Saturday, February 24, 2007

More Effective Googling for Grandpa

Dick Eastman has a post with a note from Peter Wood about using certain letters or words to cut down on the number of hits you get when you are using Google to find other researchers.

Peter recommends using quote marks for the full or partial name of your target ancestor - such as "frank seaver" or "frank walton seaver." This technique is well known (although many experienced people marvel at the novelty of it when they first hear about it) and it works fairly well to cut down the number of hits to search through - it separates the wheat from the chaff in the Google haystack.

NOTE: In the following, I have used brackets to denote what I put in the Google search box.

Peter also recommends using the letter "b" in conjunction with a name (e.g., [ "frank seaver b" ]) by itself in order to find text that starts out "Frank Seaver, b. ..." or "Frank Seaver, born" or "Frank Seaver birth". I've played around for 15 minutes trying to make Peter's idea work (I used names that I know are in several sites of mine on the web), and have failed miserably. Maybe I've just not used the right combination. Google finds hits for the string [ "frank seaver born" ] but not for the string [ "frank seaver b" ]. For example:

If I Google [ "frank seaver" ] (with quote marks), I get 532 hits.

If I Google [ "frank seaver b" ] I get 0 hits.

If I Google [ "frank seaver" b ] I get 161 hits, many of them middle initials of someone else.

If I Google [ "frank seaver born" ] I get 2 hits.

If I Google [ "frank seaver" born ] I get 62 hits.

I have found that Googling the name in quote marks, and then adding the first or last name of the spouse, and/or the year of birth or death, and/or the place of birth or death, to be very effective.

For instance:

If I Google [ "frank seaver" "hattie" ] I get 15 hits, but not some of my own sites (mainly because my web sites have his middle name, Walton).

If I Google [ "frank * seaver" hattie ] I get 10 hits, including my own sites with the middle name of Walton for Frank Seaver - notice I used a wild card "*" where a middle name might be.

If I Google [ "frank * seaver" leominster ] I get 7 hits, all from my own web pages. If someone was looking for descendants or ancestors of Frank Seaver and Hattie Hildreth, they would find me easily.

If I Google [ "frank * seaver" 1852 ] I get 11 hits. Again, another researcher could find me easily.

Don't forget to put last name first for some of these searches - there are many web sites with names in alphabetical surname order, especially cemeteries and BMD indexes.

If you know a person's middle name, you could Google [ "walton seaver" leominster ] and find another researcher. This is especially useful when the surname is very common.

For example, there are a lot of [ "john smith" mary ] hits (over a million), but using John Russell Smith's middle name ala [ "russell smith" mary ] cuts the hits down to just over 100,000. Using birth or death years, full spouse's name, and locations can winnow the Google crop. If I Google [ "russell smith" "mary jones" 1884 chicago ] I get 45 hits, which is a lot more manageable. Even so many of those are for people named "Russell Smith" and not "John Russell Smith" - but you get the idea.

Google, and other search engines, are wonderful tools for the genealogist. You can usually find another researcher easily, if s/he has dropped the names, dates and locations on web sites for others to find. Unfortunately, Google doesn't find these names in the online databases that are dynamic - like WorldConnect, IGI, Ancestry, etc. Google will find the names on the Ancestry and Genforum message boards but not on the Rootsweb mailing lists.

Do you have other Googling for Genealogists tips? Please share them!


Michele Bender said...

Hi Randy, I'm a regular visitor to your blog, you do an outstanding job. Your post about Google reminded me of a website that I use now and then that sets up your genealogy searches for you. It's called "Free Genealogy Search Help for Google". It saves on a lot of typing by using the same type of searches that you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

For fun and for my own use, I've set up a custom Google search that searches through all the GEDCOMs that Google has indexed.

Google doesn't index most .GED files, so there are only a few thousand included. And the Google's Custom Search output is much less functional than its full search. I'm not sure if it even shows all the results all the time.

But it is an interesting way to search. Try it if you'd like at:

Bill Blunt said...

Hi Randy

I read the article in Eastman's and wondered whether the tip would work - maybe it's more secific for using's search facility?

Googling tip if you have UK ancestors and are unsure about locations, go for
"GENUKI [placename]" as in "GENUKI Sutton Howgrave"
Most places are indexed on GENUKI, and you'll usually find a wealth of material there.

Just off to Google "Harry McFfry" now!

Best wishes


Pagel said...

Try adding terms like "survived" "beloved" and "services" that frequently appear in obits to your Googling. This can narrow the number of hits when you are searching a common surname.