Flummoxed - Early Period

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Back to: Family History for the Flummoxed Flummoxed - Extending Family Lines

Note: This page is part of the Flummoxed series and made to help those who haven't found family history information in the usual places. More information about searching the usual places is on the Flummoxed - Extending Family Lines page.


You've come here because you're not finding family records from the early period.

Most Common Reason

The most common reason for this is that the records from the early period simply don't exist. Surviving records from these times relate primarily to royalty, nobility, the educated, and those who owned land or property. Religious records for common people are sparse.


Research in the early period is extremely difficult. It is especially not easy for a beginner because of the knowledge and skills required to work with the ancient records. You are close approaching the Medieval period which is really best left to the experts.

Consider Switching to Descendancy Research

If your ancestors are commoners coming from the Western world (the Americas, Europe, and Western Asia), then continuing may be very difficult and progress very limited. If you have enjoyed doing family history research, you may find just as much satisfaction by switching to descendancy research. Instead of working backward in time from that last ancestor, try instead to find all of his living descendants--your cousins. If you are L.D.S. and have questions about descendancy research, click here

Consider Hiring a Professional Researcher

If you don't have the ability to personally do the research but feel compelled to go on, then consider hiring a professional researcher.

Continue Searching for Religious Records

FamilySearch has a high percentage of religious records from the early period, but there are still some not in the FamilySearch collections. The earliest religious records are usually in central archives and no longer available through local parishes and synagogues. Early religious records are well researched and cataloged. You may find books of record inventories that specify the archives holding the records in the Family History Library's On-line Catalog. If you need information from a foreign country, search this FamilySearch Wiki for "Letter Writing Guide" along with the name of the country in which you are searching.

Use Alternate Sources

Other sources also have information about the early period:

  • You might try to find histories, genealogies, and collections available only through local libraries, societies, and archives.
  • You might find early land records and early citizenship records of European cities. There is much in European archives that FamilySearch doesn't yet have.
  • The Internet now includes a number of historical sources about the early period (e.g., Wikipedia). Always try to determine the reliability of a source by reviewing the bibliography.