Tips for Finding Family With Search Engines
9/26/2009
Tips for using search engines' advanced searches to target your online genealogy research.
Take the time to read the instructions for each Internet search engine and try using the advanced search options. Most search engines let you use "Boolean operators" such as and, or and and not, or quotation marks to enclose an exact phrase you want to search for. Usually you can precede a word with a plus sign (+) to indicate that the word must appear or with a minus sign (-) to indicate that the word must not appear. Some search engines offer an advanced search option where you simply fill in the blanks to build your search query.

If you're researching a rare name, like my family names Keherise and Shaubhut, you probably won't get too many matches, so try searching on the name alone. But if you're researching a common last name or one that's spelled the same as a widely used word in English (like the last names Green, Slip and Snow in my family), try narrowing down the list of matches by adding another search term such as:

  • A first name: Search on "Leonard Slip" or "Slip, Leonard" to find only occurrences of those two words together.

  • Another last name: Search on Slip and (Ryson or Ryerson) to find Web pages with the word Slip and either Ryson or Ryerson. (Leonard Slip's wife was Elizabeth Ryson, sometimes spelled Ryerson.)

  • A place name: Search on Adams and Moultonborough to find sites that mention the Adams family of the town of Moultonborough, NH.

  • The word family or genealogy: Search on +Main +genealogy or on "Main family" to find histories of the family named Main. In the first case, both the words Main and genealogy must appear on the site to produce a match. In the second case, the words within quotes must appear together in that order.

Keep in mind that Internet search engines don't index all the genealogy data available on the Web. For example, library catalogs and the databases on FamilySearch, RootsWeb, Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com generally aren't indexed by third-party search engines such as AltaVista, Yahoo! and Google.