Updated: Find A Grave Search Beta Discussion

Thank you for helping us with our memorial search beta test!

Our first step is to create a version of search that looks the same but uses a different engine to perform the searching. We want to make sure this new engine can provide comparable or better results and reliability before we start updating features.

For this first version, we’ve kept most of the search fields the same, but there are a few differences:

  • Last name is no longer required.
  • We’ve added the option to include a spouse, sibling or parent in your search.
  • The date range options are a little different.
  • There is an option to make your name search fuzzy that may help with spelling errors, etc.
  • In the name fields, you can use the ? or * wild cards. ? replaces one letter. * represents 0 to many letters. E.g. Sorens?n or Wil*

There are also some differences that you won’t notice in the fields, but may notice in your results:

  • Today, when a search returns more than 10,000 matches we just show an error message. The new search will show you the first 10,000 matches and the sort options will work on the full result list.
  • If you’ve added a spouse, sibling or parent, their name and relationship will be included in the result.
  • We’ve made the search header stay at the top of the screen as you scroll. You can use it to refine your search, sort your results or change the page number to jump to later pages (up to page 500).

How to Test:
Visit this link and try using the new search. We’d love for you to try the same search on the new search and the regular search on the site and let us know how they compare.

How to Provide Leave Feedback:
We are going to try using comments on this post as the place for you to leave feedback and suggestions related to this beta search so that you can see each other’s comments and discuss things among yourselves and with us at the same time. For our part, we may reply to individual comments or we may add updates to this original post in response to some major or frequently mentioned issues.

What Comes Next?:
Once we’ve tested the new search to make sure that results are comparable, we’ll start working on updates to the fields and other improvements to the search. If you have suggestions for those kinds of changes, you can leave those in the comments here as well.

Thanks again for your help!

Thanks for all your feedback so far. One problem that a few of you have noticed is an issue when searching with spouses. Because of the way spouse linking works on the site, the search engine only caught the link in the direction the spouse was originally added, so in some instances searching for a husband with his wife’s name included might work, but searching for the wife with the husband’s name would not and the reverse might be true in other cases. We’ll get that fixed.

25 Sept 2019

We’ve made a few updates based on your feedback. The changes include:

  • Updated the date range options to include “before” and “after” and  simplified the +/- range options.
  • Cleaned up the sorting for fuzzy search results
  • Added partial or prefix search similar to the old search for the first and middle name fields (Ben will find Benjamin and L will find Larry).  The Spouse, Parent, Child or Sibling names can also be partial spellings.
  • Fixed a bug with the related people search so that spouses are found more consistently
  • Fixed a bug so that the search ignores case sensitivity
  • Fixed a bug so that old search information gets cleared out more consistently
  • Fixed the filter options for “Flowers” and “No grave photo” and “GPS”


  1. Last names are working great but first names still run into problems. Lukáš, Noël, José, François, etc return no results

  2. Curious. Is there a way to test this search within a cemetery rather than an overall search? Everything seems to be working well. I’ve had a few issues with fuzzy but hopefully there is a learning aspect there.

    • It works most of the time but hangs up on certain letters. Eastern European ones in particular.
      2387958 / 2691889 (Poland)

  3. I searched for nuñez without a fuzzy search thinking that I would only get nuñez in my result set, but the result set also included nunez (without the ñ ). Is this correct? How would I search for only those who last name is spelled nuñez and not nunez ?

    Likewise, a search for nunez produced a result set including nuñez . Is this what was intended?

    I would have thought the way to get both nuñez & nunez would be to search for nu?ez



  4. I searched for:

    First name: james
    Middle name: richard
    Last name: m*

    resulting in: No Matches Found

    Then I searched for:

    First name: james
    Middle name: richard
    Last name: — blank —

    resulting in: 18,998 matches

    and among those matches on the first two pages of results were:

    james richard mantell
    james richard melvin
    james richard miller

    I would have expected the first search with a last name of: m*
    to have found these rather than resulting in: No matches.

    I have tried this twice, each time beginning with a new Chrome window and getting the same results.



  5. Using the Beta search, I searched for:

    Last name: boney
    Cemetery: Las Cruces, Dona Ana county, New Mexico

    The results included several memorials which have been merged.

    I then used the production search page for the same criteria and the results did not include the merged memorials.

    I then returned to the Beta search with the same criteria and again, the merged memorials appeared.

    I did not expect that there would be a difference between the Beta and the production search with respect to results containing merged memorials.

    Does the Beta search simply ignore those merged memorials as missing?



    • Likely, prob along the lines of the bug I found the other week where the cemetery names with special characters were not showing right. At a guess they are redoing search from scratch so there prob be a few little settings like these that have gotten missed.

    • We did find an issue where merged records were not filtered correctly in the new search. This should be resolved. Please let us know if you are still encountering this issue.

  6. I searched for last name of: syfert

    and the system reported 72 results, neither of the three I manage were there.

    I used the production system for the same last name and the production system reported 356 results including all three of the memorials I manage. Something is not right when the Beta system returns 72 and the production system returns 356 results.

    I searched for last name of: syf*

    and the system reported 269 results. I scrolled to the bottom, then returned to the top and searched (Ctrl-F) for: syfert

    The search of the results found 72 Syferts among the 269. None of the 72 were the three I manage.

    The Beta system is missing 284 of the 356 memorials in Find A Grave with a last name of: syfert



    • You may have performed your search while were creating a new search index. As we improve the Beta search algorithms, we need to change the way the data is entered into the search system. Please try again and let us know if there is still missing data.

  7. Using the Beta system, I searched for last name of: mckinney

    the system returned 13,930 results.

    I repeated the search on the Beta system in a different tab and the system returned 13, 939 results.

    I did it a third time in a different tab and the system returned 13, 983 results.

    It seems that the numbers wouldn’t be changing so much within seconds of each search.

    I then used the production system for the same search and the production system returned a message that there 11, 004 results. I repeated the search in a different tab using the production system and the production system returned 11,004 results — the same number.

    With 500 pages in the Beta search results, I couldn’t easily scroll to the end of the results to copy it out for comparison to see who was missing in the first vs the second search and who was missing in the second vs the third search.

    Is there a way to quickly move to the bottom of the results list without having to scroll down?



    • On the beta search page there is a text box indicating the current page. You can change that value to skip to the page you desire. We limit the max number of pages to display to 500. We recently discovered the beta search wasn’t filtering out some merged records which could account for some of the discrepancy in counts between the beta search counts and the current search. Another reason for the count discrepancy may be that the beta search uses different algorithms to perform the search. We also run index tasks to keep the betas search up to date and you may have seen counts change as those tasks were running. Hope this helps.

  8. Clara Matilda nee Karstens Courtney 1878-1968. I did several searches for this person, who has a memorial, using every possible option on the beta search and never came across her. 1) Last name Karstens including maiden name and birth year, 2) last name Karstens including maiden name and death year, 3) last name Karstens including maiden name and first name, and 4) last name Courtney with first name. None of these found the person I was looking for. There is a glitch, just not sure where it would be.

    • Hi Bonnie, try entering both surnames separated by a space in the last name field and then check the boxes “include maiden name” and “partial last name search.” We’ll see what we can do to improve this dual option.

  9. Hi. I did a fuzzy name name search and it came back “No matches found for”. I then unchecked “Do fuzzy name search” and it found one matching record. The search was for First Name am, Last Name liebing, Location South Australia, Australia.

  10. Hi. Fuzzy name search on Anne doesn’t find Ann (First Name). Case in point First Name Ann, Last Name Henderson, Location Adelaide City, South Australia, Australia.

    • Based on feedback and the multiple expectations/interpretations of the word fuzzy, we have changed the search option to “Include similar name spellings”. We have also expanded fuzziness edit distance to include more variations. This should help in the example where a search on Anne did not include Ann.

  11. Hi. Sort on Death Date seems pretty random. Case in point First name ellen, Died 1957, Location Cheltenham, Charles Sturt City, South Australia, Australia. First three results have date of death 20 Jun 1957, 1 May 1957, 22 Nov 1957.

  12. How about adding ability to search for birthdate or death date fields that are “unknown” or empty?

    • The drop down on the birth and death year now have an “Unknown” option. Thanks for the feedback.

      • This is really a great way to search for memorials with problems. I used it to locate then sort out 30 memorials in cemeteries near me.

  13. Fuzzy name search is really problematic on first names. It often returns fewer matches. Case in point First Name Alexander, Middle Name John, Last Name Smith, Location Australia. With fuzzy name search it returns two matching records, without it returns four.

    In cases such as Last Name Du Rieu / DuRieu it is absolutely brilliant.

    Also, I would dearly love a search that checked for given names in reverse order. For example, it would find both John Alexander Smith and Alexander John Smith. There was a long period of time when given names were often in reverse order on birth and death certificates. Not so often though that I always remember to check for it and when I first started out it just never occurred to me.

    • Given names, whether full or partial can be searched in any order but must exist to get a hit. We don’t, however swap first and middle name currently. The “Similar name spellings” check box now returns the same number as results for Alexander John Smith as it cannot find any similar spellings for that given criteria.

      • Yes, Alexander John Smith is good now. 🙂

        Further on swapping given names. On reflection, what would be really useful would be a way to ask for a search on First Name XX to also return memorials with Middle name XX. (And to not do so if you want to stop it.) This would cover the reverse names case but also other common cases, such as when someone is known, and frequently memorialized, by their Middle Name (with no other given name used). This was very common for quite a long period of time.

  14. It seems a bit odd that it allows you to leave the Last Name blank (which is very much appreciated BTW) but if you enter a single character for Last Name it returns an error message “Please enter at least two characters”

    • I am not meaning to hassle you but just in case this has been overlooked. It does not let me search on a single character Last Name.

      • I take it back. It DOES let me search on a single character Last Name. However it displays an error message “Please enter at least 2 characters” when I tab or click out of the Last Name field. Once having displayed the error it allows me to do the search.

  15. If I just do a search for a surname leaving the first name blank, the results don’t always appear in alphabetical order like they should. Otherwise, I think the new search is great.

    • The default sort order is based on what the search system believes is relevant. The sort can be changed to Name by the user.

  16. The new search results screen. Sometimes I can only see one or two memorials at a time in a search results list with many matches. It never used to happen. If I have a few hundred results to scan through this is a nightmare, particularly when the whole reason I’m scrolling through them in the first place is to be able to compare similar names and I can’t see the names close by.
    I sat down and had a think about this and now I can see why. The search criteria are now held on the screen while the results list scrolls behind. The search criteria used to scroll up with them. I can see that the new display might be good in some circumstances. However if you have a lot of search criteria it occupies a lot of screen real estate. I use a laptop and this leaves almost no space for the results themselves. I can zoom out but then I can’t read it. (I daresay your developers and testers do NOT use a laptop!)
    I really really need a way to get rid of the search criteria from the screen to allow me to actually see the results I was searching for in the first place. Maybe something like a “Show/Hide search critera” checkbox.

    • The refine search has a show/hide option that should reduce the size for more viewing space. There is also a condensed list option that allows more records to be displayed on screen.

      • This makes all the difference.
        It would be good if the “list display controls” were still visible when the selection criteria are hidden. That is the Page control, the Default/Condensed Control and the Sort control. They would fit comfortably on the same line as the Show control. It’s a bit of a nuisance having to click Show  whenever I want to go to a different page or change the sort order, and then click Hide again so I can see the results again.

  17. Agree, to catch dups the result need to be in order, or they will live forever. Or even to find both/several entries when making a search (cremations). Dates are not always what will catch my eye, but the pattern between two or more entries in a list.

    Would also like to see maiden name be part of search option, Mary smith brings up 63,000+ entries, but to filter down by a maiden name, say mc* may help.

    In truth it would be nice to keep both search options, that have different results. As it is now, I use Findagrave and Ancestry to produce different results. What I can’t find in one, I can sometimes find in the other (and vice versa). And some times I use google to find what I want.

    in addition Range of date filter 1800-1900s 1800-1850, rather than going decade by decade. with option to see nondate entries. I always find I want to limit searches to dates between when I’m using before and after searches. (before target era but not before the birth date of mother/father)

  18. Hi. You’ve made a couple of great additions I’ll reply to later but I am in a hurry now to report that the beta search currently does not find any memorial in a search on Last Name starting with “O’ “. For example, Last Name O’Brien. I suspect the problem is the apostrophe but that’s as far as I have time to test now.

    I also would like to request the return of partial name search on surname on which I rely a lot.

    • The default behavior on all names including last name is a partial search with those that match exactly weighting higher and appearing first. In the case of O’Brian, the partial search isn’t currently set up to handle the apostrophe and the “Include exact name search” checkbox would need to be checked to find that name. We are looking at other options to accommodate the apostrophe better in our searches. Thanks for the feedback.

  19. When I have searched on a particular year died (exact) and any name, and then select Refine Search, it clears the year died. I have to re-enter it before searching again.

    • I have the same problem when trying to do a refine search. It only keeps the names and removes everything else. It gets a little annoying!

  20. The beta search returns memorials that have been merged! I mean, the memorials that were merged into other memorials, not just the memorials into which they were merged.

    Case in point:
    ⁃ First Name John
    ⁃ Last Name Hamilton
    ⁃ Location Adelaide City, South Australia, Australia
    Then Sort: Relevance. (Just because this sort order puts the two merged memorials next to each other in the list.) The memorial for John Hamilton unknown – 31 Dec was merged 3 days ago. You can see it was merged by clicking it. The memorial above it in the list, John Hamilton unknown – 1 Jan 1936, is the one it was merged into.

    Doing the same search in the current system, the merged record, the one that was merged into the other one, is not returned by the search.


    While we’re on the topic of returning different records between the current and beta search. This happens if I search on all memorials created in the State in the last 24 hours. (To do this in the current system you need to enter Last Name %% and turn on partial name search.) I’m guessing this is due to some sort of database update time lag but thought I’d mention it here for the record.

  21. Hi.
    The current system has a search capability that is lost, or at least partly lost, in the beta search. It is the ability to search for a string contained in a name field. Or something like that. I’ve never taken the time to pin it down. This is incredibly useful, for example in cases where the name on the headstone is only partially legible and a memorial for that person has already been created from written records. (For identifying duplicate memorials and for attaching a headstone photo to an existing memorial.)

    Case in point.
    In the current system, if you
    – select “Partial last name search”
    – set Last Name to %general
    – set Location to Pasadena, Mitcham City, South Australia, Australia
    it returns 13 records.
    For the corresponding beta search (where you don’t need to specify Partial last name search) it only returns one record.
    Similarly in the current system if you
    – select “Partial last name search”
    – set Last Name to %%
    – set Middle Name to %general
    – set Location to Pasadena, Mitcham City, South Australia, Australia
    it returns 32 records.
    In the corresponding beta search it only returns 21 records.
    (This relates to an issue I stumbled across for the old upload of a particular spreadsheet.)

    • We’ve expanded the wildcard capabilities to have similar support on the new search. If it’s not abused, we will keep it. You can use the asterisk and question mark such as *general* to do a contains search. Or ??general* if you know the name starts any two characters and ends with 0 to n number of characters.

      • One thing. I’m pretty sure I have seen question marks entered into the name fields for difficult to read inscriptions. I can’t swear to this – I know I have seen them in the inscription field and maybe that’s skewing my memory. Anyway … the system allows people to enter questions marks so should allow them to be searched on. I think this would require something along the lines of an Enable wildcards checkbox. Something Like That.

  22. These improvements are most welcome!

    I’d like to be able to request explicit date ranges for birth and death, not just +/- up to five. Sometimes I want, for example, a fifty-year range — perhaps not looking for a specific person but for anyone in a family, but including results post (eg) 1900 leaves too many results, and 1850-1900 would be better.

  23. I like the new search, but would ask for three changes: add the plot location to the output, provide the ability to download the output and give the ability to search by cemetery id. Thanks, Doug

  24. “Include similar name spellings” no longer works. At least not as well as it did.
    At one stage with “Fuzzy name search” I could search on Du Rieu and it would also return all the DuRieu’s. And vice-versa. Likewise with Le Messurier and LeMessurier. Now it doesn’t.
    This is really important because with all these names beginning with van / von / de / le / la it is very variable whether or not the space is included in records and on headstones.

Leave a Reply