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Introduction to the Family History Library Catalog > Place-name Search
Do a Place-name 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-name
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.
- ("Place-name" is the default search option. If it does not appear, select it from the drop-down menu.)
- Type the locality. The catalog orgainzes places from the largest jurisdiction in a place-name to the smallest. Generally, the pattern is country, state or provice, county (where applicable), city or town. Places in the United States and Canada do not have a country level. The locality can be entered in reverse order to obtain the same results.
- Click Search (even if the locality was selected from the drop-down menu).
- Click a topic, such as Church records. (See also Locality Subject Subdivisions.)
- Click a title to see more details.
Strategies for Using a Place-name 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.
Consider that records are kept at different jurisdictional levels. Search for the town or city if you are looking for records specific to that jurisdiction (cemetery, church, directories, town histories, etc.). Search for the county for records that would cover more than one town or that might be kept by the county government (vital records, court records, land and property records, county histories, etc.). Many important records might be located at the state or provincial level (census, military, state histories, etc.), or even at the country level (census, federal land, citizenship, etc.).
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 Virginia or Virginia Fairfax in the search field.
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.
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.
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 for the record of interest. If another place is listed, click on it to see information about that place.
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.
- Search for records using a different jurisdictional level. For example, if you cannot find records for a town, search for county records.
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