by Lianne Krüger
This article is part one of an introduction to how and why Google can be beneficial to a genealogist. We will review how to search, some terminology, how to narrow your search by using operators such as +, -, *, OR and quotes. Part two will be an article on advanced features of google searches.
Genealogists love Google. It is said that the second largest number of websites on the internet is genealogical websites. That means that there are millions and probably billions of websites that contain genealogical information. There are commercial websites, free websites and family websites. In all of that, how do you find your ancestors? A search engine is necessary and Google is one of the best. Later I will discuss the difference between the Google and Yahoo!
A search engine can be used to search for web pages that contain
names of their ancestors
information about the locations ancestors lived
photos of people, sites, buildings
history of towns, cities, counties, etc
graveyard site locations and contact information, and
contact information for locations from county to national records.
A web browser is a program used to facilitate entry to and usage of the internet; used to view HTML documents.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Each web page, on the internet, has its own individual address known as an URL. The URL for Google is http://www.google.com or for Canadians http://www.google.ca
In your web browser type http://www.google.com
When Google appears type what you would like to search for inside the box, where the cursor is blinking.
Google does not differentiate between upper and lower case. It searches as if all text is in lower case.
The number of oo ’s gives an indication of the number of result pages. Click on the number [indicating the page number] or the oo’s above the number. You can also click on Next will get you to the next page of hits.
To view one of these hit pages, click on the title of the website. The title is underlined blue lettering.
To return to the list, click on the Back button [white arrow in blue circle], located at the top left hand side of the screen.
After reviewing all the web pages on the first page, go to the next page of lists by:
1. Scroll to the bottom of the page
2. Click on the number 2 or
Click on the “o” above the 2.
1. Do a search with your name.
If there are no results with your name, try a name of a family member.
2. Select a page that contains your name.
3. Use the back button to return to the index search page.
DID YOU MEAN?
When I search for my name “Lianne Kruger” Google asks “Did you mean?” Lianne Krueger.
When Google thinks you spelled something wrong, even if you didn’t, it will ask this.
If you spelled it correctly, ignore this.
If you did spell it incorrectly, click on the new spelling which is a link and Google will search again giving you a new list of website results.
NARROWING YOUR SEARCH
When I google for Lianne Kruger there are 688 hits. That is a little much. I am not that popular! We need to narrow the search. Most of your ancestors will not be that popular either.
When searching, include as many words as possible to describe who or what you are looking for. Include the name and the location. The next article will illustrate how to put in years.
timothy bancroft clay county missouri
Also include spouses or other family names
timothy bancroft nancy davis clay county missouri
Another way to narrow our search is by using what is called Operators. In math operators were the +, -, *, /, SUM, etc. Google can do math which will be shown later but we can also use these operators to define the text we would like to search.
THIS AND THAT
+ [the plus sign]
The + plus sign operator indicates that both names must be present on the webpage to qualify for a hit. By typing in the following many of the hits are eliminated. Those pages which contained just kruger and those which contained only lianne are no longer displayed.
lianne + kruger
DON’T INCLUDE THAT
- [the minus sign]
If you are looking for ancestors with the last name Pitt there would be more Brad Pitts than anything else. To exclude all websites that contained Brad, the minus sign “-“ is used.
If your ancestor’s name was Brad Pitt then I will exclude California or the word movie.
There is no space after the minus sign “-“. This will not work if there is a space between the – and the text to be excluded.
1. Type the word(s) to search
2. Press the Space bar
3. Type a Minus sign –
4. Do not press the space bar [no space]
5. Type the word to eliminate
6. Press Enter.
If you did a search for Princeton, most of those sites would be for Princeton, New Jersey. If you wanted Princeton, British Columbia instead, then you would want to exclude all websites that contained New Jersey. To exclude any sites that have “New Jersey” in it, the minus sign “-“ is used.
word(s) –“word word”
Search for “timothy bancroft”
Note many of the hits on the first page have bancroft-hinchey. Not the correct person.
Type “timothy bancroft” –Hinchey
If there is more than one word to eliminate use more than one minus sign by repeating steps 3 thru 5. With timothy bancroft there are now websites with “pediatrician” Eliminate those by adding another –[minus sign] operator.
“timothy bancroft” –hinchey -pediatrician
We can also use this for brad pitt by excluding both movie and california at the same time.
brad pitt –movie -california
1. Search your name. Eliminate anything that appears often that is not related to you.
* [the asterix sign]
If you don’t know the middle name of your ancestor or not sure how they would spell it this operator is great. Type in the example below and note the hits. You will see words between the first name Timothy and the last name Bancroft. The * indicates that there is something between the two words. Doesn’t matter how many words or characters there are.
timothy * bancroft
Another operator used to narrow searches is quotes. Quotes indicate that you want only pages where the text appears exactly as it appears within the quotes. Type in “lianne kruger” and note the number hits versus the original search.
Try the examples below, Red Deer, Alberta with and without quotes. Note the difference of hits between the two searches.
Red Deer Alberta and “Red Deer” Alberta
Here is another example from earlier. This time use quotes. There are three hits instead of several pages.
“timothy bancroft” “nancy davis” “clay county” missouri
Sometimes this will eliminate all hits or narrow too many websites and you might miss some information. What if the last name appears before the first name, or they don’t list Nancy’s last name? It is good to do both. The following operation is also useful.
In some websites the first name could come before the last name or after with a comma. The OR operator allows us to search for both in the same search at the same time.
word OR word
OR must be capitalized
macKellar OR mckellar
1. Type the word you want to search
2. Press the Space bar
3. Type OR
4. Press the Space bar
5. Type the other word
6. Press Enter.
The | key may be used instead of OR.
| is found on the keyboard with the \
Google will usually include Mackellar when mckellar is typed in. The OR operator is used for more than one word by using quotes.
“word(s)” | “word(s)”
“kruger, lianne” OR “lianne kruger”
Back to math class! Remember those math operators we used for words. They can also be used with numbers. If you need a calculator and don’t have one with you, Google can help you. Suppose you are trying to figure out what year someone was born. The article says they died in 1875 at the age of 47. Type in Google in the box you use for searches the following:
1875 – 47
A little calculator icon appears, the formula and the answer.
1875 – 47 = 1828
If they have already had their birthday then this is correct. If they have not then they were born in 1827.
Have fun and experiment with the operators above.
This article has been an introduction to searching. There is so much more Google can do for you. The next article will include more operators which allow you to search for a range of years, how to search only one website and view sites similar to another. It will also include how to view old websites, search for images, translate a website and more.
Lianne Krüger researched her family line back to the first three land owners of Canada. She has a genealogical historical article published by BYU Studies magazine involving Massachusetts and Missouri. Lianne is presently researching Ireland and Missouri. She received a computer degree in 1979, has been teaching computers since 1982 and has written computer instruction manuals.