Showing posts with label search techniques. Show all posts
Showing posts with label search techniques. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Local Genealogy via Long Distance

In my recent presentation to the Genealogy Club of Newtown, I highlighted ways to do local genealogy research from far away. The key is to think local--about where documents might be stored or who might know something about your ancestors and their lives.

NOTE that you may not find the actual documents with a click, but you just might connect with a person who can help you put your hands on the documents.

Here are five ideas for finding local genealogy resources and links without leaving your keyboard:
  1. Use the Family Search wiki to locate local genealogy resources by country/state/county. This link leads to research and info about family history research in localities around the United States, for example. I can't say enough good things about this comprehensive source of info and links, organized by location.
  2. Linkpendium is nothing but millions of links to pages organized by country (mainly the US) and state. The site also has links to surname pages worldwide. Often the locality links take you to official government sites (for vital records, as an example) or to unofficial sites loaded with volunteer-provided genealogy info. Unofficial sites can be excellent sources of details not available in the official records, so go ahead and click to see what you can find. Worth a look!
  3. Message boards that relate to specific countries, states or regions, counties, and cities are tremendously valuable. Don't just search for your name, also post if you have a specific question. The photo shows a message I posted several years ago, and within days, the wonderful historian in Wabash responded with clues about where to find the obituaries of Benjamin and Sarah McClure. That broke down a long-standing brick wall, all because I posted on a local message board. Try it on Rootsweb, Ancestry, GenForum, and other sites.
  4. Genealogy/historical clubs and societies have documents and books that may mention your ancestors. Some will even, for a small fee, go out and photograph local graves for you. Well worth it, and you'll often learn some details that aren't in the official records. Try doing an online search for "genealogical society" or "historical society" and the name of the county where ancestors lived. (Tip: Be sure to click on the correct state!) The Genealogical Club of Newtown CT, for instance, has several databases that substitute for the missing 1890 Census. What will you find in a local club's records elsewhere?
  5. Local historians know a lot about their towns or counties and can answer questions, sometimes by e-mail, sometimes by phone. Do an online search for "historian" and the name of the town or county. One historian kindly sent me three pages of surname info that another researcher had submitted to her--along with the researcher's name and e-mail for me to follow up. I left this historian my contact info just in case someone else comes looking for the same surname. Ask nicely, be polite, and respect the historian's time.
Remember, double-check and verify anything you find online. Unverified information is just gossip, not gospel.

Good luck and happy ancestor hunting!

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?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday: Ancestor Hunting on Gen Blogs

When Dan Lynch first released his book Google Your Family Tree, which I highly recommend, he made a presentation to my local genealogical society. The minute I got back from his talk, I turned on my computer and put a few of his ideas to work--and quickly found a blog comment written by my long-lost first cousin, who I hadn't seen in decades!

As time went on, I developed a few useful tricks to supplement Dan's suggestions, tips I've shared in my own presentations to local genealogical societies. For example:


  • Search blogs only. To search only blogs and only on genealogy, start at the Google home page. Enter your surname, add the word "AND," then enter the word "genealogy." Next, move your mouse along the menu at the top of the page until you see the drop down menu under the word "more" (as shown in this screen shot). Click on "blogs" and then click to start your search.
  •  Use quotation marks around full names. When searching for a specific ancestor, search for the full name in "First Middle Last" order (typing "Thomas Haskell Wood" in the search box, with quotation marks as shown) as well as in "Last, First Middle" order (typing "Wood, Thomas Haskell" in the search box, with quotation marks). And don't just try "First Middle Wood"--also search possible variations like "First Middle Woods" and "Woods, First Middle." 
  • Browse for surname genealogy blogs. Look at the lists of blogs on Genealogy Blog Finder and GeneaBloggers. You just might find one or more genealogy blogs devoted to the surnames you're researching.
  • Include a search box on your blog. Make it easy for people to find surnames on your blog by including a search box, as I did at top right, just below the blog name/description.
Happy ancestor hunting!