Understanding searches is crucial to troubleshooting them.

I’m not always certain I understand how FamilySearch distinguishes strong matches to a search from ones that are not strong. Sometimes I can see the distinction, but others times I cannot.  It would seem to me that the following individuals are fairly similar:

  • Johann Michael Gerlach born in 1834 in Germany
  • Johann Michael Gerlach born on 28 January 1833 in Weil im Dorf, Leonberg, Wurttemburg, Germany

After all, I was searching for a Michael Gerlach born in 1839 as shown in the illustration. None of the “exact” boxes were checked. A little experimentation indicated that when the year of birth was set to 1838 (exact boxes still unchecked), both of the above matches were “strong.”


It seems that strong matches have to be within five years of the event put in the search box.

At least for this search that only included one year of an event.

I’m not certain how far the year of birth could be off for a non-strong matches. It pays to experiment.




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