Help > Search > Search engine features and options

Search engine features and options

Learn about Geneanet’s powerful search engine options and informative search results screen.

Table of contents

The Geneanet search engine has a user-friendly interface and advanced options to help you find your ancestors in our database! Note that a Geneanet Premium membership is required to access most advanced options.

Searching an online database as large as Geneanet’s is an iterative process. If you are lucky, you get a good “hit” in your first search. However, more often, you will need to refine a search and rerun it a few times with different settings (adding or omitting a name, using wildcards, applying a filter, …) until you have reduced search results to a manageable number of records to inspect.

Settings for some of these features can be configured with the “Preferences” button at the upper right of the fresh search screen, or after a search, in the search box to the left.

Alerts: After a search, you can use the red “Create New Alert” button at the upper right to be automatically informed when your search query finds new records or individuals. Geneanet is constantly adding new collections and members build their trees and contribute indexes and archives, so it’s very useful to be informed if you get a search alert. Go to “Search” menu / “Your alerts” to edit your alert.

Search all records

The search engine is your key tool for finding ancestors by name in Geneanet family trees and collections. Note however that our Genealogy Library (over 3 billion individuals indexed) has a separate search screen. A search in the Genealogy Library is also available at the bottom of any search results screen. Note that not all search criteria you have configured carry over to the Genealogy Library search.

Name variants

You can search name variants while excluding some names from the search query.

For example, if you are searching the Bonhams but not the Bonham Carters, enter ‘Bonham’ in the name field and enter ‘Carter’ in the names to exclude.

The search engine will search the name exactly as you have entered it. However, if you check the “Name Variants” box, common alternate spellings of a name will also be searched. For a last name, click the (Configure) link to see the known alternate spellings; you can exclude each of the known variants, and add a new variant to the list if you wish. To cover even more variants (historical misspellings for example), use wildcard characters.

The red dot indicates that these options are active, to remind you that they will apply to the search.



Reverse: Note that if you enter a spouse, after running the search query a first time, you can return to the search screen and switch the spouses for a new search with the “Reverse” link located near the spouse’s first name. This is useful since sometimes more data is available about a spouse and can lead you to indexes and archives or trees.

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Wildcard characters

Spellings of names and places were not standardized until the late 19th century, and historical handwritten documents may have had misspellings or been incorrectly transcribed decades later. This may be why you have difficultly finding an individual: ‘Reeves’ transcribed as ‘Feeves’ for example. Wildcards give you great flexibility in locating these records, beyond the known variants of a name.

Use an asterisk character (*) to replace zero or more characters in the name or place fields. For example, ‘ba*ter’ will search for ‘baxter’, ‘backster’, etc. This wildcard cannot be used as the first character.

Use a question mark (?) to replace exactly one character in the name or place fields. For example, ‘mari?’ will search for ‘marie’, ‘maria’, etc. This wildcard can be used as the first character. Note however that this wildcard will not match the ’empty string’ (no character), in other words ‘mat?hew’ will match ‘matthew’ but not ‘mathew’. Use the asterisk in this case, which matches the ’empty string’ since it replaces zero or more characters.

You may use more than one wildcard. For example, ‘?i*erman?’ will match ‘Zimmermann’, Zimermann’, ‘Timmermans’, ‘Libermann’, etc., but not ‘Zimmerman’. Add a trailing asterisk instead of a question mark to match both ‘-man’ and ‘-mann’ endings (as well as ‘-mand’ or ‘-mang’, etc.). Place example: ‘du?barton*’ will match Dunbarton, Dumbarton, and Dunbartonshire.

Nearby places

If the place (municipality: town, village, district, or city) you have entered is in the Geneanet places database, you can automatically search in nearby places up to 200 km (about 120 miles). The search results screen may show you a small map with the search area.

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Multiple places

You can search individuals from multiple places by clicking “Add a place”. This is very useful for metropolitan areas which straddle states, provinces, council areas, etc. Note that this option will disallow wildcards and variants for the first place, and that you cannot remove a place once added to a search. Restart the search screen in this case.

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Search results list

The search results list has thumbnail icons and pictograms to help you analyze results quickly. And any result you have already inspected will have a gray background, saving you time. Note that this remembered information is stored on your device, in a cookie managed by the browser you used to search. If you change browsers or devices, or clear your cache, the gray background for visited records will be reset.

Search results from members’ family trees, archival records, indexes, photos, etc. are now displayed in the same list. A link to the separate Genealogy Library database is in the upper right corner of every results page. If a large percentage of search results come from a single source which you have already viewed, you will be offered the option to exclude this source from search. You may wish to exclude your own tree for example, or the tree of a cousin whom you know doesn’t have new information.

Pass your mouse pointer over the name of an invididual to open a tooltip where you can immediately search for the parents of the individual, and see at a glance the information available (birth, death, occupation, number of children). Note the small up and down arrows which indicate the availability of parents and/or children in the record or tree.

Sort search results by relevance, or select a sort order with one or more criteria. You can sort by surname (family name), first name, year, or Geneanet username, and add multiple sort keys. You can invert the sort order; the red dot and arrow indicate a custom sort has been selected, just click on the arrow. You can also choose how many results you want to display on each page. if you have a fast connection, you may prefer a larger number of search results.

In the left sidebar, you can edit your search and apply filters to the search results list.

The “Collection” filter will show all the types of collections you can choose from which are present in the search results. If there are no results for a type of collection, no checkbox will appear. Click on one or more collections to include them; leaving all blank selects all. Use the right triangle to show subcollection categoriesand the down arrow to hide them.

If you are not a Premium member, you can filter out Premium records in the search results.

You can display only results containing a specific birth/marriage/death (BMD) event. Note that baptisms are considered as birth events, and burials as death events.

You can search only individuals with known ancestors and/or descendants.

You can filter for records with the most relevant data.

It is also possible to filter for results with images, and to limit search to records from a single Geneanet member, or to exclude one or more member’s records (including your own).

enlarged pictograms

Pictograms and data in search results

The results are presented as a list, classified by default by relevance (see above for other available keys). Thumbnail icons and pictograms help you skim results efficiently. Premium members benefit from more complete icons.

Here is an example:

We can see there is:

  1. an icon to identify the nature of the data displayed. Here are our most common icons:

Person on someone’s tree, with or without a portrait image
person with up arrow pictogram: on the left, the father is known; on the right, the mother is known
down arrow picrograms: there are one or more children known
dotted roundel: direct ancestor of the tree root
Record, free or Premium
The arrows have the same meaning as above
Linked document external to Geneanet
War Memorial
Grave or memorial plaque
Military grave
Coat of Arms
Periodical: Newspaper, journal, magazine

Book (with or without its cover)
Archival document with available image
  1. the surname (family name) and first name of the researched person, with, if applicable, the year of marriage and the surname/first name of the spouse just below
  2. the source descriptor of the data, which can be the name of a collection, a book, a tree owner’s username…
  3. the dates of the events for the person you are looking for in the document or tree
  4. the place of the events where the event(s) included in the period indicated took place (birth, marriage, death or mention)

Need help?

Go to our forum to ask for help on any topic related to the Geneanet website or if you need help with your family history research.

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