October 22, 2014

The Google Search Operator That Got Away

One of my favorite Google Search Operators is the Tilde (`) which is Google lingo means Synonym. In the past you could add~genealogy to your searches and Google would look for ‘genealogy’, ‘family history’, ‘ancestry’ etc. Unfortunately, it is no more.

Google Search Operator Tilde synonym

Google explained the decision to do away with synonym search this way: “Why? Because too few people were using it to make it worth the time, money, and energy to maintain…Maintaining ALL of the synonyms takes real time and costs us real money. Supporting this operator also increases the complexity of the code base.”

So now, more than ever, it’s important to choose your keywords wisely and think like the person who may be posting information you are looking for. You may think train history, but experts on the subject may be using railroad or locomotive as they write on their website. The good news is you can include all the options in your search query.

Recommended Viewing:
Genealogy Gems Premium Video: Ultimate Google Search Strategies

Recommended Reading:
Things may change online, 
but Genealogy Gems will never change: 
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How to Set Up Google Alerts for Genealogy

google alertHow can you keep up with new online information on your family history that may appear at any moment? You can’t, unless you run constant searches on your web browser, and who’s got time for that? Google does! And it accomplish that incredible search  feat for you through Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is like having your own virtual research assistant! When you key in your favorite searches, Google Alerts will automatically email you when there are new Google results for your search terms.

1. Go to www.google.com/alerts.

2. Sign in to your Google account (or create one).

3. The first time you create an alert, click where it says, “You don’t have any Google Alerts. Try creating one.” Fill in the screen that pops up:

Google Alerts for Genealogy

4. Type in your search query. In the example above, I’ve entered my specific search:
Larson” “Winthrop” Minnesota.

5. Make selections to further refine your search alert:

  • The type of content you’re looking for: news, blogs, videos, discussions, books or everything.
  • How often you want to receive the alerts by email.
  • The type of results you want to get. You may want to receive all results, not just the best results which will give you an opportunity to see how your search does. You can always change settings later.

6. Enter the email address where you want the alert emails to be delivered. Google will alert you to new content when it is posted on the Web.

google toolbox bookLearn more about how to conduct effective Google searches for genealogy research, Google Alerts for genealogy, and more in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. 

Genealogy VideoGenealogy Gems Premium Members can also watch my full length Google search video classes:

  • Common Surname Search Secrets
  • Ultimate Google Search Strategies
  • Digging Deeper into Web Sites with Google Site Search

See the complete list of Premium video classes here.

Learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership here!

 

 

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Family History Episode 8 – Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2


Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
Originally published Fall 2008

Republished November 26, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 8: Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2
In a follow up to last week’s episode about subscription genealogy records website, in my first segment our guest is Yvette Arts, Director of Content Partnerships at World Vital Records. She tells us about exciting developments at the website that have helped make it a success.

In our second segment we look at five organizations that provide free online access to genealogy records for those with North American roots: FamilySearch, the National Archives of the United States, Ellis Island Foundation, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, and Library and Archives Canada.

Now for some updates on these sites and MORE since the show first aired:

  • FamilySearch.org is still free and growing exponentially. It captures records from all over the world, not just North America and the U.K. It is now home to over 3.5 billion names in searchable databases, with over 35 million new records added every month. In addition, they’ve added over 60,000 digital books to the site. The layout of the website has changed dramatically since I described it in the original show. Click on Search to get to their databases, then enter an ancestor’s name and, if you can, a life event (birth, marriage, residence or death). A significant portion of new online records are browsable but not yet indexed. So now, after you search for individuals in their databases, scroll down to the Browse section below the search fields. There you’ll be able to see what records you can browse for a locale (choose the international region, then you can choose more specific locations). You can still order microfilmed records at the Family History Library to a satellite FamilySearch library near you. From the Search screen, choose Catalog, and you can search for and order available records by location.
  • The National Archives (U.S.), also known as the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) also offers more on its website now. The portal for genealogists looks a little different now but still helps you see how to search and use the site for genealogy. There’s a direct link to the 1940 census, with images, maps and descriptions. Remember that Footnote, the subscription site I mentioned that’s digitizing military records, is now Fold3, which we talked about in Episode 7.
  • EllisIsland.org still offers free access to the passenger records of those who landed at Ellis Island. In addition, you can still look at ship information (click on Ships from the home page). The Immigrant Experience and timeline I mention can be found by clicking on the Ellis Island tab.
  • The National Archives (U.K.) links from the home page to resources for ordering birth, marriage and death certificates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Read about updating order information, including costs, at these sites. There is still a portal for genealogists from which you can learn all about the various record groups I mention in the podcast and more.
  • Library and Archives Canada continues to add more valuable genealogical data to its site, including census data! Start from its Genealogy and Family History page. In addition to the features I mention in the show, they’ve improved their online indexes: scroll down on the above page and you’ll find the Ancestors Search (Databases) link to a main search engine and individual databases for vital records, censuses, immigration, land, military and several directories.
  • Cyndi’s List and U.S. GenWeb are still fantastic online resources, but add to your list these ones as well:
    • DeadFred, a photo identifying and sharing site;
    • Google, for searching across the Internet for everything from individual ancestor’s names to maps and local histories (especially through Google Books at www.books.google.com);
    • The Library of Congress family of websites, including the mega-newspaper site, Chronicling America;
    • WorldCat, an enormous card catalog for more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
    • Find a Grave and Billion Graves, home to cemetery inscriptions for millions of tombstones.
    • Of course, there are many, many more websites for genealogists, but these will certainly keep you busy to start!

 

 

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Search Tips for Finding Tricky Names and Spellings in Ancestry.com and Google

Even the simplest of names can be subject to creative spelling over the centuries. In this video, Ancestry’s Crista Cowan takes on the challenge saying “Misspeld knames are a commun problem for geneoleogy reeserchors.” 

If you are fairly new to researching your family history the video provides an introduction to the evolution of spelling,  names, and the soundex. More advanced genealogists may want to jump in around the 10 minute mark to quickly tap into Cowan’s tips such as:

  • Wild card search
  • Ancestry’s filters
  • surname translations in search results

She also provides a helpful tip on re-setting Ancestry’s filters to the default position (16:40 min.). When you have run a search using filters, and you want to start fresh on a new search, click the “match all terms exactly” and then uncheck it. This action will clear all the filters previously used.

Name Challenges in Google Search

Common surnames and surnames that double for as common words in the English language (i.e. Green) can also wreak havoc in Google Searches. One way to deal with the problem is to use the minus search operator. In the case of the surname Green, you might try:

GREEN FAMILY TREE -ECOLOGY 

Removing the keyword “ecology” from your search query steers Google away from that meaning of the word “green.” Genealogy Gems Premium Members can view the video and download the handout of my Common Surname Google Search Strategies class in the Premium Membership area of the Genealogy Gems website.

Become a Member today for a full year of access to Premium podcast episodes and videos here

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Google Books and Publishers Reach Settlement over Digitization

With more than 20 million books digitized and online, Google Books is an amazing resource for genealogy, so much so that I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book The Genealogist’s  Google Toolbox.  However, Google Books has been under the cloud of a law suit from publishers and authors who say that Google’s digitization project violated their copyrights.

The good news is that yesterday the Association of American Publishers and Google announced that they have reached a settlement to end a lawsuit filed by five publishers in October 2005. Publishers will now be able to choose which books are included in the project.  Read more about the settlement at USAToday.com.

To learn more about how to use Google Books for Genealogy, get my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, in  paperback or ebook.

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