FamilySearch Catalog Surnames SearchEdit This Page

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How to search the Family History Library Catalog by Surname.

Use a Surname Search to find a work about a specific family or person, such as a:

However, the Author Search is better for finding an author by surname.


Steps to Search by Surname

  1. Go to
  2. Click the Family History Library Catalog link under the heading Search Genealogy Records & Library.
  3. Click Surname Search.
  4. Type a surname.
  5. Click Search.
  6. Click the surname that matches the one you want.
  7. Click a title to see more details. The record may be in a book or on a film.
  8. Click View Film Notes (if any) to see a film number.

How Do I Understand the Results of a Surname Search?

A Surname Search results in a list of titles of catalog entries tied to the surname of your search. Click the title to see the cataloging details. A book, compact disc, or pedigree call number of the source will appear on this details screen. This call number is needed to locate the item in the Family History Library. If the source has been microfilmed, a View Film Notes button will appear in the upper right corner of the details window. Click that button to view the film notes details.

You can choose to view the results list in order by the title, or in order by the author using buttons at the bottom of the results list.

If the name you search is relatively common, the results list may be so long (over 100) that you will have to click [Next results] at the bottom of the page one or more times to see the complete results list. For long results lists there is also an option to jump to a record (title) number you specify.

Strategies for Using a Surname Search

Look for family histories. This search mainly finds family histories.

More than one surname per family history. Library catalogers usually add to the Surname Search about four surnames from families that marry into the main family for a typical family history. For example, Blackburns Today and Yesterday is also listed under the following names: BARRON, BRIDGES, DAVIS, and FRAZIER. For longer family histories even more names would usually be listed. So it is normal to find a book via the Surname Search which is primarily about another family and only briefly mentions the surname you searched.

If the results list has too few matches. The more of a surname you type as a search term, the smaller the results list will be. Since many surnames have spelling variations, you may want to broaden your search. To do this, you can type only part of the surname. (This is called truncating your search.) For example, if you type Newcombe as your search term, the computer will find only that spelling of the name. However, if you type Newcom as your search term, the computer will find any surname that begins with those letters, including Newcom, Newcomb, Newcome, Newcombe, and so forth.

Switch to the Keyword Search to find a family in a specific place. If the results list has too many matches, it may help to  switch to the Family History Library Catalog Keyword Search and add a place (state or province) to the surname. For example, a Surname Search for Frazier results in 177 matches, but a Keyword Search for Frazier Colorado results in only 21 matches. This strategy finds works that are cataloged under the surname Frazier and the place Colorado in the same cataloging entry, usually but not necessarily in connection with each other. States and provinces work best for this strategy. Towns and counties work poorly for this strategy.

See also

Introduction to the Family History Library Catalog

Family History Library Catalog Place Search

Family History Library Catalog Keyword Search

Family History Library Catalog Title Search

Family History Library Catalog Film and Fiche Search

Family History Library Catalog Author Search

Family History Library Catalog Subject Search

Family History Library Catalog Call Number Search


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