RootsWeb:Searching WorldConnect

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This article originally appeared in The Official Guide to by Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG and Tana Pedersen Lord.


WorldConnect has several types of search tools you can use to quickly access the family trees that most interest you. If you’re just beginning your family search or you know the exact database you want to access, you might want to use the basic search options; if you’re a more skilled researcher, try the global search.

Basic Search

To begin a basic search, click the Family Trees tab. A group of four different basic search options will appear on the left side of the page:

  • Surname and given name. You can enter an individual’s name to view every family tree that contains this person.
  • Specific database. You can jump to a specific database by entering its user code.
  • Database by keyword(s). You can search for keywords that appear in the family tree, e-mail address, submitter name, and even the titles, headers, and footers of the trees. This option is especially helpful for researching common surnames. If you are looking for a “Smith” who married a “Snickerdoodle,” you can increase your chances of locating a tree with their information by entering both surnames in this field rather than only one surname in the “Surname and given name” field.
  • Database by surname(s). You can search for databases that contain certain surnames. Enter a space or a comma between each surname. The search results will show you the number of people in the tree with your specified surname(s).

Note: Each family tree is identified by a unique user code. To find a user code for a family tree someone else submitted, search for their WorldConnect file. The user code appears at the end of the Web address after the equal sign. For example, “winch” is the user code in this Web address:

Global Search

The global search can be used for both basic searches and detailed, advanced searches. You must enter information in at least one field, but you complete as many additional fields as you would like.

To begin a global search, click the Family Trees tab, then click the “Advanced Search” link at the top of the page or on the homepage, find the “Family Trees (WorldConnect)” section, and click the “Search Family Trees” link. Complete any of these fields as necessary:

In this field Do this
Surname Enter a surname (last name or family name). Make sure to try different spellings, including spacing variations (van Horn and vanhorn, or O’Brien and OBrien). From the drop-down list, choose whether the search is for exact matches (surnames with the same spelling), Soundex matches (surnames with the same Soundex code), or Metaphone matches (surnames that have a similar English pronunciation).
Given name Enter a given name (first name). If you enter a first and middle name, matches will include both names—but not necessarily in that order. For example, a search for Mary Jane will result in matches for “Mary Jane” and “Jane Mary.” If you are not looking for a specific person or if want to broaden your search, leave this field blank.
Birth Place, Death Place, or Marriage Place Enter a location (a town, township, county, state, country, or province). For U.S. localities enter either a state’s name (e.g., Tennessee) or a two-letter abbreviation (e.g., TN) and you will get the same matches. If you are entering a country, try searching by its name and by its standard abbreviation.
Birth Year, Death Year, or Marriage Year Enter the year of the life event. From the drop-down list, choose whether the search is for exact matches (the year you entered) or a date range (plus or minus the year you entered).
Omit Blanks Click this checkbox to remove any matches where this field in a family tree is blank or empty.
Father, Mother, or Spouse Enter a surname, given name, or both.
Skip Database The Skip Database feature lets you “ignore” certain family trees. This is especially convenient if you don’t want to see your submitted files in your search results. Enter a database’s user code. To ignore several databases, put a space between each user code. For example, enter “jsmith adamsg smithreed smithtx.” Do not use commas or enter URLs (Web addresses) in this field. To find a user code for a family tree you submitted, click the Passwords tab and request your WorldConnect user code and password. You will receive an e-mail of all your user codes and passwords.
Updated Within Choose an option from the drop-down list to restrict your search to files that have been submitted, modified, or updated within a certain period of time. Choose “Forever” to search through all available databases.

Has Descendants Click the checkbox to find only files that contain the individual you’re searching for and their descendants.

Has Notes Click the checkbox to find only files that have user notes.
Has Sources Click the checkbox to find only files that have sources.
Fuzzy Search Short for “fuzzy logic,” this geek term means that the search will return probable matches along with exact matches. Click the checkbox to search all name (except surname) and location fields using Soundex matching.

Tips for Successful Searches

If your searches haven’t turned up the results you were hoping for, try some of these search tips:

  • If you’re using the global search, try entering information in fewer fields. This will broaden your search and return more matches.
  • Use wildcards in name fields—wildcards let you view all names that begin with the same letters. Enter at least the first three letters of the name, followed by an asterisk. For example, a search for “Har*” will return matches such as Harold, Harry and Harriett, while “Peter*” will give you results such as Peter, Peters, Peterson, Petersen, and Peterman.
  • Use the Soundex option for surnames. Names are often misspelled in historical records or even indexed incorrectly. Soundex lets you search for last names that “sound like” the one you’re looking for. This option is useful because even names like Smith can be “misspelled” as Smithe, Smyth, and Smythe.
  • Try variant spellings of names, nicknames, and initials—each submitter has control over his or her tree, so spelling variations are quite common.
  • Be sure to search for women under their maiden names.
  • For location fields, search for misspellings and abbreviations. For example, if the location is Tennessee, you might search for “Tenessee,” “TN,” and “Tns.” If the name includes a space, such as “San Francisco,” do searches both with and without the space. For locations like St. Louis, try searching with both “St.” and “Saint.”

Understanding Your Search Results

Depending on the type of search you perform, you may

  • Go directly to a specific database. The search takes you to the tree’s “homepage.” At the top of the page, you will see the tree’s title and owner and the last time the database was updated.
  • See a list of databases. After each database name, you’ll find the name and e-mail of the tree’s owner and additional information about the tree such as its title. Click the database link to access the tree’s “homepage.”
  • See a list of names that match your search criteria. At the top of the search results, you can see the number of matches as well as which of those matches you are currently viewing.

The columns for each match provide you with the following information:

Column Information Found in Column
Name This column lists all records that match the search criteria you entered. If you entered “John Smith,” the results will include all records where “John” is either the given or middle name and “Smith” is the surname. In addition to every tree that contains John Smith, the results will also include trees with names such as Aaron John Smith, Zebulon John Smith, and everything in between. Click a name link to access that individual’s record within his or her family tree. From this page, you can navigate to other individuals within the tree as well. To access the tree’s “homepage,” click the “Index” link at the top of the page.
Birth/Christening Date and Place This column shows birth dates and places (if they are in the individual’s record). Christening dates and places (labeled as such) will automatically be listed as an alternative if the birth date and place are not in the file.
Death/Burial Date and Place This column shows death and burial dates and places (if they are in the individual’s record).
Database This column shows the database’s user code (the unique name chosen by the submitter for the specific family tree). Click a database link to access the “homepage” of the family tree.

Note: The Order record? and Other Matches fields link you to third-party sites such as, which may have information for that individual in other records on their sites. RootsWeb is not responsible for the content on these third-party sites.

Beneath the individual’s name, you may see several icons:

  • The magnifying glass icon appears when there are matches for this individual in databases. Click the icon to go to an search results page—matches are for both free and subscription databases.
  • The pedigree icon appears if the database has a pedigree tree associated with it. Click the icon to display the pedigree chart for the individual.
  • The descendants icon indicates that the individual has children listed in the family tree. Click the icon to view a descendant outline that starts with the individual.
  • This informational icon shows whether this individual has notes associated with him or her in this WorldConnect database.
  • This informational icon shows whether source information is included with the individual’s data.

Beneath the birth and death dates and places, you might also see the names of the individual’s father, mother, or spouse. Click these links to go to the individual record for the father, mother, or spouse.

External Links