Thursday, November 5, 2009

Genealogy Power Search


Cyndi Howell, she of Cyndi's List fame, is fond of saying -- heck, is insistent on saying -- that there's no such thing as Internet Genealogy.

She's right, of course.  The resources on the internet (including the wonderful Cyndi's List itself) are simply tools for getting genealogy done.  Just as there's no such thing as Screwdriver Carpentry, there's no real discipline called Internet Genealogy.  There are just tools that can make the job easier.

The right tools (used the right way) for the right job.

But what tools they are!  Sites like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch are the power tools of family history research.  But like any power tool, you have to be careful how you use them, or they'll whirr out of control, wreck your whole project, and possibly slice your nose off in the process.

Yep.  Genealogy can be that perilous!

So, I just want to talk a bit today about some do's and dont's and tricks of the trade for searching, starting with searching for a person's name.

In Google-based tools, there are several different ways to search on an individual's name.  Let's take my name, David Sarokin, as an example:


  • Free Form Search:  David Sarokin  Google comes up with 200,000 results (am I popular, or what?)

  • Exact Phrase (in quotes): "David Sarokin"  18,000 results (er, not so popular after all).

  • Exact Phrase with asterisk wildcard: "David * Sarokin"  50 results, including the odd times when I've used my middle name or initial.

  • Reverse Exact Search: "Sarokin David"  2,600 results, especially good for bibliographic references where my last name is listed first.

  • 'OR' Searching: "David OR Dave OR Davey Sarokin" 5,000 results (no one calls me Davey, though).



You can see there are wildly different numbers of results for each search (though don't put too much stock in Google's search result numbers...they don't make a heck of a lot of sense).   The important thing about the searches is that each variation picks up different results that are either missed completely by other searches, or buried too far down to be readily findable.

So whether you're searching plain old Google, or the amazing family history resource, Google News Archives, try varying your searches to see what nuggets turn up.

And be careful not to slice off your nose!


Visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

And don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.


2 comments :

Daniel Horowitz said...

Hi,

If you are really looking for a FREE Genealogy Power Search Engine you need to try MyHeritage.com
http://www.myheritage.com/research

This wonderful tool research the name you enter in Exact, Sounder or Megadex(tm) spelling in more than 1500 (including Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com) in one search.

Results take you directly to the page you are looking for in only one click.

They have a lot of free tools: Family Tree Builder, SmartMatch, photo tagging with Face recognition and more. It’s really worth to take a pick.

Daniel Horowitz
http://www.myheritage.com

David said...

Sorry Daniel, but that site doesn't load well when I try it. You might want to check it for browser compatibility, as I suspect there are some issues preventing it from working well.

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