Showing posts with label Google Your Family Tree. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Google Your Family Tree. Show all posts

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beyond "Google Your Family Tree"

I was lucky enough to be in the audience yesterday when Dan Lynch talked about the 6 most important search commands needed to "Google Your Family Tree." Having seen Dan speak a number of years ago, and having read his book cover to cover (it's now out of print), it was very educational to hear him update this important topic.

One of the Google "operators" (commands for searching) was new to me, not even mentioned in his book. (BTW, a command he used to advocate using, the tilde, is no longer a Google operator, so he suggested we not bother using it.)

Dan showed how to filter the millions of search results to focus on the most relevant genealogy results by using these key search commands, alone or in combination:
AND
OR
"" (quotation marks)
- (minus sign)
* (wild card)
AROUND(insert number here).

Here's what was new to me: AROUND(#) instructs Google to search for a word or phrase in proximity to another word or phrase by defining the number of words between them. 

To try this kind of search yourself, first do a search for "Google" and go to the Google search home page of your choice. I usually use the US home page, but if you want to search in another country or language, start on that home page (such as Google Canada).

The point is to go fishing in the Google ocean closest to where you would like Google results. Of course, Google often presents results from many countries and in many languages. But by starting on the home page of the nation you particularly want to search, it's more likely that results from that nation will be closer to the top of the list.


Next, choose two phrases (such as names or a name and a place) and choose how many words should separate those names or phrases. Above, my search executed on the Google Canada home page. I'm looking for hubby's great uncle, Captain John Daniel Slatter, who was the long-serving bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders regiment of Toronto.

This search is very restrictive because I'm telling Google to look for highly specific results--only results that have the exact phrase "John D. Slatter" within 4 words (no more than that) of the exact phrase "48th Highlanders." If the words or phrases are 5 words apart, they won't appear in my results. If the words or phrases are 3 or 2 words apart, they will be in my results.

Doing this search, Google tells me I have "around 2,150 results" which sounds more reasonable to check out than, say, 150,000 results or 1,500,000 results. Of course, I already know enough about Capt. Slatter to know he was part of the 48th Highlanders. In this search, I'm trying to locate new material about his role in that regiment.

In reality, Google filtered my actual results even further, omitting results that were very similar to the ones presented on the two pages of results I actually saw. This is typical, and I'm sure you often see that as well. We always have the option to click and repeat with duplicate or similar entries included in the results. Dan hammered home the point that we should always, always click beyond the first page of results. You just never know when an important nugget will be at the bottom of page 2 or even page 5.

In my example, the entire first page of results consisted of entries in my own blog, plus two "we found John Slatter" entries trying to get me to click for his phone number, etc.
However, the second page of results had an entry I'd never seen! It was for the Toronto Conservatory of Music year book of 1914-15, posted for free on the Internet Archive (https://archive.org).

I clicked and then, to save time scrolling and scrolling for the highlighted text, I searched within the book. Capt. Slatter appeared twice. The first appearance was in a listing of lessons being offered to students. Here it is, in the wording and typeface as it appeared in the year book:

         TUBA— John D. Slatter, Bandmaster 48th Highlanders 15.00 

This is how AROUND(#) works. It found me something I hadn't found in the past. I'm going to experiment with different versions of Capt. Slatter's name and different number of words for proximity with his regiment, his wife's name, and other family members.

Have you tried searching the Internet for your ancestors using the AROUND(#) operator? If not, go ahead and give it a try!

PS: Don't forget to look at image results. Maybe you'll get really lucky and find an ancestor's photo.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Taking Online Search a Step Further

Several years ago, thanks to a simple search technique in Dan Lynch's Google Your Family Tree (which I hope will be updated to a 2d edition very soon), I was able to quickly and easily locate my long-lost first cousin. (Hi Ira!) I'll share the technique below--because it illustrates a general strategy useful in any online search situation. 

The other reason I'm thinking about advanced search is that two people with connections to my family found me through the blog last week. Learning how they located the blog gave me new ideas for taking online genealogy search a step further.

Now for 3 search hints that have paid off:
  1. Adapt search terms that people use to locate your blog. You know those blog stats we all check from time to time? I looked under the subheading "Traffic Sources" to see the "search keywords" that people type in when they land on my blog. Example: The son of a woman who knew my aunt during WWII found my blog by searching on my aunt Dorothy Schwartz's name. He (or another visitor) also searched on the name of the military unit my aunt was in from 1943-1945. Turns out my aunt was this gentleman's godmother! It was great to hear from him and learn a little about his mum, one of my aunt's dear friends from that period.
  2. Search both "First name Last name" and "Last name, First name." That's how I found the Ohio cemetery where hubby's great-grandpa's buried, along with his 2d wife, whose maiden name and life remain a mystery. If too many names turn up, I narrow things down by adding "AND genealogy" to the search box. Also try "First name Middle initial Last name" or use the entire middle name. This worked for me! *And don't forget to search using common variations of the names. I found our family's names in a tree on Ancestry, using incorrect spellings that had been shown in a 1920 census. By searching on those incorrect spellings, I found the tree and learned more about the distant connection between that researcher and my family.
  3. Search for particular results such as images or news. That's how I found Ira. He had posted a comment somewhere and it turned up when I searched for "First name Last name" in the News section of Google. This kind of search technique is valuable when searching any gigantic database, such as Family Search or Ancestry. By narrowing the scope to only images or news (or just Ohio or just 1900 Census), I increase the odds that what I want will show up high in the results. Be sure to search on Google's books page. I found a lot of info about hubby's ancestors in books about the early days of Wabash, for example.
By combining all three techniques, I found the following paragraph buried in a 1953 edition of Billboard magazine.
 I knew Auntie worked for a few years on the Macy's parade with long-time friend Lee Wallace (photo below), but I didn't know about their Bridgeport gig. Little items like this round out my understanding and encourage me to dig deeper on other relatives and ancestors.
Lee Wallace, 1978

After all, new data comes online all the time. Who knows what nuggets I'll find with my next search?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Google Your Family Tree

If you can't get to one of Dan Lynch's talks about how to use Google to research your roots, the next best thing is to buy his Google Your Family Tree. It's an excellent reference book for finding ancestors and family information using the search engine we all use every day (and thought we knew how to use). I bought it after his talk last night and will leave it on my desk for handy reference after I finish reading.

His book's web site has preformatted search queries where you can plug in family names, places, dates, etc. and, with a click, put the power of Google to work for you. Try them here. I didn't know about using ~ or * for genealogical searches but now--look out!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dan Lynch


Dan Lynch is speaking at a local genealogy club and I'll be in the audience. He recently published a book, "Google Your Family Tree," which he'll be discussing at the meeting. Last time I heard Dan speak, his Google tips helped me find my first cousin, living only 100 miles away. Thanks, Dan!