Google is a many-faceted gem when it comes to searching for ancestors online. Are you getting the most out of what Google offers?
Google searching–entering your ancestors’ names and other keywords into the main Google search box–is where you start using Google for genealogy. But the search box isn’t the only Google feature that can help you find hidden genealogy treasures online. Here are 7 important Google resources you need:
Google will sweep the internet for your favorite keyword searches on a regular basis! Just set up as many of these searches as you need with Google Alerts. It’s free and you can customize it to search when and what you want. Click here to learn to set up Google Alerts for genealogy.
You may already know that Google Books will keyword search within billions of pages of text in published books from around the world. Some of these books are even available to read in full on the site. Searching Google Books can lead you to facts, stories, new sources for your research and even images. For example, click here to read a post about finding old maps in Google Books.
Web content changes all the time. Sometimes the text, pictures or other content we most want just disappears. A page is revised, or a webpage or an entire website is taken offline. Use Google Cache to look at webpages that no longer exist! Click here to learn more.
I teach people all over the world how to use Google Earth in their genealogy research! Google Earth is the ultimate online map of the world: free, interactive, three-dimensional, multi-layered and crowd-sourced with all kinds of extra content. You can use it to identify ancestral hometowns and even their properties; zoom in to see what it looks like today; find old buildings, cemeteries, schools or churches relating to their lives, and more. Click here to watch a free video on using Google Earth for your genealogy.
When using Google for genealogy you can also visualize your results. Google has a dedicated area for finding the images you want, like certain people, places or historical events: Google Images. Google Images will even narrow your results to certain parameters: black and white images only; maps or pictures of people only; photographs but not illustrations and–my favorite–images without copyright restrictions that you may re-use in your family history write-ups.
Google News Archive
Though no longer actively digitizing and indexing newspapers, Google News Archive can help you locate online content for specific newspapers. Click here to access its alphabetical listing of newspapers. You can also enter keyword-searches in the search box on that webpage for all the newspapers listed here.
When you want to dig into scholarly articles, theses, dissertations and other academic sources, turn to Google Scholar. This resource specializes in searching the “smart stuff,” as I think of it. Sometimes you can find very specialized content, like a biography of a little-known minister or a history of a little tiny town. Read this inspiring story about using Google Scholar for genealogy!
Ready to learn more about how to use Google for genealogy and mining it for your own genealogical treasures? The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, is your go-to resource! In its chapters–fully revised and updated –you’ll learn more about all these Google tools and more. Better yet, after you learn how to use these tools for family history research, you’ll find yourself using them to find all kinds of things, from recipes to trivia, to a manual for your old car.
It’s Nice to Share
I’ll bet you have friends who would benefit from this article on how to use Google for genealogy. Share it and they will be doing the genealogy happy dance, and so will I!
Here are some handy sharing buttons, or just copy and paste the URL for this article into a Facebook post or email. Thanks!
Are you worried about access to your online tree if you let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse? The tree should still be there. But take these steps to be sure your Ancestry family tree remains accessible and secure–along with the records you’ve attached to it.
What Happens if Your Ancestry Subscription Expires
Many people start researching their genealogy with an Ancestry subscription. They build their family tree on the web site, adding details about their relatives.
Then they sift through Ancestry’s billions of historical records and add hundreds or even thousands of new names, dates, relationships and other facts to their family trees. Along the way, they attach records to each ancestor as evidence of what they’ve learned.
All of this adds up to a unique family tree that is precious to your family.
However, it is very common for the busyness of life to call them away from their genealogy research for a while. This is what happened to Genealogy Gems reader Beverly. She wrote to me, concerned about what will happen to all her hard work on that Ancestry tree:
“I have been a member of Ancestry.com for a long time and have worked on several trees. I love to work on my genealogy but lately have not had time. Can I drop my membership and still retain my trees? I plan to get my membership back at a later day. Right now I am wasting $20 a month.”
Beverly, I hear your pain!
We all go through busy seasons. It’s easy to cringe at the thought of paying for genealogy website subscriptions we aren’t currently using.
But the idea of losing all our progress on those web sites if we let our subscription lapse is worse. Your Ancestry subscription has not only included your online family tree, but also all of the records that you found and attached to that tree.
I did a little research along with Sunny Morton, Genealogy Gems Editor and our resident expert on the “Genealogy Giants” websites” (Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage). Here’s what we can tell Beverly and everyone else who is wondering what will happen to their family tree and all that research if their Ancestry account expires:
According to Ancestry, the answer is yes, you can still access your trees with your login credentials after your subscription lapses. The most important thing is that you don’t delete the tree or the account altogether.
Ancestry continues to host people’s trees because they want our tree data to share with others, and to give people a reason to come back!
But be aware that if you do not renew your Ancestry subscription, your account will revert to a free guest account. (Your user name and password will remain the same.) This means that you will not be able to access most of Ancestry’s historical records, including the ones you’ve already attached to your trees. And I say “trees” because many people have multiple family trees on Ancestry to be concerned about.
To see the historical genealogy records that you have attached to an ancestor in your online tree, click on a person in your family tree, and then click Profile:
How to find genealogy records attached to a person in your Ancestry tree.
You will be taken to their profile page where you will see the genealogical sources you have attached.
If your Ancestry account expires you can’t access records attached to your tree.
These are records that you will not be able to access when your subscription expires.
If Your Ancestry Subscription Expires: Tree Preservation Strategy
If you plan to let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse for a while, but you want to continue to work with your online trees, consider taking these steps:
1. Download a copy of every record.
The first thing to do is download a copy of every record that you’ve attached to your ancestors’ individual files on Ancestry.com.
You can do this by opening the image of the record, clicking on the Save/Saved button at the upper right, and clicking Save to your computer. I suggest doing this even if you don’t foresee letting your subscription go in the near future.
Saving a document to your computer from Ancestry before your subscription expires
2. Save each record in an organized way on your computer.
I recommend using a consistent system to organize these, which I explain in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, in episodes 32-33. (Genealogy Gems Premium website members have access to a 2-part video tutorial on organizing their hard drives.)
If you don’t have a consistent way to organize these document images, you’ll soon become overwhelmed with files that all sort of look the same and you won’t be sure what year they are or which ancestors they pertain to without opening each one!
You may be wondering “What about cloud storage options, such as Google Drive or Dropbox?” These type of cloud storage solutions are ok too. However, I recommend using these platforms more as temporary or backup storage or to share with relatives, rather than as your primary storage.
A better alternative would be to invest in cloud-based backup for your home computer. I use Backblaze personally and for my business.
3. Download copies of your Ancestry.com trees.
Click here for instructions; it’s really easy.
Yes, Ancestry does continue to maintain your trees, but what guarantees do you have?
Data loss does happen even on big websites, and sites change their practices and policies sometimes. If that happens, you could lose all the information you’ve carefully added to your tree.
4. Start using computer software for your “master family tree.”
Don’t just keep your family tree online where you don’t have complete control.
A “master family tree” is your most complete, up-to-date version of your tree (or trees, if you build separate ones for separate family lines).
Keeping your master tree on your own computer keeps all your tree data at your fingertips without any subscription required. Having one master file matters even more once you start sharing your tree on other websites or with relatives.
I use RootsMagic, and that is why I happily agreed to them sponsoring my Genealogy Gems Podcast. It works for Mac and the PC.
I like its affordability: there’s a free version you can try for as long as you like, and the full software will cost you the same as about 90 days of access to Ancestry.com.
RootsMagic also has solid relationships with the major genealogy sites: it now syncs with your trees on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, and you can research records on MyHeritage.com and Findmypast.com.
RootsMagic has tons of advanced features to help you create family history charts, books, and reports, and a great user support community online.
Learn More about Ancestry and the Other Genealogy Giants
Keep up with news and changes on the “genealogy giants” websites with our ongoing coverage of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com here.
Disclosure: this post recommends carefully-chosen products and services for which we receive compensation. Click here to read my full disclosure statement, and thank you for supporting the free content we provide at Genealogy Gems.
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes
2012 – 2013 Season Eight
Behind the Scenes at the Antiques Roadshow. And what you should and should not include in your family tree.
Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners who are blogging about their genealogy!
Hear how one man’s passion for geography and history were saved from destruction, and find out what a portable scanner can do for your genealogy research and mobility.
Get ready to get organized! We’re going to talk about how to digitize, organize and archive your family history with Denise Levenick.
Blast from the Past: Episodes 5 and 6. Gems: YouTube, Bring Back Sites from the Dead, Spice Up Your Genealogy Database, Cast a Shadow on Your Ancestors, US GenWeb
In this episode we discuss the latest genealogy news, one listener’s fabulous use of Google Alerts, and Maureen Taylor’s new history film project.
Jump on the sleigh and make the rounds with me to friends of the podcast. We’ll making surprise stops at listener’s homes, drinking hot cocoa with long time friends of the show and genealogy experts, visiting with the newest member to the Genealogy Gems team, and my Grandson Davy will even make a guest starring appearance!
Genealogy Quick Gems: New RootsMagic App, 5 reasons you need the new YouTube app for family history, new digitized records online, sound preservation, Ancestry search tips video, and more.
A Blast from the Past: Episodes 7 and 8. Civil War Research and the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System Website, A Swedish-American genealogy podcast, The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and Shake Up Your Family History research strategies!
Lisa celebrates her 50th birthday and the 150th episode with 50 Fabulous Family History Favorites!
Part 2 of 50 Fabulous Family History Favorites.
Highlights from Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013 in London including an interview with Dr. Turi King who confirmed the identity of the remains of King Richard III through DNA
Enjoy a blast from the past with episode #10 featuring Steve Morse and his One-Step website. Then delight in Darius Gray, a genealogist and storyteller who provides tips on sharing your family history stories with your family, (recorded at #RootsTech 2013.)
Travel back to #RootsTech – You’ll hear 10 Top Tips for How to Bust Through Your Genealogy Brick Wall, and get the scoop on the new partnership between OCLC / WorldCat and FamilySearch.
Catching Up on Everything Genealogy, and WikiTree Update
What to do when technological changes create mayhem in your life. Also, get a sneak peek at new changes coming in Ancestry search, and women in naturalization records.
Blast from the Past: First up is Genealogy Gems Episode #11, first published May 07, 2007, (How to Find Pictures from the Past with Google.com, and a Family History Decoupage Plate Project) and Episode #12 (Top 10 Tips for Finding the Graduation Gems in Your Family History.)
Exclusive interview with Allie Orton, Producer of the U.S. TV series Who Do You Think You Are? Also in this episode: the new Genealogy Gems Windows 8 App, Update on Fold3, OCLC and FamilySearch partnership, and British Research Resources.
Come along as we solve a family history mystery with high-tech and low-tech tools, discuss how to begin African-American research, explore newly available Canadian records, and contemplate the value of work as well as the values we want to pass on to our kids and grandkids.
In this episode you will meet other listeners who are getting the word out about their family history through blogging as well as give you some genealogy blogging pointers,and I will introduce you to my first “Favorite Genealogy Gems.”
Hello from Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny McClellan Morton. I’m still flying high after a week just spent at GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. This was like mini-graduate school for genealogists, complete with a lush green campus in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania; immediate access to legendary instructors; rigorous coursework that’s exactly what I want to learn; a great genealogy bookstore; and plenty of after-hours socializing.
While I was there, GRIP announced an exciting lineup for 2014 (it’s not even on their website yet). Here are the topics and instructors:
- Finding and Documenting African-American Families with J. Mark Lowe, CG, and Deborah Abbott, PhD.
- Practical Genetic Genealogy with Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD.
- Law School for Genealogists with Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL and Richard G. “Rick” Sayre, CG, CGL.
- Becoming an Online Expert: Mastering Search Engines and Digital Archives with D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS.
- Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard with Thomas W. Jones, PhD.
- Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper with Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA.
All those initials after these instructors’ names means tons of expertise is poured into every GRIP experience, and if you know any of these folks you know there’s not a “boring professor” among them!
If you’re ready for seriously advanced genealogy education, check out GRIP or other learning experiences like it. In the United States, I know about SLIG in Salt Lake City, IGHR at Samford University in Birmingham, and NIGR at the National Archives. There are also more flexible (but still demanding) options like ProGen Study Groups, Boston University’s Genealogical Research Programs and the National Genealogical Society’s American Genealogy Home Study course.
Don’t forget to check out programs and conferences offered by your own state, regional and local genealogical societies. They usually offer a variety of topics for beginners to more advanced students–and they’ll be closer to home and less expensive. Our own Genealogy Gems premium memberships offers a fabulous genealogy education for a fabulous price: in addition to premium podcast episodes, you also get a new, full-length video tutorial every MONTH to watch whenever you like, along with unlimited access to all previous full-length video tutorials. Check out our list of Premium Videos here.
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished July 8, 2014
Listen to the free podcast in your favorite podcast app.
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
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 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 39: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 2
This week we continue to explore the world of family history blogging, a terrific way to share your findings, connect with other researchers and long-lost relatives, and pass on your own research experiences. In the last episode The Footnote Maven advised us on how to get started blogging. In this episode I interview TWO more successful genealogy bloggers:
- Denise Levenick, author of The Family Curator Blog and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful,” who writes on the Footnote Maven’s Shades of the Departed blog. Denise will tell us about the origins of her Family Curator blog, and why she feels motivated to write it. And she’ll also share some of her top tech tips!
- Schelly Tallalay Dardashti, author of the Tracing the Tribe blog. She’ll tell us how she got started blogging, and what really got her hooked on it. She’ll tell us about her process for posting articles and how much time she spends blogging, and will dispel the myth that you have to be technically inclined to have a blog.
This episode is your personal genealogy blogging training with some of the best in the biz!
Denise Levenick: The Family Curator
Denise, a native Californian, has worked as an editor and journalist since publishing a neighborhood newspaper in grade school and has taught both journalism and literature in Pasadena schools for 19 years, so it’s no wonder that she took to blogging.
Here are some highlights from my conversation with Denise:
- She says that “each of us is a family curator with responsibility.”
- Use a free downloadable software program called Transcript. I found the most recent version available and described online here.
- She mentions a blog called Family Matters on the Moultrie Creek website.
- Denise mentions Evernote, free software helps thousands of genealogists keep their research organized and their sources (online and offline) at their fingertips. Want some help using Evernote for genealogy? Click here to read some of my top tips.
- She also mentioned Scribefire. (Update: Scribefire is now a web browser extension. Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/search/scribefire There is also GenScribe here: http://genscriber.com/genapps/start)
Schelly Talalay Dardashti: Jewish genealogy specialist
Schelly Talalay Dardashti has tracked her family history through Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Spain, Iran and elsewhere. A journalist, her articles on genealogy have been widely published. In addition to genealogy blogging, she speaks at Jewish and general genealogy conferences, is past president of the five-branched JFRA Israel, a Jewish genealogical association, a member of the American Jewish Press Association, and the Association of Professional Genealogists.
Highlights from the conversation with Schelly:
- “You don’t have to be a techie to blog!”
- She mentions using Feedburner for headline animation. Feedburner was bought by Google; learn more about headline animation from Google here.
- Schedule blog posts in advance for your convenience.
- Got Jewish DNA? She recommends testing through Family Tree DNA because they have a critical mass of Jewish DNA samples already in their system.
- Genealogy conference recommendation: The Southern California Genealogy Jamboree.