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Googling Genealogy Style

25 Google Search Tips for Genealogists


Search Suggested Alternate Spellings

Google has become one smart cookie and now suggests alternate spellings for search terms which appear to be misspelled. The search engine's self-learning algorithm automatically detects misspellings and suggests corrections based on the most popular spelling of the word. You can get a basic idea of how it works by typing in 'geneology' as a search term. While Google will return search results for pages on geneology, it will also ask you "Did you mean genealogy?" Click on the suggested alternate spelling for a whole new list of sites to browse! This feature comes in particularly handy when searching for cities and towns for which you aren't sure of the correct spelling. Type in Bremehaven and Google will ask you if you meant Bremerhaven. Or type in Napels Italy, and Google will ask you if you meant Naples Italy. Watch out however! Sometimes Google chooses to display the search results for the alternate spelling and you'll need to select the correct spelling to find what you are really looking for.

Bring Back Sites From the Dead

How many times have you found what looks to be a very promising Web site, only to get a "File Not Found" error when clicking on the link? Genealogical Web sites seem to come and go every day as webmasters change file names, switch ISPs, or just decide to remove the site because they can no longer afford to maintain it. This doesn't mean the information is always gone forever, however. Hit the Back button and look for a link to a "cached" copy at the end of the Google description and page URL. Clicking on the "cached" link should bring up a copy of the page as it appeared at the time that Google indexed that page, with your search terms highlighted in yellow. You can also return Google's cached copy of a page, by preceding the page's URL with 'cache:'. If you follow the URL with a space separated list of search words, they will be highlighted on the returned page. For example: cache:genealogy.about.com surname will return the cached version of this site's homepage with the term surname highlighted in yellow.

Find Related Sites

Found a site that you really like and want more? GoogleScout can help you find sites with similar content. Hit the Back button to return to your Google search results page and then click on the Similar Pages link. This will take you to a new page of search results with links to pages which contain similar content. The more specialized pages (such as a page for a specific surname) may not turn up many relevant results, but if you are researching a particular topic (i.e. adoption or immigration), GoogleScout can help you find a large number of resources very quickly, without having to worry about selecting the right keywords. You can also access this feature directly by using the related command with the URL of the site that you like (related:genealogy.about.com).

Follow the Trail

Once you've found a valuable site, chances are that some of the sites which link to it may also be beneficial to you. Use the link command along with a URL to find pages which contain links pointing to that URL. Enter link:familysearch.org and you'll find about 3,340 pages which link to the homepage of familysearch.org. You can also use this technique to find out who, if anyone, has linked to your personal genealogy site.

Search Within a Site

While many major sites have search boxes, this isn't always true of smaller, personal genealogy sites. Google comes to the rescue again, however, by allowing you to restrict search results to a specific site. Just enter your search term followed by the site command and the main URL for the site you wish to search in the Google search box on the main Google page. For example, military site:www.familytreemagazine.compulls up 1600+ pages with the search term 'military' on the Family Tree Magazine Web site. This trick is especially useful for quickly finding surname information on genealogy sites without indexes or search capabilities.

Cover Your Bases

When you really want to make sure you haven't missed a good genealogy site, enter allinurl:genealogy to return a list of sites with genealogy as part of their URL (can you believe that Google found more than 10 million?). As you can tell from this example, this is a better option to use for more focused searches, such as surnames or locality searches. You can combine multiple search terms, or use other operators such as OR to help focus your search (i.e. allinurl:genealogy france OR french). A similar command is also available to search for terms contained within a title (i.e. allintitle:genealogy france OR french).

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