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Introduction to the Family History Library Catalog > Place Search
Do a Place Search when you want to find records in the collection of the Family History Library by the name of a place (locality) where an ancestor lived.
Steps to Search by Place
The following steps will help you find records for a specific locality in the Family History Library Catalog.
- Go to the Family History Library Catalog.
- Click Place Search.
- Type the locality.
- Put the smaller place in the upper box. Optional: add the county, state/province, or country in the lower box.
- Click Search.
- Click the locality that most closely matches the one you want.
- Click a topic (Subject Subdivision), such as Church records. See also Locality Subject Subdivisions.
- Click a title to see more details. The record may be in a book or on a film.
- Click View Film Notes in the top right corner to see the film numbers.
Tip: Once you have clicked a specific locality, you can click View Related Places on the top right corner to find localities related to the place you typed in step 4.
Strategies for Using a Place Search
The names of countries are in English. The names of states, provinces, regions, cities, and other jurisdictions are in the language of the country.
The more specific you make your search, the shorter the list of results will be.
To make your search more specific, type a jurisdiction of the place in the "Part of" field. For example, if you are looking for a city, type the county or state.
If you do not know a jurisdiction of the place, search for the name by itself.
If you do not know how to spell the place-name, truncate (shorten) the name or use a wild card character to replace letters you are not sure of.
In the "Place" field, type only the specific name of the place that you are looking for. For example, to find Buxton, York, Maine, type Buxton in the "Place" field and either Maine or York in the "Part of" field. Do not type Maine,York,Buxton in the "Place" field.
To search for a county, do not type the word "County" as a part of the search term. For example, to find Fairfax county, Virginia, type Fairfax in the "Place" field and Virginia in the "Part of" field.
If a place-name has more than one word, you do not need to type all of the words. Nor do you have to type them in exact order. The computer automatically finds all places with the word or words that you type, no matter where in the place-name they appear. For example, if you type Barton, the computer would find Barton Mills, Barton-on-Irwell, Great Barton, and so forth.
How Do I Understand the Results of a Place Search?
A Place Search results in a list of places. If you qualified your search with another jurisdiction, the list should be short. If you did not qualify your search, the list may be long.
The results list is divided into sections according to the jurisdiction. For example, if you search for Washington, the list has sections for Washington state, Mount Washington, Port Washington, and towns named Washington. Within each section, you will see the full place-name.
If the list shows the place you want, click on the place-name to see the Place Details record. This record contains all or some of the following items:
- The Related Places tab. Click this tab to see other places that you might be interested in.
- A list of topics for the place that the catalog has records for. See Locality Subject Subdivisions.
- References to other places.
- Notes about the place.
How Are Places Organized in the Catalog?
The catalog organizes places from the largest jurisdiction in a place-name to the smallest. Generally, the pattern is country, state or province, county (where applicable), city or town. Places in the United States and Canada do not have a country level.
You do not have to type all of these jurisdictions to find the place you want. To search for a city, for example, you do not need to type the name of the country, state, and county before the name of the city.
Since many places have the same names, you can limit your search by typing a jurisdiction of the place you want to find in the "Part of" field. For example, you can add the county name to a search when searching for a city or the state when searching for a county.
What If I Do Not Find the Place I Want?
You may not find the place you want for various reasons. Before you conclude that the catalog does not have records for that place, try the following strategies:
- Be sure you typed the place-name correctly.
- If you qualified your search with another jurisdiction, try the search again without this qualification.
- Search for records using a larger jurisdiction. For example, if you cannot find records for a town, search for county records.
How Do I Find Related Places?
This suggestion only works with the old FamilySearch.org catalog search and does not apply to the updated FamilySearch.org website.
You can find related places in two ways:
1. Click the View Related Places button. This displays:
- The "Part of" field, which lists the jurisdiction the place is part of. For example, this could be a county for a city, or a state or province for a county.
- The "Contains" field, which lists places contained by the place you searched for. For example, if you search for a county, the "Contains" field lists cities in that county.
2. If the "References" field appears, click on an underlined item in the field
Sometimes a catalog entry is linked to more than one place. For example, an entry may be linked to several neighboring towns. To find out if a catalog entry is linked to another place, display the Title Details records for the records linked to the place topic. If another place is listed, click on it to see information about that place.
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