Using Google Search

Search For Ancestors

     Did you know that there are Google search techniques that can help you find information on your ancestors? Using a variety of extra filters, you can narrow time periods, search only certain types of sites, use wild card searches, and so much more. Let's review both basic and advanced search techniques. There are some basic techniques that you need to understand to get better search results.

#1 Define in your mind what you are searching for. If you just type in John McAninch, you will probably get thousands of "hits" that include all sorts of disconnected "John" and "McAninch" listings, like John McBride, John Southerland, Bill McAninch, etc. A good example of focusing your search might be something like I want to find out marriage information about John McAninch in Placer County, CA between about 1880 and 1910.

#2 Using basic filters can help to limit your search results

a. Apply Quotation Marks. By typing in "John McAninch" (with quotes) you will greatly limit search results. Google will only search for results that have both of the names together. You can also type in "McAninch, John" or "J McAninch", or McAninch, J" as many sites may have the name listed in these ways.

b. Use the Minus Sign. Let's say that your search results are coming up with quite a few different John McAninch persons from different areas of the country. For example, let's say there are numerous results for a John McAninch in Texas, but we are looking for him in California. In the search box type in "John McAninch" -Texas, without a space after the minus sign. This will eliminate any search results of the John McAninch that are associated with records in Texas. Don't forget to also use the name variations as noted above! Use as many minus signs as you need to keep limiting down your search results.

c. Search Using a Date Range. You can further limit your search results by specifying a date range. For example, if you are looking for records between 1900 and 1940, just type 1900..1940. How would that look with the other search parameters? "John McAninch" -Texas 1900..1940".

d. Search For Terms Near Each Other. What if you searched for John McAninch in 1940, but you are getting a lot of results for other people in that date range as well? You can use the AROUND(x) filter to further filter out search results. For example, by typing "John McAninch" AROUND(20) 1940 you are requesting that Google produce search results where the name appears within 20 words of the 1940 date. You can also combine different AROUND(x) filters like "John McAninch" AROUND(20) 1940 AROUND(40) Placer to additionally request search results where the name is seen within 40 words of Placer. Play with the # that you put in the parenthesis to vary the results.

e. Get Site Specific Results. This one is probably not as important for those who can search specific sites already. Let's say that you have quite a few search results, but want to limit to a specific site, you can type in "John McAninch"" or the site name of any other site. Note that there is no space between the site: and the SiteURL. You also do not need to add http://www. in front of the SiteURL.

f. Fill in the Blanks With the Asterick (*) Wildcard. The asterick tells Google to create a "placeholder" for any unknown terms that may be associated with the two words on either side of it. For example, "Charles * Meyers" would result in a variety of middle names or initials being displayed. The * operator only works between two whole words. You can't place it at the END of a word, for example like, Lin* to find similar results like Lincoln, Lindholm, Linseed, etc. You could place a * at the end of your query like George Washington lived in *.

g. Force Additional Synonyms. The tilde symbol (~) can be used to force Google to show additional related words (synonyms), to your search results. For example, ~obituaries will result in a variety of other added terms like funeral, death notices, etc. Other terms like "~vital records", "~genealogy", etc will bring up search results from similarly named pages. Note that "Charles Meyers" genealogy and "Charles Meyers" ~genealogy will bring up different results.

Handout Resources

Google's Advanced Search Page

Basic Google Search Tips

Advanced Google Search Tips

Have Fun Googling For Ancestors!

Sunday February 6th, 2022