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Many new genealogists begin their research by doing a Google search for their ancestors. After that, they turn to subscription sites like Ancestry and don’t look back. However, there is so much more to Google than a basic search!
Armed with a few tips and tricks, you can discover more using Google. Improve your Google searches with these pointers, and don’t miss out on all the information this search giant has to offer!
1. Set a date range
Want to eliminate matches on modern people with your ancestor’s name? Use a “numrange” to narrow your search to a particular time period: Type Jehu Burkhart 1790…1830 to nab results that include that ancestor’s name plus any year between 1790 and 1830.
2. Fill in the blanks
Don’t want to remember these special search operators? Try the Advanced Search form for a guided approach to setting your search parameters. Not only can you search webpages and files, but you can also perform Advanced searches for images, videos and books.
3. Hunt for histories
Google is busily digitizing and cataloging books with expired copyrights—including county histories. Look for them using the Google Books search. You can also save books to reference later by searching for a book and selecting “Add to My Library.”
4. Create Google Alerts
Let Google do the searching for you! By setting up Google Alerts for your favorite search terms, Google will automatically repeat these searches for you and notify you when there are new results.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine.
Last updated, February 2024