Saturday, October 11, 2014

Searching Google for Genealogy Information

Someone recently asked me if I use Google to search for genealogy information. Well, yes, I do.

In my role as an academic librarian I tend to discourage my students from starting their research at Google. I don't want them to rely too heavily on their ability to discern quality resources from misinformation when they are starting out especially when they have access to quality databases right at their fingertips through my library's website.

But when I hit a roadblock in my genealogy research, yes, yes indeed I hit up "The Google." Sometimes it leads me to new information that can be helpful. Sometimes...

The problems with using a search engine for genealogy research is that one tends to get thousands of results that do not apply to your family history.

For example, many surnames are very common and I'm not talking about just the Smiths. Try a search for Harrison genealogy and you will get over 2 million hits. Put it in quotes, "Harrison genealogy" and you will still get over 38,000 hits. Good luck sifting through all of that.

Secondly, many last names have other meanings. I have been helping a friend research his Tax family history - - um, not this history of his family's taxes. Oy vey.

And then there are times when you're just not searching the way the engine is indexing the web. For example, you might look for "Harrison genealogy" but there are lots of words and phrases similar in meaning to the word genealogy like family history and ancestry.

A long time ago someone recommended this website to me, That offers all sorts of advice on constructing better Google searches.

When I search Google for genealogy information, I use what are called search operators; like those quotation marks I alluded to earlier. Commonly, I search the name of my ancestor, often in quotes, and then the word genealogy. Be mindful though that a webpage might contain your ancestor's name in directory fashion; as "Losee, Cornelius" rather than "Cornelius Losee."

When the quotes don't limit my search results to what I consider a manageable amount of hits, I sometimes preface my search with the operator allintitle: which tells Google to search for those terms just in the title of the webpage.

As you can see below sometimes the use of allintitle: combine with the use of quotes can be a little overkill and result in too few hits.

Here is a list to show you how using these operators alter my search results:
Cornelius Losee =  439,000        
allintitle: Cornelius Losee = 373
"Cornelius Losee"= 2,360
allintitle: "Cornelius Losee" = 299
"Losee, Cornelius"= 897         
allintitle: "Losee, Cornelius" = 8
Cornelius Losee genealogy = 26,700         
allintitle: Cornelius Losee genealogy = 7
"Cornelius Losee" genealogy = 1,110        
allintitle: "Cornelius Losee" genealogy = 7
"Cornelius Losee genealogy"= 4 
allintitle: "Cornelius Losee genealogy" = 1

No comments:

Post a Comment