How to Use Google Photos for Beginners

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 23 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: September 3, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

Google Photos for Beginners

Today’s Topic: Google Photos for Beginners

Have you thought about using Google Photos but just weren’t sure how it worked or where to start? This video webinar will answer your questions and give you the confidence to use it effectively. In this introductory tour to Google Photos we will answer the questions:

  • What is Google Photos?
  • Is Google Photos private?
  • What features do I get with Google Photos?
  • How does Google Photos storage work? (Is Google Photos free?)
  • How do I start using Google Photos?
  • How do I upload my photos and videos?
  • How to search and retrieve photos and videos in Google Photos
  • How would Google Photos benefit genealogists, archivists and others?

Watch the video and follow along here with the show notes. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can download a PDF handout of these notes in the Resources section below.

What is Google Photos?

Google Photos is a free Cloud-based photo and video sharing and storage service. You can use the website on your computer and download the Google Photos app to all of your mobile devices.

How to Get Started Using Google Photos

Visit the website, and download the mobile app.

  • Website: https://photos.google.com/
  • Mobile: Search in your app store for the Google Photos app and download.
    (May appear and behave differently on iPhone, Android, or Google Pixel phone, etc.)

Log in to each device with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, you can set it up for free. You will use this same account with all Google tools and products.

  1. Sign up for a free Google account.
  2. Sign into each device with this same account.
  3. Google Photos can synchronize your photos between devices.

Google Photos Privacy

It’s understandable to be concerned about the privacy of your photos and videos. Here’s what you need to know about Google Photos privacy:

  • Your photos are only available to you
  • Your account is secured by your personal password
  • Your photos are not uploaded to the Internet or searchable with Google.com
  • Read the Terms of Service

Google Photos Features

There are a wide range of great features, some of which may not be obvious at first. Google Photos features include:

  • Massive storage (allowing you the option to free up space on your devices)
  • Reliable backup
  • Powerful search and retrieval
  • Facial recognition
  • Object recognition
  • Text recognition (OCR)
  • Organization
  • Sharing and creation tools

Google Photos Storage

You have two options when it comes to your Google Photos storage plan:

  1. Free version called High Quality
  2. Low cost subscription to upgrade photo storage capacity called Original Quality.

Let’s take a closer look at these two storage plan options.

Option #1: High Quality

  • Free
  • Unlimited storage
  • Image compression (takes up less storage space)
  • Photos (Larger than 16 Megapixels (MP) resized to 16MP. Good quality prints up to 24” x 16” meet most needs)
  • Videos (If higher than 1080p then resized to HD 1080p)

Option #2: Original Quality

  • ($) Upgrade
  • No compression of photos or videos.
  • Uses the 15 GB of free storage in your Google account. This storage cap includes everything you have saved in Gmail, Google Drive, and all Google apps.
  • When you hit storage limit: Option to purchase additional storage called Google One.

Visit Google One to get all the latest information about plans and features.

High Quality versus Original Quality can be a bit confusing to remember. It may help to think of it this way:

 High Quality (FREE)
compressed but still high quality and printable.

 Original Quality ($ Storage)
Stored at original size. Larger sizes take up more storage space.

Google Photos Back Up and Storage Benefits

Considering the volume of photos and videos we take these days with our phones, and the volume of old family photos we have digitized, storage is a pressing issue. Google Photos can help because:

  • It can relieve the storage burden on your phone by giving you a place to store your photos. You can then elect to remove them from any of your devices if you wish.
  • The ability to upload, search, organize, edit and share your photos from any device.
  • If you lose or break your phone, your photos are stored on the cloud and can be accessed and downloaded again on any device that is signed into your Google account.

I strongly believe it is important to have multiple backups. So while I see Google Photos as one of my backups, all of my important photos and videos are on my computer which is backed up to the cloud. I use the Cloud backup service Backblaze and have for many years. If you decide to try them (and they usually offer a 15 day free trial here) , I do appreciate it if you use my link. We are compensated at no additional cost to you, and that helps make this free show and show notes possible.

How to Upload Photos to Google Photos

There are two ways to add photos from your computer:

  1. Click Upload at top of the page.
  2. Drag and drop photos onto the Google Photos screen.
How to upload photos to Google Photos computer desktop

Drag and drop photos into Google Photos

When using the Google Photos App on a mobile device:

  1. Tap your face in the upper right corner of the screen (your account)
  2. Tap Photo Settings
  3. Turn on Back Up & Sync.
  4. I recommend turning off Use cellular data to back up photos / videos.

Also in the Settings you will find Manage device storage. You can opt to have the original photos and videos removed from your device once they are uploaded to Google Photos. This will free up space and manage the amount of storage the app uses on your device.

How to Delete and Archive Your Photos in Google Photos:

  1. Click to select the photo or video (you can select one or multiple) on your computer or tap the photo in the app.
  2. Click / tap the trash can icon.

Searching Your Photos and Videos in Google Photos

You can search your photos and videos for:

  • People & Pets
  • Places
  • Selfies
  • Screenshots

For example, type the word Selfie into the search field and Google Photos will retrieve all of the photos that were taken as selfies.

You can also search your photos and videos for:

  • Recently added items
  • Videos (Type the word Videos into the search field)
  • Favorites
  • Names
  • Dates (Find photos based on when they were taken. For example, you can search October 2019 through December 2019.)

Facial Recognition in Google Photos

After initial set up your backup, Google Photos starts to identify and group faces that are the same.

Check your Settings to ensure the feature is activated: Settings > Group similar faces > slide the Face Grouping button to the “on” position.  It might take a few hours or a few days from your initial setup for this feature to activate. It depends on number of photos and your WiFi connection.

how to turn on facial recognition in Google Photos

Group similar faces in Google Photos

Searching for photos and videos that include certain people (faces) is very easy to do.

  1. Tap in the search box
  2. Tap a face to see all photos for that face.

You can Show and Hide Faces and include or exclude Pet Faces in the Settings.

Keep in mind that facial recognition, and object and text search aren’t (and realistically can’t be) perfect. However, it improves every day thanks to machine learning. The Google Photos of today is more accurate than when the service was first launched.

You can help train Google Photos to more accurately identify faces in photos by adding names to the faces that you know. You can also answer the questions that Google Photos poses regarding whether two faces are the same or different person.

Object Search in Google Photos

You can search for objects that appear in your photos and videos. Simply type in the word that represents the object. The example I used in this video was: Wedding Dress

Notice that this search retrieved content that included weddings and dresses. In order to narrow in on strictly content where someone is wearing a wedding dress, I put quotation marks around the phrase: “Wedding Dress”

I also searched for Typewriter. This retrieved content that featured a typewriter predominately and even when a typewriter simply appeared in the background. It also found videos where a typewriter appeared briefly.

Text Search in Google Photos

Searching for words will retrieve any photo or video in Google Photos that mention that word. There are countless uses for this as a genealogist. In the example I showed in the video, photos of tombstones can be retrieved simply by searching for the surname that appears on the tombstone. This text recognition applies to all types of text including newspaper articles, signs and more. Again, we must keep in mind that Google Photos isn’t perfect and will have difficulty reading text that is unclear.

Made For You Content in Google Photos

Google Photos creates fun projects and content using the photos and videos in your account including:

  • Photo Collages
  • Videos
  • Short Animations
  • Stylized Photos

Don’t worry, the content Google Photos creates can only be seen by you. It is not public. You decide whether to keep it, share it or delete it.

You can also easily create your own projects, including:

  • Photo Albums
  • Collages
  • Videos
  • Short Animations
  • Stylized Photos

I show an example in this session of creating a video by selecting a theme, and a face. Google Photos did the rest by retrieving and assembling the photos chronologically and adding appropriate music! You can download these projects to your computer, and share links too.

Resources

Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Premium Members: Watch the Premium Video Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases available with your Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.
From Debra H: “Your topic is so on track with me. I have been scanning old photos. What a great delight to see your Solving Unidentified Photo album Cases. It was perfect. Thanks!!”

Recommended reading: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke (chapter 10 Google Photos)

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

Live Chat Q&A with Lisa

From Gwynn: Does Google Photos have a way to share with a link?
Answer: Yes. In the video you can see how to do on a computer. On an iPhone: tap the photo, tap the Share icon, tap Share to, then tap Create link

Question: ​If you share the link on social media they can’t change it (the photo) right?
Answer: Correct. 

From Kathy: With photos in the Cloud with Google Photos, can you tell the phone’s iCloud to disregard backing up your photos since you already have them in Google Photos?
Answer: Look at Settings > General > iPhone Storage> Disable iCloud Photos

Kelli: If I delete a photo on my phone does it delete from Google photo?
Answer: It depends exactly what you mean.  If you delete the photo from your phone’s camera roll, no, it does not remove it from Google Photos. If you remove it from the Google Photos app on your phone, then yes it will remove it from Google Photos on your computer as well. 

From Retta: Can you put a PDF on google photos?
Answer: No

From John: What add-on do you use to highlight your cursor? (in the video) 
Answer: I use this software

From Kathy: ​Is this good for sharing albums with family?
Answer: Yes!

From Natalie: Is there a limit of how many photos you can put in an album?
Answer: Currently 20,000 photos and videos. 

From C: Synchronize means it downloads to all devises?
Answer: Yes, the photos and videos will be available through all of the devices in which you are signed into the same Google Photos account. 

From GeneBuds: How do I access archive?
Answer: On a computer: You’ll find Archive on the left side of the screen under Library.  On a phone: Tap Library in the menu at the bottom of the screen and then tap Archive

Sarah: Somehow I have several copies of the same photo. Will Google photos help me sort those out so I can delete duplicates?
Answer: My understand is that Google Photos can detect identical duplicate images. If you already uploaded a photo to Google Photos, it will not re-upload the same photo. It will skip uploading that photo. It may look like Google Photos is uploading the photo again, but it isn’t. It’s just running it through identical duplicate detection. 

From John: Where in Settings is “Group Similar Photos”? Does it vary by provider (like AT&T, Verizon)?
Answer: Look for Group Similar Faces in the Settings

From Cindy: So if it recognizes faces at all ages, how might you use to help see if your unknown pics are who you might think they are?
Answer: I cover this in depth in my video Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases available to those with Genealogy Gems Premium Membership. I also cover it in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. 

From Karen: What about trying to identify unknown photos of ancestors from an old album? Can you put them on a google search that goes out on the internet to see if anyone else has identified that person? In addition to my previous answer, watch the free YouTube video How to Use Google Chrome to Identify Old Photos and Images for Genealogy and Family History.

From Kelli: ​If they are on google photos only, how do you print them, say at Costco?
Answer: You can order prints from the For You section of Google Photos. Check the Costco website because I think they can coordinate with Google Photos. 

From Cathy: Can I give one person more than 1 name? Like Lucy Haley and Mother Cline?
Answer: In the same name field. You can’t assign two completely separate names. If you include both names in the field you will be able to search for either one and retrieve the photo. 

 

 

 

How to get better Google search results faster – Episode 13 Elevenses with Lisa

Episode 13 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: June 25, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

 

The first 4 minutes of the video is the “Waiting Room.” This welcomes viewers and counts down to the start of the live show.

Today’s Topic: How to get better Google search results faster.

Our Goal: Up to 90% reduction in the number of search results, and higher quality results on the first few pages.

In this session we discussed:

  1. Identifying what you already have, (the “searchables”) and
  2. using Google Tools to flesh out the details
  3. so that we can tell a richer, more complete story.

Start broad and then analyze your results to determine if you need to narrow your search by adding more details and search operators.

Reviewing your initial search results will possibly reveal alternative spellings you may want to explore.

The search operator we used in this episode was quotation marks.

Example: “Washington McClellan”

Quotation marks can be used on single words or phrases. They tell Google that:

  • all search results must include in word or phrase,
  • the words must be spelled exactly as you spelled them,
  • the words in phrases must appear in the order your typed them.

You can have multiple words and phrases in your query.

Example:  “mcalister” “harness” shop “logan utah”

If you discover an address during your searching, you can plot it in Google Earth. Search for it in the search box. Click the placemark button in the toolbar (the yellow pushpin icon) to mark the location.

(Learn more about using Google Earth in episode 12 of Elevenses with Lisa available here.)

Time Saving Tips:

  1. When reviewing large webpages, quickly find your keywords (“searchables”) by doing a Find on Page: Control (PC) or Command (Mac) + F. Type the words in the pop-up box to jump directly to them on the page.
  2. On the search results page, click Image results in the menu. This allows you to quickly spot sites with images that appear to be applicable to your search goal. Click the image to visit the site.

 

Google Genealogy

Use the quotations marks search operator in all of the free Google tools.

 

Learn More with These Resources

Book: Cooke, Lisa Louise, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Genealogy Gems Publications, print.
Video Series: Cooke, Lisa Louise, Google Earth for Genealogy digital video download series, Genealogy Gems Publications,
For a limited time use coupon code EARTH11 to get 25% off both of the resources above at the Genealogy Gems Store here.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Use code EARTH11 to get 25% off

Answers to Your Questions

Gwynn: If I have a My Google Map and pin on those will they show up on the google maps desktop version or do I have to redo them? For example, I have a map of Ohio with ancestor dates and locations.
Lisa: Google has recently added a button to the toolbar that will take you to Google Earth on Chrome. So, if you are looking at your placemark on the map and you click that button, it will open the same general location in Chrome, but currently it will not bring the placemark with it. I would not be surprised at all though if we see that functionality in the future.

Ceirra: I ​played with Google Earth from last week but couldn’t get back to even 1937???
Lisa: If you mean there were no Rumsey Maps (in the Layers panel) in a particular area, that’s not uncommon. That’s where pulling maps from other sources like the David Rumsey website can help. He has 100,000 maps digitized, searchable and downloadable that you can then use to create an overlay in Google Earth. And there are many, many other online sources for old maps. Read: The Best Way to Find Old Maps for Genealogy at the David Rumsey Website

Cynthia: If we have something from our relatives, what is the best way to put it on the internet to share with others?
Lisa: I really think posting on your own blog is the best way to share. It also provides a vehicle for being found by other researchers interested in your family when they Google. I have videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel explaining how to set up a free Blogger blog.

MargtheCar: Are quotation marks case sensitive?
Lisa: No.

Steve: ​If you had two different spellings of a name, do you run separate searches for put both spellings in one search?
Lisa: You could run this search: “washington mcclellan” OR “Washington mcclelland”

Kelli: I ordered google toolbox 3. I have the first two. Are they worth sharing – or have things changed enough that I should just toss them? Shelf space, you know :).
Lisa: They are worth sharing if you warn them may encounter some things that no longer work or have changed. Search has some of the biggest changes. The Google Earth section hasn’t changed  much since the last edition of the book.

K M Vaughan​: Can we legally use the image from the library?
Lisa: Check the website for terms of use, or contact the library for permission.

Gwynn: Lisa, what do you think of the new google books viewer, Im not a fan because I cant see the source.
Lisa: It takes getting used to, I agree! But I think the overview page is actually quite an improvement. I’m publishing a newly updated version of my class Google Books: the Tool I Use Every Day in Premium membership that features the new viewer.

Karen: Can you use – minus?
Lisa: Yes indeed. Here’s an example of combining quotation marks and minus sign in the same query:  “Richard Lincoln” -abraham – president

Robyn: I don’t find that the 1850..1880 works for me. What could I be doing wrong
Lisa: Problems could include:

  • Running the search on mobile
  • You have a space in the string – no spaces
  • There are no available results that include those numbers
  • Using more or less than 2 periods

K M Vaughan​: Can your Google tools on mobile
Lisa: Yes, all the tools (such as Google Books, Scholar, Patents, etc.) can all be used on mobile, however you may find some minor differences, and some search operators may not work.

Cynthia: ​I have been trying to find the marriage certificate of my grandmother and her 3 husband, in 1953 and cannot find anything. What can I do to marrow the search
Lisa: Without the benefit of seeing the specific situation, I would recommend focusing your search on the record collection you need rather than the names of individual ancestors. I go into detail on this strategy in the book.

Carolyn: What did you use to make the video?
Lisa: I used Camtasia which I LOVE. Stay tuned, because next week we’re going to talk about making videos and some of the my favorite free tools as well.

Doug: What tool do you use to create the entries in Google Earth for the presentation (the autoplay part)?
From Lisa: I used Camtasia. Stay tuned, because next week we’re going to talk about making videos!

Genealogy Gems Premium Member Resources:

Log into your membership here on the website. (Learn more here about Genealogy Gems Premium membership.) In the menu under Premium click Premium Videos and then click the Google topic tile. There you will find videos with downloadable handouts: 

  • The Google Search Methodology
  • 5 Google Search Secrets
Video Classes by Lisa Louise Cooke

Google Video Classes by Lisa Louise Cooke

Today’s Teacup

 Blenheim Palace Grand Cabinet china. Learn more about Blenheim Palace, the home of Winston Churchill, at the website.

Blenheim Palace

Garden-side tea time at Blenheim Palace

 

From You

The best part about teaching is when I get to hear back from you about what resonated with you, and how you used what you heard to make a wonderful discovery. Doris has been a Genealogy Gems premium member since 2015 and she wrote to say “I’m finally listening to the Elevenses series! Just watched Episode 1 and wanted to share a find.”

Doris explained how she used my tip on being sure to turn the page of passport application records to ensure you don’t miss additional pages. She made quite a discovery!

Thank you to Doris for sharing her story. I sent her the video I created and the photo that I enhanced and colorized at MyHeritage. 

Enhance and colorize your photos at MyHeritage

Enhanced and colorized old family photo – learn more here at MyHeritage.

Click here to try enhancing and colorizing photos for yourself!

Resources: 

Live Chat PDF– Click here to download the live Chat from episode 12 which includes my answers to your questions. 

Show Notes PDF – Genealogy Gems Premium Members can click here to download the show notes PDF for this episode. (Log in required.) Become a Premium Member here

I Want to Hear from You

Did you give this Google search operator a try in your genealogy searching this week? Please share your experience.  And of course I’m always interested in your questions and feedback. Please leave a comment below. This is your chance to join our community’s conversation!

 

 

 

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 241

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke

May 2020

In this episode you’ll hear about the change to Google search results, how to reunite found items with their families, and 10 strategies for finding school records for your ancestors. 

Download the episode mp3

Watch Elevenses with Lisa live on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel on Thursdays at 11:00 AM Central. After the live show you can watch the video replay at your convenience. You’ll find the show notes for Elevenses with Lisa here on the Genealogy Gems website.

Google Search Update

Watch Episode 6 which features the latest on Google search results.

New Google Message: No good results

New Google Message: “No good results.”

MAILBOX: Reuniting Family History

A while back I received an email from Tim. He writes:

“I’m getting back into genealogy in a meaningful way now that my dissertation is done and I realized that I don’t know what to do with all the ‘stuff’ I’ve taken photos of, picked up at yard sales, etc., that could be of genealogical value to someone but not me.  I’ve got yearbooks, pictures of the genealogy information inside family bibles, etc.  I used to be able to scan and submit to Mocavo for the world to use but that’s gone.  With the Rootsweb mailing lists shutting down, do you have recommendations for where I can submit these things so they benefit others?”

From Lisa:

As a matter of I do have a few recommendations for you!

These days a free blog is your own genealogy bulletin board with much greater reach than Rootsweb had. It’s a great way to get the word out about items that you have that you would like to reunite with their families.

Blogger.com (Google’s free blogging platform) is a good choice.

Video tutorials on how to set up a Blogger blog at my YouTube channel.

Also, listen to Episodes 37-40 of my Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast

New England genealogy

Free podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa’s Tips for getting your blog posts:

  • One blog post per item
  • In addition to a photo, include as much text as you can that describes the item.
  • Tag the items with surnames, record types, and locations.
  • Encourage people to email you or leave a comment to get in touch.

 

Interview with Carly Kidd-Osborn

If you have an item that you picked up along your genealogical travels that belongs to someone else’s family history, the Shrubs to Trees – A Pay-It-Forward Genealogy Facebook Group can help. Caryl Kidd-Osborn is the Administrator, and in this episode she explains how the group has helped return over 1500 items to families and how you can enlist their help.

Shrubs to Trees – A Pay-It-Forward Genealogy Facebook Group

From Caryl:  “We are almost 2 years old and in that time we have returned over 1500 “lost” memorabilia items to living family. We’ve given back photos, bronze baby shoes, sheet music that was written by someone’s family member, a marriage license and even someone’s cremains. We aren’t a very big group but we have some wonderful folks who just jump right in with researching the items. It’s a private group since we are dealing with living people. It’s very much a collaboration. Our members are genealogists who, like me, just can’t leave an antique store without taking someone else’s family home with them!”

Here are just a few examples of the precious items that the group has managed to return to grateful families:

Reunited - baby shoes

Reunited: Little Renee’s baby shoes

 

baby picture reunited with family

Reunited: A photo of Frances Payne. “Our cutest return,” says Caryl.

 

Reunited marriage certificate

Reunited: Andrew Johney and Maggie Bosley marriage license. This was found at a dump.

 

Reunited photo

Sarah Fooks Tutherly – photo went to the Historical Society in Laurel, DE. The Fooks family was a prominent family in that town, she was a DAR member.

 

Reunited Vandermaas family

Reunited: The Vandermaas family. The parents had died before the children were of that age so this is a composite of the whole family.

 

GEM: Top 10 Strategies for Finding School Records for Genealogy

Click here for the complete article on strategies for finding school records.

10 strategies for finding school records

Download the Show Notes

Download the Show Notes PDF

 

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member

Gain access to the complete Premium podcast archive of over 150 episodes and more than 50 video webinars, including Lisa Louise Cooke’s newest video The Big Picture in Little Details.  Become a member here.

Genealogy Gems premium elearning

Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

 

Follow Lisa and Genealogy Gems on Social Media:

 

Stay Up to Date with the Genealogy Gems Newsletter

The Genealogy Gems email newsletter is the best way to stay informed about what’s available with your Premium eLearning Membership. Click here to sign up today.

 

Improve Google Search Results with these Powerful Techniques

Google search expert Lisa Louise Cooke advises a genealogist on three ways to improve Google search results. See how these little improvements can make a big difference in your own Google searches!

This Genealogist Wants to Improve Google Search Results

Gene from Phoenix recently watched a free webinar in which I talked about improving Google search results for genealogy and then sent me this follow-up email:

“Lisa, I enjoyed the free webinar, Thank you!

I tried your suggestions for searching Google but still can’t get what I want.

My ancestor was Moses Fountain (possibly from NY but can only find him in IN)

I put in “Moses Fountain” 1800-1832 -Italy  -Rome  -hotel

When my search comes up the first page is all of the hotel & fountain in Rome, Italy.  There is no genealogy (all my inquiries) until page 2. I cannot -New York as he may have come from there, so I’ll continue to get Albany fountain (like the water fountain.) Thanks for any suggestions you might have.” -Gene in Phoenix, AZ

3 Powerful Techniques that can Improve Google Search Results

Kudos to Gene for jumping onto Google and giving it a go after the webinar. Getting started is the most important part of achieving genealogical success! In order to improve Google search results, Gene needs to make a few adjustments to tell Google more specifically what is wanted:

1. Use the Google search operators correctly

First, Gene will need to fix the numrange search. If you haven’t watched the webinar yet (what are you waiting for?) a numrange search is when you give Google two four-digit numbers and specify that you only want webpages included in your search results that have a four-digit number that falls within that range. And of course years are expressed in four-digit numbers, so this is incredibly useful for genealogists. Gene has a dash between the two numbers (a very logical approach since this is how we are used to expressing a range), but a numrange search requires two periods instead, like this:

Moses Fountain search numrange

2. Add a Google search term to narrow results.

Gene didn’t see genealogical search results until page 2 of the results. An easy way to bring pages related to genealogy to the forefront of the results is to add the word genealogy to your search query:

As you can see above, this improves things quite a bit. Isn’t it amazing what a difference one well-chosen keyword can make to improve Google search results?

Moses Fountain search genealogy

3. Consider carefully which Google search terms to remove

Gene removed some irrelevant search results by placing a minus sign directly in front of the search terms Italy, Rome, and hotel. This tells Google to subtract all pages from search results that contain these words. This is a very powerful tool, particularly when it comes to ancestors who have common surnames. (For instance, if you were researching an ancestor named John Lincoln, your results would be inundated with results for President Abraham Lincoln, simply due to the volume of pages that mention him. If John was not related to this famous president, you could add -Abraham and -president to your search query, and his footprints on your results would be dramatically reduced.) By the way, notice that the minus sign touches the word it is removing. There should be no space between the minus and the word.

But Gene continues to get irrelevant search results relating to a Moses Fountain in Washington Park, Albany, New York. The concern expressed here is that removing New York may inadvertently remove good search results, since this ancestor may have been from New York. Instead of removing New York, why not subtract a more targeted search term, such as Albany or Washington Park? Since it’s also possible that Moses Fountain was from Albany, I’d start by removing Washington Park.

How can you subtract a whole phrase? Put quotation marks around it so that Google understands it is a phrase and not two separate words that are unconnected. Then put a minus sign right in front of it. In Gene’s case, it would look like this:  -“Washington Park.” The resulting search results eliminate the reference to the fountain in Albany:

Improve Google search results even more dramatically

Watch this free 90-minute webinar and learn more about improving your Google searches for genealogy, along with other powerful strategies for reconstructing your family history. While you’re watching, subscribe to the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel to keep up with the many free video tutorials we publish there!

As you can imagine, I only had time to scratch the surface of how to improve your searches in the webinar. My book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox is dedicated to the topic, and I have included several in-depth Google search for genealogy video classes in Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

Wishing you many more genealogy gems!

signature

Fire, Flood or Earthquake? 5 Tips for Researching Disasters in Your Family History

We have five strategies for researching disasters for family history. They come in response to a listener email about her own “disaster-prone family.” Use these tips to learn about natural or man-made disasters, epidemics, travel accidents, and more that affected your ancestors, and very possibly more about your ancestors role in these events.

View of Eastland taken from Fire Tug in river, showing the hull resting on it’s side on the river bottom. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with full citation.

It might seem a little sad to search out disasters, epidemics, and accidents in the lives of your ancestors, but it certainly helps us see things in a different light. Genealogy Gems Editor Sunny Morton has shared recently how enthralling it has been for her to dig deeper into her ancestor’s experience of living through the Johnstown Flood. She used many of the tools I write about extensively in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (Google Books, Google Earth Pro, and even YouTube) to add an amazing amount of meat to the bones of the story.

I also recently received an inspiring letter from Natalie, a Genealogy Gems Premium Member about how researching disasters in her family history turned her into a passionate genealogist. Here’s what she said:

“Dear Lisa and Company,

I just subscribed to your Premium podcast and must say that listening to Premium Podcast episode 143 affirmed that I made an excellent decision!

I also had family members who were in the Johnstown Flood, since that’s where my family initially immigrated. My parents and I were born there and [I] have heard of stories of the Great Flood of 1889 since I can remember. There was a long-standing family story about my 2nd great-aunt, Julia Pfeiffer Rohr, being pulled out of the floodwaters by her hair.

Ironically or not, my ancestors relocated to Chicago a few years after the Johnstown Flood, only to have my maternal grandmother’s sister (who was a few months away from her 19th birthday) killed while aboard the Eastland [steamship in 1915]. Not sure why some families are ‘disaster prone’ through the generations, but ours seems to be one of those.

I learned about the Eastland Disaster as an adult when my mother’s half-sister in Chicago wrote and shared a family history with me. As a Twin Cities journalist, I published an article (click here and go to page 5) in one of the community newspapers about the disaster.

Still, at the time, I found next to nothing on the Eastland, which was both frustrating and puzzling. [Since then,] I’ve done a ton of research on the event and have written larger pieces, including a to-be published book. I didn’t intend to become an expert on a shipping disaster, but that’s what happened. Also, this marked my entrance into the amazing world of family history.”

5 Tips for Researching Disasters in Family History

Learn more about the disasters your own family experienced with these 5 tips that I shared with Natalie in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 145. Although these tips are for researching the Eastland disaster specifically, you can absolutely put them to work for you!

1. Start with Google. The world’s leading search engine, Google.com can lead to rich resources you may never find in a local library or archive. In the case of the Eastland disaster, a Google search immediately brought up a website dedicated to the event. The casualty list had everyone’s name, age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, and the cemetery in which they were buried.

2. Next, we go to Google Books, where Google takes you deeper and more specifically into historical books. Using the Eastland disaster as our criteria, the first result was a published final report by the American Red Cross’ disaster relief committee on what happened, and how the affected families were helped. Several published histories of the disaster were also listed there. These can be purchased, or you can find copies of them through inter-library loan at your local library. If you just want to see which books in the search results can be read for free, click the Tools button under the search box, and a new menu bar will pop up. Click Any books, then choose Free Google eBooks, like so:

Watch my free video tutorial on finding free e-books on Google. This video is one in a series of tech tip videos available for free at my YouTube channel. Click the Subscribe button while you’re there and you will be notified each time a new genealogy video is published.

3. Keep checking back! New things come online every moment of every day. In 2015, historical video footage about the Eastland disaster was discovered and identified in an online archive (see my blog post about that). But of course it’s impossible to rerun the same searches every day looking for new and updated material. The answer: set up a Google Alert for your search query. That way Google will do the searching for you, and you will receive an email only when Google finds new and updated items that match your search terms. Read my article on How to Set-up Google Alerts for step by step instructions on how to set up your own Google Alerts. Then read How to get the Most out of your Google Alerts for Genealogy.

4. Search YouTube separately. YouTube has several video clips of the Eastland disaster. The Chicago Tribune has wrapped that historical video clip into a short video documentary that includes additional photos their researchers discovered. You’ll also find an animation from the Eastland Disaster Historical Society that recreates what happened and how. Read chapter 14 in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition which is devoted to using YouTube for your genealogy research.

5. Explore Gendisasters.com. This site compiles information on all kinds of tragedies from the past: tornadoes, fires, floods, and buggy-related disasters are just a small sampling of what they cover. You can search by type of disaster, but if you’re not quite sure how it might be filed (like was it a drowning or a ship disaster?), then search by year or place. I looked for Eastland disaster first under ship disasters, and I saw that events are listed alphabetically by place, specifically by city in most cases. There isn’t a way to jump easily to “Chicago,” so I had to scroll through several pages, but I did find it under Chicago, IL Steamer Eastland Disaster, July 1915. Since I already knew the city and date, I could have gotten to it faster by searching under those tabs, but I sure saw just how many events are cataloged at Gendisasters.com. It’s amazing!

Avoid Disaster with the Right Tools

Google Drive and other tipsLastly, some of the disasters you are researching may have a website dedicated to it. The Eastland disaster webpage has several interesting pictures of the ship and the disaster itself. There’s a nice long narrative about the tragedy and some transcribed newspaper articles, as well.

Researching disasters for family history can be exciting and enjoyable. The world wide web is truly like a time machine. See what other ways you can use Google for genealogy in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. Effective Google searches, Google Earth, Google Alerts, and Google Translate are just the tip of the iceberg! You will become a Google guru in no time.

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU