In the digital age, searching for your ancestor’s records is easier than ever. Read our 5 tips on using Google to navigate your genealogy search.
You may be surprised what amazing genealogy finds you can discover using just Google alone! Thousands of photos, scanned books, and online genealogical collections are available that aren’t at the usual big websites like Ancestry or FamilySearch. A reasonably exhaustive search should include a plunge into Google. Most know that you search for an exact phrase by enclosing the search phrase in quotation marks (i.e. “Lafayette Johnson” if you are searching for a person by that name). But there are other search terms you can use to make your searches more successful as a genealogist. Here are a few:
1. Exclude Words
If you are searching for a man named Lafayette Johnson from Arkansas but many of your search results are for a man by that name in Surrey, England, use the negative sign (-) in front of the word (or search phrase) you wish to exclude in your search results.
Example Searches: “Lafayette Johnson” -England
“Lafayette Johnson” -“Surrey, England”
2. Similar Words and Synonyms
If you are looking for death, burial, or cemetery records for Lafayette Johnson, use a tilde (~) in front of the word or search phrase. The use of the tilde will return results with words similar to the one you used.
Example Search: “Lafayette Johnson” ~burial
3. Site-Specific Searches
If you find that a genealogical site has a dozen links to burials that are posted on that site, rather than clicking each link to search through each list, simply do a site search.
Example Search: “Lafayette Johnson” site:johnsonburials.com
4. Date Ranges
If you are searching for records for Lafayette Johnson between the years 1659 and 1730, just put two (2) periods (and no spaces) in between the two years. (This one is my favorite!)
Example Search: “Lafayette Johnson” 1659..1730
If you come across a new vocabulary word, use the “define” command of Google.
Example Search: define:nuncupative
(This word refers to a will that is “announced” [i.e. given orally] rather than written, usually due to the extreme illness or wounding of the testator.)
Give these different techniques a try and see what new things you’re able to find! Looking for more Google search tips? Check out our article, Google Books: An Untapped Genealogy Resource.