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November 2010 Toolkit Tutorial: Refining Google Surname Searches
8/26/2010
If your Google surname searches produce oodles of irrelevant hits, use our tricks to construct queries that work like magic.
Unless you have Axelquists or Birtwistles in your family tree, your Google surname searches probably produce oodles of irrelevant hits. Web searching becomes especially frustrating if you’re tracing ancestors with common or “search-unfriendly” surnames—monikers that double as other common words, such as colors (White), geographical formations (Hill) and buildings (Church). Look for a John Snow, particularly in winter, and you’ll get every newspaper, TV and radio web page warning of an impending snowstorm.

Fortunately, you can solve this problem using Google’s built-in search “operators”—special characters that force Google to customize the search your way. These operators, which include the plus sign (+), minus sign (-), and quotation marks (“ ”), all work together in a system known as “search engine math” (so-called because of its resemblance to algebraic equations). Using the tricks shown in this tutorial, you can construct queries that work like magic, turning those irrelevant hits into a new set of genealogical discoveries. 
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