How to get the most from Findmypast

findmypast logoFindmypast is top ranking subscription website. It offers millions of genealogy records. However it has been plagued with problems in the last year or so. In early 2014, they changed their interface and practically ruined their search facilities. In May 2014, they had to acknowledge that the site didn’t work properly and many changes were needed. Many disgruntled users argued for their money back and focus groups were set up to help deal with the bugs and fixes needed. However, many users still want what Findmypast has. So finding a way to use their website and get into those records that have become elusive is what I hope to help users with my article.

Background of Findmypast

Originally Findmypast was UK based website and was actually called 1837online. They concentrated on the GRO (General Registers Office)  births, deaths and marriages indexes. However in around 2005, they renamed the site to findmypast as they started adding other types of records, such as census documents. They have built their records through many partnerships with places like the UK National Archives and The Imperial War Museum. Their Australian and New Zealand website kicked off in 2010. And in Australia they have partnered with State Records of NSW and many genealogy societies here. This means that records like the NSW will books of 1800-1952 held by the State Records of NSW have been digitalised as part of their partnership.

Findmypast Search Tips

One of the main problems with Findmypast is the results that are being bought up. Usually on a website you would start broadly and narrow down your options. However this brings up less results in Findmypast.

On the initial home search page, there is an option to use the “old search”. Many users who are familiar with that are most happy to just start there. If you are using the old search, then problems may come in viewing the items and other features that have been updated to use in the new search.  Also Findmypast is moving onto their new platform and hopes to get rid of the old version sooner or later.

Due to less search results being bought back from the home page I recommend to search by filters first. Ignore picking a location and narrowing your search on the home page, as this also seems to bring back less results too. What  you really want to filter on is the types of records that you want. So go to “Search all categories” to go into the next search page. From there you can choose a category like  “census, land and survey” , and then a subcategory like “census, electoral rolls or land and estates”. If you want to narrow it down even further then choose a record set “Ireland census 1901”.

Please note – the census, land and survey categories were designed for the UK. If searching for Australian records, it is best to narrow it down to electoral rolls. Then you may be able to put in identifying words like street names or occupations on that search page. The boxes to put in that information don’t come up on the first search page for the census, land and survey category.

Helpful Tips

  • Optical Charater Digital Recognition has been used to scan and digitise Australian and New Zealand records. This means that in the searches, that a string of letters and the key words your searching for have to be close together. So a document that contains the keywords that you are searching for will be overlooked unless it is an exact match.
  • Internet Browsers – When using Findmypast use Chrome or if you are looking at OCDR or PDF documents from Findmypast use Internet explorer. Using these internet browsers lets you have more functionality when searching and looking at documents.
  • Search Newspapers/Periodicals -If you are unsure of a particular spelling then use ? as the wildcard and an * for a single letter if you are searching through the newspapers and periodicals. For example if you are unsure whether the name is Mohummad or Muhummad then you would put M*hummad.
  • Record Sets – Another way to dig deeper is to use the “A-Z record sets”. They can be found at the bottom of the drop down menu for the home search or at the top of the search home page.
  • Findmypast has introduced their own hints. Not quite as inventive as Ancestry with their shaky leaf though, as it’s just a circle with a number in it. These hints currently cover only births, deaths and marriages that match.

Findmypast is a valuable resource and although they have had problems with their update they are still trying to fix those problems and to add more resources. I hope that helping you know a bit more about the helpful ways to navigate the site can help get over some of the frustration in using it. If you want to know more about the different subscription websites and compare them then check out Top Ten Reviews Website

Please feel free to share this article because – understanding the past can bless the present.

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