Fold3 (formerly Footnote.com) is a relatively new commercial genealogy site where you can download original documents from NARA. I have talked about how I found at Footnote, to my complete surprise, the case files that show my grandfather had been investigated by Bureau of Investigation during the anti-German hysteria of World War I.
Footnote has a really slick graphical interface, but the site is a bit hampered by its basic search box.
The search at Footnote is much like the Google search box where all the terms are entered into one search box. It doesn't have a separate box for name, state and other fields as we are used to seeing at other sites. The problem is that is you are searching for someone whose last name is Thomas, you will also get results for someone whose first name is Thomas, or for someone who lives in Thomas County, Georgia.
I understand a better search is being written and should be available soon. So, what to do while waiting for the Footnote Search Gurus to complete a better search box? We can use some search techniques which can give somewhat better results.
The basic search on Footnote looks for records that include all the terms you put in the search box. To improve your search results at Footnote, try these techniques.
- Name Search - add an AND between names. This indicate that both words that must be in the result, but not in a particular order, otherwise the Footnote search assumes you mean OR. The AND must be in caps.
john powers - 1,530,643 results (either john or powers must appear on the page)
john AND powers - 4,818 results for (john and powers must both appear on page
- Name Search with Location - add an AND between names and location
john powers pennsylvania - 1,969,630 results (either john or powers or pennsylvania must appear on the page)
john AND powers AND pennsylvania - 1,589 results (john and powers and pennsylvania must both appear on page
- County Search - put the county name in quotes. Do not use quotes around first and last name as they are often in different fields in the index.
- Single Letter Wild Card - Use one or more question marks ? in place of one letter to search for surname variations.
- Sorens?n = Sorenson, Sorensen
- John??n = Johnson, Johngen, Johnosn
- Multiple Letter Wild Card - Use an asterisk * in place of one or more letters to search for surname variations.
- Johns*n = Johnson, Johnsen, Johnston, Johnsston
- Search Within a Specific Title - Limit your search to a specific database:
- The Original Documents page or on the search results page you will find a blue search box that includes a pull-down menu for selecting the title you would like to search within.
- The Browse screen, browse to the title (or subsection of a title) you're interested in and then use the brown "Search within" box at the bottom of the page to search. You can also use the advanced search controls described above when searching within a title or part of a title.