Linda Clyde | May 17, 2018

Findmypast Part 1: Website Tips and Tricks for British and Irish Family History

If you’ve got questions about your British or Irish ancestry, Findmypast is the perfect source for finding answers. The UK-based site is an industry leader in British and Irish family history and has a collection of billions of records that is added to weekly. So even if you don’t find what you’re looking for today, check back, and it might show up tomorrow. Did you know that Findmypast has twice the Irish records of any other site? They also offer all the help you need as you embark on your British and Irish family history journey, from step-by-step instructions to advice and insight from expert genealogists. 

Searching Findmypast A to Z

So, how do you get started? Myko Clelland, partnership and outreach manager of Findmypast (also known as the Dapper Historian), presented at RootsTech 2018 and shared some helpful tips on how to use the website and described what you might find as you search records on the site.

If you’re interested in doing some investigating on your own, get started by using the A to Z navigation bar. This is where you’ll find a treasure trove of thousands of record collections. You can search by record set title, a location, or even a census, will, probate, or baptism. Each word you use helps narrow your search.

Piece by Piece

Clelland advised starting with broad searches and then adding detail to narrow down your results. “You can search with anything you like. You don’t even need a name. If you have part of the family story, you can use that to find all of the butchers in a certain town, all of the people who are carpenters. We can use any part of that information. Start with less, always. Add more once [you] see [you] have too many results.”

For common surnames such as Smith and Jones, Clelland shared a unique field on the search screen where you can add additional information. The name John Smith, for example, would reveal approximately 32,000 records; but simply adding a date of birth results in just one John Smith. Starting broad and adding more details can quickly narrow down your search results.

Don’t overlook any information in your searches. Clelland advised reading “every single part of the records that you find,” and using that information to find more. For example, you may have discovered an ancestor’s occupation, but don’t stop there. The next step might be looking for an apprenticeship record. If you find a burial record, look for a will, probate record, or a bishop’s transcript. This is how you collect information piece by piece and use what you’ve already found to find more.

You can also use Findmypast to search for maps such as the Griffith’s Survey, the first full-scale valuation of property in Ireland. Clelland also shared a colored map of England and Ireland with RootsTech attendees showing Findmypast’s available records by county, dark green counties on his map indicated county-wide collections, light green counties indicated transcription collections that covered the entire county, yellow counties indicated family history and parish records, and red indicated county records available only on Findmypast.

Census Searches

Did you know that you can search censuses on Findmypast for ancestors by names and by address? For example, if your ancestor has disappeared from a census, try using their address and search for the home’s occupants in the previous and following censuses. If you find that the same family was living at that address, perhaps the person you’re looking for left. If the whole family is gone, it’s likely they all moved. This is another example of using known information to find new pieces of information.

Silver Arrow

Another tip from Clelland: “If you ever find records on Findmypast with a silver arrow on the left or the right, keep pressing the arrow until either the arrow disappears or you see someone else’s name. Because many of our records go over many, many pages, and you don’t want to miss out on the extra information.”

With nearly three thousand record sets and eight billion total records, Findmypast is an ideal place to find new and exciting information about your British or Irish ancestry.

Linda Clyde

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