Use these three general search tips to have the best chance of finding what, or whom, you're looking for on Findmypast

Understand Search Fields

When you enter a name and/or date in the search fields in the homepage, we search our entire database for anyone matching those details. When you go to a specific search screen for a record category, collection or set you'll see the search forms become increasingly specific.

Fields only appear when they are relevant. That is, when the information you are searching for would have appeared in the original document. For example, if you select the record set 'Dorset marriages' you'll be able to enter the spouse's first and last names. This is because these fields will have been entered in the original certificate (and the transcript).

However, if you're looking for a burial, you can't enter the spouse's name, even if you know it. This is because that information was not included in the original document. If you feel there's a search field missing, you can use a keyword to find any word which has been transcribed.

Use Keywords

In category pages (and some individual search screens), you can search records by keywords. Keywords work by identifying records that have that particular word in their transcripts. For example, you could search for the name 'Smith' in the birth, marriages, deaths and parish records, then use the keyword 'Glasgow', to find all the Smiths who were somehow associated with Glasgow in their records.

Or try typing 'murder' in the keywords box on the prison registers collection, to find all those involved in any recorded murder cases. You can use keywords to search for any fields that aren't displayed in our forms (for example, you can enter the house number to narrow down your results when searching for an address).

Master Wildcards

Wildcards indicate that a fragment of your search term is missing and are your secret weapon when it comes to searching Findmypast. You can use them across many of our records to help find those that may have been mistranscribed or where spellings may have altered through a mishearing of a name or poor literacy.

Insert an asterisk * (entered by pressing Shift and the 8 key on most keyboards) in a search field where you suspect there may be an alternative spelling. This will pick up places where a letter may be missing, repeated, or incorrect. For example, a surname search for Fo*kes will return results with spelling variations that include Foakes, Fokes, Folks, Fookes, Forkes, Foukes, Foulkes and Fowkes. If you suspect there's only one incorrect letter, you can use the ? symbol. For example Sm?th, will return results for both Smith and Smyth.

You can use as many wildcards as you need to in a search field, so the results returned for search term Bla*k*mo*r*include the following variants: Blackmoer, Blackmoore, Blackmor, Blackmore, Blackmore Lee, Blacksmore, Blakemore and Blakmore. You can also use wildcards when searching for regiments (* Som Yeo* would yield North Somerset Yeomanry, as well as West Somerset Yeomanry), service numbers etc.