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 no longer available book Google Your Family Tree, I was able to quickly and easily locate my long-lost first cousin. 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 one of my cousins. 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 Dorothy, my Mom's twin sister, worked for a few years on the Macy's parade with long-time friend Lee Wallace 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.

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


  1. Marian,

    Interesting article. Yesterday found an article on google books (by using techniques similar to the ones you described), but today they won't let me read it all. However, they did give me the name of a library not far from here where I could go find the book. I know they like to tease so you will buy the book. It didn't hurt that his name was James Calvin Ham Sherwood. Not too many names like that.

    Regards, Grant

  2. Grant,

    Just looked at your blog -- very interesting and I hope you can find out more! Thanks for visiting and commenting here. Good luck,