FindMyPast website: Search Techniques Pt.1 – Search All Records

Opening Screen from FindMyPast at www.findmypast.org when a user is not logged in.
Opening Screen from FindMyPast at http://www.findmypast.org when a user is not logged in.

FindMyPast has been changing rapidly as it updates its offerings and search mechanisms. This has not been so noticeable for the Americans and Australians, but for the British readers it has been a major change.

The British version of FindMyPast was the original website. It had great content, search tools, and supporting information. However, its design and structure which made it so easy to navigate also made it inflexible when it came to adding additional databases quickly for subscribers to access.

The new design and search mechanisms are the only ones the Americans and Australians have known, but the change to one platform has created turmoil for the British Users who liked the old structure which had not changed for years.

For those who are not yet subscribers to FindMyPast you can do any of the searches without being a subscriber, but you cannot see the transcription details or images without being a subscriber. I think you will find it worth your while to join and explore.

So let’s examine the three ways to search on FindMyPast
1. Search all records
2. Search within a record category
3. Choose a specific set of records

We will explore – Search all records in this post and focus on the other two mechanisms in the subsequent two blog posts.

1. Search All Records

Search Results Screen on FindMyPast for Richard Milner
Search Results Screen on FindMyPast for Richard Milner

From the opening page at www.findmypast.com go to the pull down menu under Search records and select the first option – Search all records

Yes, you may want to start filling in the boxes. First though take notice of the advice on how to get started. The first item is the most important – Start broad, and then filter – this is actually very important and encourages you to do things in the order that the search engine likes.

Start with the boxes across the top first. – Who, When and Where

Who – this is the person or family you are looking for. You can search on exact names or name variants and the first time through the search I go for variants on first name – so I pick up Richard, Rich, Dick or any other appropriate variation, but usually exact on the surname – though I know many of the surnames are commonly found in various forms – Milner, Millner, Milliner, etc.

When – here you have the option of choosing a date for born, died, or a date of a specific event, e.g. specific census. Then with a drop down menu you can choose +/- 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 or40 years.

Where – this provide a drop down box with World, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, and United States and Canada. This obviously gives you an idea of where the primary datasets are from. In the box beside the Where you can also narrow the place down geographically

In this case study I am going to search for Richard Milner, born in 1790 +/- 10 years in the United Kingdom. I get 329 results presented in tabular format. In this case we are presented with 10 results and then there is an advertisement for how many times the name Milner was found in British newspapers (1,029 hits). The important point is that the results table continues below this advertisement and you may not catch that depending how it appears on your screen.

FindMyPast search all records for Richard Milner in Kent
FindMyPast search all records for Richard Milner in Kent

If at this stage I narrow my geographic location to Kent, a county in England, my options are reduced to 13, of which only 7 have the name Richard connected with the Milner. Even this simple option narrowed my options.

In the column on the left side of your screen you will see how to narrow down your results. It is best to move down the column in order, unless you know specifically where you are going.

FindMyPast closeup on Narrow Your Search option showing bold and greyed out options
FindMyPast closeup on Narrow Your Search option showing bold and greyed out options

First you will notice that some of the records categories are greyed out meaning there were no hits for the given search parameters in those collections. So for these search parameters I have hits in: Birth, Marriage and Death (Parish Registers); Census, Land & Substitutes; Military Service and Conflict.

If we take a close look at the results page we actually get a good number of records for our man. The first record is his attestation record into the 36th Regiment of Foot in April 1815, just a couple of months before the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This record tells us, among other things that he was age seventeen and born in the village of Leeds in Kent. The fourth result down is the 1851 census where we find the 56 year old laborer and Royal Marine Pensioner from Leeds, Kent living with his 47 year old wife Maria.

Richard Milner, from Leeds, Kent, a 56 labourer and Royal Marine Pensioner with his wife Maria Milner (nee Burress), age 47, in the 1851 Census
Richard Milner, from Leeds, Kent, a 56 labourer and Royal Marine Pensioner with his wife Maria Milner (nee Burress), age 47, in the 1851 Census

The fifth result down is a transcript from the Thames & Medway Marriages database showing that Richard Milner married Maria Burress on 31 May 1833 in St. Margaret’s Rochester, extracted from the parish register. The sixth entry down is an 1862 entry from the September quarter of England’s civil registration for deaths in the Medway District where Richard is residing and would be a possible death record – from this one entry you cannot be certain but it is a possibility.

Thus the benefit of searching everything is the possibility of finding multiple records for one individual. Care needs to be taken to ensure you have the correct person. The only way I know which results are for my Richard Milner is the fact that I have already done the corroborating research on this man.

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