Bust a Brick Wall by Speaking Google’s Language

bust a brick wall by speaking Google's language

Bust a genealogy brick wall by learning to speak Google’s language. Proper use of Google’s basic search operators will have you plowing through walls in your research in nothing flat! 

Genealogy information is sprinkled across the millions of websites on the web. Whether it’s a digital image of your great-great grandma on a distant cousins website or an out-of-print history book listed in the online card catalog in a library on the other side of the globe. Google can help you find it all.

Gaining access to that information is not as hard as you may think. I’d like to share a question I received recently from a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener, and show you how you can bust a brick wall by speaking Google’s language.

Here’s the email that I received from Ruth last week:

I’m sitting here listening to one of your free podcasts…I’m working, I’m listening, and I’m thinking…about my brick wall James Craig, what I know and what I’m trying to find out!

I know that James Craig was born about 1795-97 in New Jersey and was at Ft. Jesup, Louisiana in 1823, [and] that he was discharged in 1825. I researched New Jersey military records and found a James Craig, from Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey, who joined the Army [in] August 1820 for five years [and] he was sent to Fort Scott, Georgia. I read articles that state, when Fort Scott closed sometime around 1822/23, the men were sent to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Do you see the trail I’m following? It’s not hard to make the connection from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Fort Jesup, Louisiana. My problem is that I haven’t found any transfer papers!! So, how do I verify that James Craig from Pittsgrove, New Jersey is my 3rd great-grandfather. Is it possible that there are journals from the commanding officer of each encampment that might shed some light on this? 

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have on this long standing brick wall!

Tips to Bust a Genealogy Brick Wall

Ruth asked “Is it possible that there are journals from the commanding officer of each encampment that might shed some light on this?” I certainly think it is possible! I would suggest using Google to search the web because such items might be digitized online, or they might be listed on a library or archive website as being available at their location. Either way, you would gain valuable information on how to access the items.

Here’s an example of a search I would run:

google search strategies for genealogy

 

This search is based on my Google Excellent Method Search Let’s break down the pieces of this search query:

The quotation marks tell Google that the word or phrase must be in every search result (in other words, they are mandatory.) When used around a phrase, that means the phrase must appear exactly as searched.

The asterisk tells Google there might be a word or two between the words in a phrase, such as a middle initial.

By putting OR between two versions of the phrases, such as last name first and first name first, you cover all your bases. Note that the word OR must be capitalized to work as a Google operator.

Finally, two numbers separated by 2 dots is called a “numrange search” and that tells Google a number that falls within that range must appear in each search result. And of course, four digit numbers represent years to genealogists!

Your Genealogy Google Guru

Google packs a powerful punch for genealogists. Let me be your Genealogy Google Guru and watch my video below for even more helpful tips and tricks. Remember to subscribe to my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel so you’ll get all my upcoming Google video tips. Happy searching!

“I Found 130 Letters by My Ancestor!” Why Use Google Books for Genealogy

Betty has at least 130 good reasons to use Google Books for genealogy! She used this powerful Google tool to find her ancestor’s name in a book–which led to a treasure trove of his original letters in an archive. Here’s what happened–and how to try this with your own family history research. 

You’ve heard me say that Google Books is the tool I turn to every day. Now, you may be thinking, “But my ancestors wouldn’t be in history books!” Resist the temptation to make assumptions about sources, and about your ancestors. With over 25 million books, Google Books is more likely to have something pertinent to your genealogy research than you think. And as I often tell my audiences, those books can include source citations, providing a trail to even more treasures.

Why to Use Google Books for Genealogy: Success Story!

At the National Genealogical Society conference this past spring, Betty attended my class and then stopped by the Genealogy Gems booth to share her story. I recorded it, and here’s a transcription:

Betty: I was stuck on my Duncan Mackenzie ancestor, so I put his name in Google Books, because when you’re stuck, that’s what you do!

Lisa: Yes, I do!

Betty: So, up popped this history of Mississippi, it was sort of a specific history, and it said Duncan Mackenzie had written a letter to his brother-in-law in North Carolina from Covington County, Mississippi. And of course I already had my tax records and my census records that placed him in Covington County. This was in the 1840s. I thought, this just couldn’t be him! Why would any of my relatives be in a book? [Sound familiar?]

So, finally, weeks later, it occurred to me to go back and look at the footnotes in the book, and I found that the letters could be found in the Duncan McLarin papers at Duke University. So, I didn’t even think to even borrow the microfilm. I just told my husband, “next time you go East for work, we need to go by Duke University.” So I set up a time, and I went, and it WAS my great-great-grandfather who wrote those letters! I have now transcribed 130 letters from that collection. They let me scan them all, and I’ve been back again to scan the rest of the legal papers.

Lisa: So, an online search into Google Books not only help you find something online, but it led you to the offline gems!

Betty: And it just changed my life! Because I spend all my time on these letters. It’s distracted me from other lines! [LOL! I get that!]

How to Use Google Books for Genealogy

Are you ready to put Google Books to work in your own research and discover some genealogy gems of your own? Here, I re-create Betty’s search for you, so you can see how to get started:

1. Go to Google Books (books.google.com). Enter search terms that would pertain to your ancestor, like a name and a place.

2. Browse the search results. The first three that show up here all look promising. Click on the first one.

3. Review the text that comes up in the text screen. As you can see here, Duncan McKenzie of Covington County is mentioned–and the source note at the bottom of the page tells you that the original letter cited in the book is at Duke University.

Learn More about Using Google Books for Genealogy

Learn more by watching my free Google Books video series at the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. Click the video below to watch the first one. (And be sure to subscribe while you’re there, because there are more videos to come!)

Then, watch the video below for a quick preview of my full one hour video class (and downloadable handout) called Google Books: The Tool You Need Every Day!, available to all Genealogy Gems Premium Members.

How To Pronounce Names: Google Translate and Name Pronunciation Tools

Check out these 3 free online tools that help with how to pronounce names.translate and pronounce

Recently, I heard from a Genealogy Gems listener in The Netherlands, who shared research tips for those starting to trace Dutch ancestors. I wanted to mention his email on my free Genealogy Gems podcast, but I didn’t know how to pronounce his name, Niek.

There have been other times I wished I knew how to pronounce names of ancestors or distant cousins, or other foreign words.

I received more than one email regarding the way I mispronounced Regina, Saskatchewan on my Genealogy Gems podcast. I pronounced it with a long “e” sound (like Rageena) when in reality it is pronounced with a long “i” sound (as in Reg-eye-na). I appreciated the correction. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could check how to say something before you say it?

Here are 3 free online tools that can help. They’re each a little different. I’m giving you all three so you can run the name through more than one site to be even more confident you’re getting the right pronunciation.

1. Google Translate

Google Translate is a powerful, free tool I use for quick translation look-ups. Google Translate now has an audio tool for some languages that will pronounce the words you enter. Look for the speaker icon in the bottom left corner of the translate box and click it:

Google Translate how to pronounce Niek

Google Translate is an awesome free tool for other reasons, too.

As we research our family history it often leads us to records and reference books in foreign languages. The Google Translate app on your phone comes in very handy in such times.

You can translate short bit of text in real time. Here’s an example of a page from a German reference book:

German reference book

In order to translate this page, I tapped the Camera icon in the app and then held my camera over the page. The image is sent via an internet connection to Google. Text recognition occurs and the text is translated. Here’s what the real-time translation looks like in the Google Translate app:

German reference book translated

The translation may not be perfect, but it is much better than not being able to read the page at all. 

You can also use the Scan feature to take a photograph of a page or document. This can often give you a better translation because the image is more stable. To do this, tap Scan in the bottom menu. Hold your phone over the page, and then tap the circle button. This is what the initial scan looks like:

Google Translate Scan image 1

Tap the Select All button if you want all the text to be translated. The other option is that you can swipe your finger over just the words that you want translated. As you can see in the image, each word has been individually found by Google providing you with precise selection control You can also tap the Clear button if you want to start over and take the image again. In the image below I have selected a portion of the text on the screen:

The translation is almost instantaneous, and it appears in the blue line at the top. Tap the right arrow on the blue line to see the full translation:

Google Translate Scan image 3

The Google Translate app is continually being improved, and is worth a try if you haven’t used it recently. The most recent updates included better translation quality and support for more languages.

If you would like to learn more about how to use Google Translate, check out chapter 13 in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

Click here to read about one of its qualities that actually got a gasp out of the audience when I mentioned it in a lecture.

2. Forvo

Forvo describes itself as “the largest pronunciation guide in the world, the place where you´ll find millions of words pronounced in their original languages.” It’s like a pronunciation wiki.

A quick search for “Niek” gave me the result shown here. I clicked on “Pronunciation by MissAppeltaart” to hear how that contributor (who is from The Netherlands) said that name.

By the way, you can contribute your own pronunciations by clicking on “Pronounce” to see a list of words that are waiting to be recorded.

3. Pronounce Names

Pronounce Names is a website that gives you visual cues for pronouncing a name. This can be helpful for those who aren’t sure they heard an audio pronunciation correctly. This is what it looks like when you ask for a name pronunciation for Niek:niek at pronounce names

Being a visual learner myself, I particularly appreciate this site! I think I would have remembered the correct pronunciation of Regina had I seen it in a format like this.

Now if I could just get the telephone solicitors to use the tools. Maybe then they will stop calling and asking “is Mrs. Cookie there?”

More Free Online Tools–These are Gems!Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online

I’m always on the look up for free online tools that solve problems. Whether you are trying to find genealogy records, solve geographical questions, or you want to identify a face in a photographs, there are tools out there that just may do the trick. Here are three more articles that provides answers to challenges like these.

 

Get the Most out of Ancestry.com Shaky Leaf Hints

If you’re an Ancestry.com user, you’ve seen those “shaky leaves.” They are automated hints generated when Ancestry.com thinks a historical record or tree matches an individual on yours.Ancestry Shaky Leaf

Are you getting the most out of your Ancestry.com shaky leaf hints? Check out this video on YouTube–then keep reading!

In a nutshell: look at all the hints. Then keep searching.

According to the Ancestry Insider blogger, hints are only provided for the top 10% of Ancestry records. 

I asked our Genealogy Gems source at Ancestry.com about this. He did clarify that this means the most popular 10% of collections, which accounts for “a majority of the records.” But he also comments, “Hints are not meant to be an exhaustive method to flesh out all of the records for your ancestors. People should always search as well as use hints.”

After checking all the hints, I routinely find a LOT more by then searching records from an individual’s profile.

Search from the profile rather than the main search screen so some of the other data you’ve already found (like dates and relationships and locations) will be included automatically in the search parameters. I think searching from the individual profile also makes it faster to attach records to your person once you’ve found them.

Click here to hear how one woman used Ancestry.com hints to discover a tree for the biological mother who abandoned her when she was five. You’ll also learn her inspiring message about how moving past her mother on her family tree has helped her move on with her life.

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