In my 12+ years of genealogy experience, I have become very attached to the Google tools, tips and tricks for genealogy research!
Once I discovered these tools, I haven’t looked back. I use them frequently in the course of my research.
This is the one Google search tool I use most often – and therefore I’m listing the direct link here. It creates a series of searches using different groupings of keywords from the input boxes for given names, surnames, birth and death places.
Provided by Ancestor Search, this page provides several pre-set custom Google searches and tools. This is especially valuable for those who are not familiar with the codes and conventions for custom searching in Google. Below are basic descriptions and hints for effective use of each search tool. The tools on this page include:
Google Genealogy Search
- Use (“) quotation marks around a specific word or phrase to be included “as is” in your results.
Search for Genealogy Surname Websites
- This tool is valuable for finding websites with specific surnames in the title, most especially when surnames are also common English words in every day use such as ‘Mason’ or ‘Forest’; are also ‘given’ or ‘first’ names like ‘James’ or ‘Stuart’. In addition, this search helps to delve into more obscure sites that are deeper in Google results.
- An inordinate amount of valuable genealogy data exists within books and publications that in the past were not easily searchable. Google has taken great strides in digitizing ‘in copyright’ and ‘out of copyright’ material for access online. This tool searches the full texts of books digitized by Google. Although not as high in quality as vital records such as births, deaths and marriages, when such records are not available or cannot be found, this is the next best thing. A great benefit of material obtained this way is that it is frequently in narrative form, recounting actual events and circumstances, adding ‘flesh’ to the ‘bones’ of most genealogy research.
- Tool for searching within other blogs. This can be very helpful for finding data compiled by other genealogists who have their own blogs.
Google Newspaper Search
- Search for obituaries, news stories or other items appearing in newspapers. Be sure to use the surname as well as specific keyword(s) in your search.
Google Search Within or Excluding a Genealogy Site
- Enter the keyword(s) and relevant site name in the appropriate boxes and select either ‘only with’ or ‘excluding’ in the drop-down box.
Search for Sites Similar To
- Enter the url of a site you’d like to use as an example. Useful for finding similar sites on a specific topic.
Search for Gedcom Files
- GEDCOMS are valuable files created by genealogy software for easy transfer and import of data in a manageable size. For this to be useful, it is necessary to have software to either convert to a viewable format or with the ability to import.
Search US Newsgroups for Genealogy Queries
- Newsgroups are online communities of like-minded researches who post information, queries and answers. To limit results to just genealogy sites, add the word ‘genealogy’ to the search string.
Search for Definitions of Genealogical Words
- The Google Dictionary searches for definitions for dated words, terms and acronyms. Very useful for finding the meanings of old-fashioned terminology frequently used in genealogy data and research.
Google Genealogy Calculator
- An amazing tool for calculating are or distance using old-fashioned words and phrasing (i.e. calculating dates using mathematical functions: [1927-82] or converting old fashioned measures into contemporary measures (i.e. 40 rods in miles). If an immediate result is not shown, the page will likely list another calculator to use (i.e. arpents – no answer shows, but an arpent calculator appears toward the bottom of the results page).
Search for Genealogy Images
- A tool to search for images by keyword using file type and size filters. This is actually quite an amazing little tool. I always use it when reseraching and I’m constantly amazed at how many images it finds on obscure websites that I never would have found.
Search by Location
- Perform a keyword search filtered by location using address, city, state, and or code.
Google Search for a US Street Map
- Search for specific locations (old or recent) to locate nearby landmarks (i.e. civic buildings, schools, churches, hospitals, etc.)
Google Search by Language and Country
- This tool is invaluable for those seeking to search websites in a specific language and/or from a specific country.
Google Translate Text
- A quick and easy tool for translating snippets of text. Select the languages of conversion from the drop-down box.
Translate a Genealogy Web Page
- To translate a full web page, type the full url (including ‘http://’) into the search box and select the languages of conversion in the drop-down box.
Google Search by Family Tree
- This is the one Google tool I use the most. It’s ideal for searching for specific combinations of names and relationships, thereby eliminating a great deal of ‘chaff’.
Following are more generic tools that can be very effective for genealogy related searches:
‘Related Images’ Image Scrolling
- Every keyword search produces a set of links in the ribbon across the top of the screen. Click on ‘Images’ to go to only image results. Then, across the top of every Google image results page is a list of any ‘related search’ links that exist. Just hover over a link to view a preview ribbon of images from that search.
- This search can be very useful for trying to identify photos by individuals, locations, etc. by uploading the photo for Google to compare to other photos on the Internet to finds similar photos. Searches can be filtered for only faces, clip art, high-res, etc.
Results from Those We Know and Trust
- When signed into Google+ and with the search options set to allow personal results, Google will highlight results from within your own Google+ community with this icon.
- If you wish to toggle personal results off, just click on this icon in the top right of your screen.
- Here is an image of some of my own personal results after searching for the town in which I live:
Include or Exclude Words in Search Results
- To make sure certain words are included in the search without regard for order, use the ‘+’ symbol (i.e. Christian +Keefer). Likewise, to exclude words, use the ‘-‘ symbol (i.e. Christian -Keefer).
Ensure an Exact Phrase or Group of Words in Search Results
- Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of the string that you wish to be exact in your search results (i.e. “Christian Keefer”).
Using a Wild Card Effectively
- Wild card searches are especially effective in genealogy. With Google, the ‘*’ can be used in place of a word if there could possibly be more than one choices in a phrase or if you don’t know what the word might be. For a wildcard search, insert the ‘*’ wildcard in place of the word(s) in question. (i.e. “Christian Keefer” “* Jacques”). In this example, the missing first name is represented by the ‘*’ and search results come up showing several possible first name possibilities.
Narrowing Search Results
- Despite our first instinct to throw as many words as possible into a search, this actually can defeat the purpose. The extra words will most likely result in unrelated results due the the extra word(s). Start with as few words as possible and add ‘key’ words to your search in an attempt to narrow your results.
- To search only specific sites, add the ‘site:’ prefix to the desired url (i.e. site:emptynestthemes.com). You can also search specific site types, domains and/or countries signified by a url suffix. Just add the same site prefix when searching (i.e. ‘site:edu’ for education sites; ‘site:ca’ for Canadian sites).
- To find related websites, use the prefix ‘related:’ in front of the site’s url (i.e. related:emptynestthemes.com).
- To search for specific file types, use the ‘filetype:’ prefix in front of the desired file extension within your search string (i.e. filetype:png chilliwack schools).
- To find definitions with Google, use the ‘define:’ prefix in front of the term to get a list of definitions from several online dictionaries.
- Search for any numbers in a specific such as price ranges by placing two dots ‘..’ between the two numbers (i.e. Chilliwack real estate $100,000..$300,000).
- Google can be used as a calculator. Just type in the equation using symbols to represent the functions. (i.e. 100*10, 100/10, 100-10, or 100+10). The first entry in the search results page will be the answer to the equation entered.