search for records on Findmypast

So now you know what records you can expect to find, how exactly do you go about unearthing them? There are different searches you can try, depending on what you're looking for and the information you have to hand.

1. Homepage search

When logged in to the site, use the search box on your personalised homepage when you know minimal information on the person you're looking for.

Search for records on Findmypast

You can enter basic information like a name, birth year and location via homepage search.

This search will return all the records on the site that match the criteria you enter.

2. Category search

When you know what type of record you want to find, you can narrow your search to that specific category. You can access each of the distinct categories via the 'Search' option on the menu when logged into the site.

Findmypast record search

Select a record category to focus your search to those type of records.

Once you select a category, you'll be taken to a dedicated search page for all the records that lie within that category.

Search directories on Findmypast

Category search page for directories and social history records.

Carry out a search from this page and you can use the filters to further narrow your results into subcategories or jump quickly from one category to another.

3. Record set search

This should be used when you know the exact Findmypast record set you want to search. The quickest way of accessing individual record sets is through our list of all record sets. Type a record set name or topic into the search bar and our relevant collections will appear.

List of all the records on Findmypast

Browse through all of our collections or narrow them down by keyword, location and date range.

Once you've selected the record set you want to search, you'll be taken to its individual search page, which often includes search fields unique to that collection. This makes it really useful for pinpointing the specific record you're looking for.

Army records on Findmypast

The record set search page for Findmypast's British Army Service Records.

Got a couple of minutes to spare? Watch our short video below and you'll be unlocking your amazing past with our records in no time.

Need more help making the most of Findmypast? Visit our help centre, reach out to the Findmypast Community or contact our friendly customer support team.

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Picture of Niall Cullen - Content Marketing LeadNiall Cullen