Top 10 Google Search Tips
Google has thousands of genealogy sites indexed and can provide some of the the best results when searching for ancestors. Listed here are 10 tips that will help you focus in on the information for which you're looking. You've been through rootsweb.com, ancestry.com and the many other big online databases but there is an even larger, untapped resource if you haven't searched the thousands of individual genealogy sites on the web.
You may say that you have tried searching before for individual sites but you got back thousands of worthless pages. Just 2000 surnames cover over half of the population of the United States. Sometimes it can be very frustrating when so many results are returned from one of your searches. After clicking through a few hundred pages with nothing to show for your work, you gave up in frustration. Well here are some tips to make your searches more to the point and return relevant pages for your review.
1. Quote Me on This Search engines such as Google react very differently to: [Edward Winslow] and ["Edward Winslow"]. Adding the quotes makes the search more specific. Searching on [Edward Winslow] will return about 3,600,000 results from Google, while ["Edward Winslow"] will return 77,000. The difference is without the quotes Google returns any page where either word, Edward and Winslow occur any where on the page. While "Edward Winslow" returns only those pages where the words Edward and Winslow both appear right next to each other and in that order. Keep in mind that ["Edward Winslow"] is different to ["Winslow, Edward"]. If you want to make sure you catch both you can use the OR clause between the two. eg., "Edward Winslow" OR "Winslow, Edward". Note: the OR must be capitalized.
2. A Spouse can Help with the Search In our example of "Edward Winslow" you may say that 77,000 pages returned, is still way too many to be useful. One thing that can help is to include the spouse's name if it is known. In our example of "Edward Winslow" by including Susanna the results are reduced to 672 and also adding Elizabeth brings the total to 569. The search string would look like: ["Edward Winslow" Susanna Elizabeth] I've also had very good luck placing the wife's full name in the quotes and search for the husband's first name. There are a number of variations on this approach by trying parent's or children's names.
3. Can Google do date ranges? The easy answer is yes. If you are searching for an ancestor and you know generally a birth, death or marriage date (or any other date associated with an individual for that matter) you can use the number range search in Google (other search engines don't support this) Continuing with our example with Edward Winslow the following search ["Edward Winslow" 1550..1600] can be used to locate pages that may include his birth date. If the range is not too wide the OR function can be used with other search engines: ["Edward Winslow" 1594 OR 1595 OR 1596]
4. Junk Removal Many times when I'm searching for someone with the surname Winslow there are numerous entries returned for "Winslow Homer" or "Winslow Boy" that just clutter up the results and it makes me look at more result pages than needed. These can be easily removed from the search results by telling the search engine what is not wanted by using the minus sign. e.g., [Edward Winslow -Homer]
5. The Power of the Tilde I recently started using the tilde "~" in some of my searches. When the tilde is placed in front of a search term all synonyms for that word are searched for as well. In our example of Edward Winslow it could be used as ["Edward Winslow" ~genealogy] returns pages that contain Edward Winslow and other words that relate to genealogy like family, ancestry, genealogical and etc. This can help to make sure the pages you're looking for are about the topic of interest.
6. Search Results from a Specific Site If you are interested in searching for a term and only want results from a specific site (say from ancestry.com's forums) the site: command can be used. An example of this would be like [site:winslowtree.com Boling family tree] In this example only pages from winslowtree.com that contain the words Boling, family and tree will be returned.
7. Build Your Own Search Here is a site that will allow you to answer a few quick questions and it will build a search for you that is customized for genealogy using Google. The site can be found at: http://www.genealogy-search-help.com/ or if you want just a little help to build a more complete search try http://www.google.com/advanced_search
8. Google Book Search Every day Google is scanning more and more books and placing their contents online. The book search can be found at http://books.google.com and once at the page a search can be performed as if searching the web but the results will come from published books. I have been able to find many sources from the books contained in Google's library. Sometimes the listing contains the full contents of a book (if the copyright has expired) and sometimes just a snippet is displayed to give you an idea if the book might contain what you are looking for.
9. Google Directory - Genealogy Google contains a full directory listing of sites associated with genealogy. http://www.google.com/Top/Society/Genealogy/Directories The various links are presented in the order of their page ranking, with the most popular sites presented first.
10. Google Competitors This list was to be all about Google but I though that other search engines should be acknowledged. http://yahoo.com is the second largest/most popular for genealogy searches with http://search.msn.com being third. I have used one specialized genealogy search engine http://www.genealogylocator.com but I'm concerned that the listings are not being updated frequently, so be careful of the results you receive.
Disclaimer: All information obtained from the internet should be confirmed with documented sources. Genealogy sites that are published by individuals come and go from the web at a frequent pace. I would not recommend using URL links as a primary source for information you obtain from the web. The best practice is to use the information you find as a clue to the ancestors you are researching and use hard documentation for your sourcing material.
Also, try a search on the TNG network. It's growing every day.