Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Google-Fu for Geneaology

Google-Fu Master / scott_hampson / CC2.0
Google-Fu : (n) The art and science of crafting google searches to give you precisely what you need.  Example : GoogleFu is strong in you.

If your Google-Fu is strong, the sky is the limit for what you can find online.  I have often found amazing resources with a few tweaks to an otherwise useless search.  Free, electronic resources free for the taking - if only you know how to find them.

First up is Google Advanced Search.  If you use this advanced form, you can do all of what I'll show you in this post without having to type special stuff into the search blanks.  The google advanced search form is a really user friendly form that allows you to search just about anything with easy, user friendly explanations off to the right of each blank.  If you like google advanced search, add it to your bookmarks so that you can get there easily.

Although google is capable of doing a ton of things and you can do all of them from the advanced search form, sometimes it's quicker for me to do google-fu in the generic search blank.  Here are a couple search tricks that are at the top of my list for genealogy searches.

Search Operators

Proper Use of quotes, AND and OR -  Google is great at attempting to figure out what you mean but with a few quotes and operators, you can better direct it to give you what you want.  For instance, If you were looking for a family tree entitled Nancy Norwood Family Tree and you just typed nancy norwood family tree into google, you would plrobably quickly become inundated with stuff you aren't looking for.  You might have done that a few times!  There is a big difference between searching for any of the following :
  • Nancy Norwood family tree - all pages with varying forms of this phrase including highly ranked pages with only one or two of the words
  • Nancy AND Norwood family tree - this would give you any page with the word Nancy and varying forms of the phrase 'norwood family tree'
  • Nancy OR Norwood family tree - this would give you all pages with the word nancy as well as all pages with varying forms of 'norwood family tree'
  • "Nancy Norwood" family tree - this would give you all pages with the exact phrase 'nancy norwood' as well as all pages with varying forms of 'family tree'
  • "Nancy Norwood family tree" - this is more what you'd want to use in the above example.  It would give you all pages with the exact phrase 'nancy norwood family tree'

Google site search

Sometimes, you will run across a website that has a collection of pages or online books that are not indexed or searchable - or the search doesn't work well.  Which is frustrating, when you know that there is data in the pages that could be helpful.

Never fear... where there is google, there is a way!
  1. Go to a google search form.
  2. Type where urlhere is the website that has the collection you want to search.  So, if it was a rootsweb forum, for instance, you would type site: 
  3. then enter a space and then open quotes, the search term you want to search for and then close quotes.  So, for instance, if I wanted to search rootsweb for the name 'nancy norwood', I would type site: "nancy norwood"  The quotes ensure that you get only Nancy Norwoods.  Without the quotes, you would get all Nancys and all Norwoods, which can quickly get messy.

Choose the right Keywords

The art of creating keyword searches is easy once you get the knack for it.  But I've seen all sorts of really inefficient search terms.  Google is a really huge 'place'.  The more precise your wording, the better your results will be.

For example : If I were trying to find a person who died recently who was named Nancy Norwood, I can type in "People who have died who were named Nancy Norwood" and I will get some mortuary, obituary and geneaology sites for Nancy Norwood.  I've cast a broad net over all of the topics that have anything to do with death and Nancy Norwood and I'm going to get a lot of results that I just don't want.

But if I, instead, search for : "nancy norwood" obituary

I get a full list of obituaries for people named Nancy Norwood.  I could also try "nancy norwood" cemetary. Or "Nancy Norwood" death.  I could even add the city to narrow it down further : "Nancy Norwood" obituary Chicago.  However, adding the state might not be helpful.  This query : "Nancy Norwood" obituary Chicago Illinois would give me Nancy Norwood obituaries in Chicago AND/OR Illinois.  If You use an operator and require Chicago AND Illinois, you are likely to miss out on results that only say Chicago but do not say Illinois.

If you're hungry for more or just feel like exploding your brain for the day, take a look at this guide to google.    It's a relatively easy to read and understand guide - but it really does delve into the many, deep crevices available in google search.

If you'd like something a little easier and geared towards geneaology, this book and cd : The Genealogist's Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke might be the hot ticket.  

1 comment:

  1. Some great tips! I featured this post on my weekly favorite finds:

    Thanks for the great reading and ideas!