Rosemary Kopittke has been tracing her family history since 1985. She is an experienced genealogist and currently works as a consultant for Gould Genealogy & History. Rosemary is regularly invited to speak on findmypast and other topics at events in Australia and New Zealand. Enjoy part one of Rosemary's tips  on how to get the best out of findmypast.com.au.

Part 1 - Basic Searching

The greatly expanded Australia and New Zealand collection containing over 135 million records is now available for researchers to explore and discover amazing details about their family or local history.

The basic search as offered on both the home and search pages gives the option of searching by Who, When and Where with Keywords to assist in refining the search. What could be simpler?

It appears logical and straightforward to search using these criteria but what isn’t obvious to the new user is that the data actually includes 1.2 million pages of data which has been digitised – such as you would find on Trove. That means it does not have fields which are recognised as names, places or dates – the computer simply knows it as text. With this in mind let’s look at how we can use this search to get us started on locating the information we seek.

First/Last Name – it is clear this is the place to enter names of those you are researching. It is not obvious though that you can also enter place names, occupations and other information here and the search will find matches in data that has been scanned (not, however, in fully indexed data) – it does work, try it for yourself. Be aware though that, for scanned data, it will simply find records where the words you enter in First/Last Name appear on the same page of the document!

Year range – a year range covering the period you wish to search; if you just wish to search a single year then enter it into ‘From’ and once you hit the Search button the ‘To’ year will automatically fill

Keywords – words you want to appear in the record (can include names), perhaps an occupation, address or similar. Currently, these must be words that are adjacent to each other in the data and in the exact order. So, for example, a search using amos wickerson and another using wickerson amos will return quite different results (any intervening punctuation such as commas and full stops is ignored).

Name variants – selecting the name variants will return variants for both the first/last names; for example, a first name of William will also find Willy and Wm as well as just the initial W.

Wildcard searches – these can be very helpful for detecting names where you know that spelling or transcription problems are likely to occur; for example, Kopittke can be recorded as Kopittke, Kopitke, Kopitkie (and many others). The use of a wildcard, ‘?’ for a single character or ‘*’ for a string of characters of any length, can be useful in these situations.

Try these new skills and search now!

For more detailed information on how to best use findmypast.com.au you can buy a copy of Rosemary's new book, New findmypast.com.au: Gateway to the World Collection