Thursday, June 28, 2007

My First Census Whack!

I've been fascinated by the game of Census Whacking , and since I talk a lot on this blog about Google searches, I was curious to see if there would be anyone named Google in the census.

The search engine Google got its name from the word googol, the number 10 100, that is, the number 1 followed by one hundred zeros and was not named after any one's surname or family name.

So I was a bit surprised to find Barney Google, age 20, pop up for the first time in the 1930 census, living as a boarder with the Bachelor family in Eli, Cherry county, NE.

At the time of the 1930 census, Barney Google was also the name of the of a very popular comic strip, so popular, in fact, that a song had been written about the cartoon character.

Now, the "Barney Google" in the 1930 census was listed as 20 years old, born in Iowa, and whose parents had been born in Ireland. But this is the first Barney Google ever listed in the U.S. census of any year.

Now I know that doesn't prove that Barney Google wasn't his real name. His name certainly could have been misunderstood by the census taker. But I have to wonder if when the census taker came by the Bachelor farm in Nebraska if their boarder gave the name "Barney Google" as a joke. Or did he give the name as a way of hiding so his real identify would not be known? Or did the Bachelor family tell the census taker his name was Barney Google because they couldn't think of his real name? Did the census taker think he heard Barney Google when Barney really said something different? Did he think it was a great joke to play on the government? So many possibilities.

Which all goes to show that if you are looking for ancestors in the census, realize that people did give fake names for multiple reasons making them almost impossible to trace today. People had their names mis-recorded. I'd love to know the story behind Barney Google in the 1930 census.

So if you are looking for a 20 year old farm laborer born in Iowa about 1910, who was probably either in hiding or had a sense of humor or whose name might have sounded like Barney Google to the census taker, whose parents were born in Ireland, check out "Barney Google" in Eli, Nebraska.

oh, yeah. And don't believe everything you read in the census.

No mention in the census whether or not he has goo-goo-goo-ga-ly eyes. Revolutionary War Records Free for the Month of July

Search Military Records - Fold3

Fold3 (formerly has now officially launched and is making available Revolutionary War Records free until the end of July, 2007.

June 28, 2007 06:15 AM Announces Official Launch of the Company and Reveals First-Hand Accounts of the Birth of America
Today announced the official launch of the company and its Web 2.0 historical social networking site.

As part of the launch, Fold3 (formerly is making a significant portion of their millions of original Revolutionary War Records available for free from today until the end of July, 2007.
This is a great opportunity to get free access to's Revolutionary War documents.

For better search results at the Footnote website, read Searching the Web Site and Examining a Revolutionary Pension File at

UPDATE: The databases that are free are:

  • Papers of the Continental Congress - Papers of the Continental Congress (The National Archives): NARA M247. The correspondence, journals, committee reports, and records of the Continental Congress (1774-1789).
  • Misc. Papers of the Continental Congress - Miscellaneous Papers of the Continental Congress(The National Archives): NARA M332. These documents were misplaced, overlooked, or found in private hands when the records of the Papers of the Continental Congress were first arranged in 1834.
  • Constitutional Convention Records - Records from the Constitutional Convention of 1787(The National Archives): NARA M866. Journals of proceedings, early drafts, and other papers relating to the formation of the U.S. Constitution.

Searching the Web Site

Search Military Records - Fold3

Fold3 (formerly 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.

    "Thomas County"

  • 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.
When you search, you will see your search terms highlighted in yellow in the search results. I was a little perplexed to see some results WITHOUT any highlighting, but when I took a closer look at the record, I saw that the result had a soundex spelling for the surname I entered. Officially, Footnote says that it does not do a soundex search, but to me it looks like it does. However, I see no way to turn off the soundex search if you should choose to. Even if you are not a subscriber, you might want to take a look at Footnote. Search results show a thumbnail size of the image for free and in many cases, this is quite readable. The free search results also provide image information such as name and year. Footnote also has free databases such as the Pennsylvania Archives. If you find something you want to investigate further, Start Your Free Trial with .

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Search for Photos by Color with Picasa

I have a lot of photos and images stored on my computer and although I like to think I have them organized, sometimes I still can't find what I am looking for.

Today I was looking for some images of trees I knew I had, but couldn't remember where on my computer I had put them. I tend to remember what a photo looks like, but I don't always remember what I named the folder, nor where the folder is.

So I opened Picasa, a free photo organizer/editor from Google. When looking for a photo, Picasa allows you to search for photos "by color". Type in color: [color name] into the Picasa search box and Picasa will show all photos on my computer that contain that color. Here is the example below using the color green that I used to find my tree icons. Once I searched by color, it only took a few seconds to find the trees.


If you like the idea of being able to search for photos and images by color to find your photos, you can get Picasa as part of the free Google Pack. You can also use Picasa to Crop, sharpen, make pictures pop.

I seem to have a better memory for color than I do for names, so I find this trick very helpful. Search for any color in this list:

  • green
  • red
  • blue
  • gray
  • yellow
  • orange
  • purple
  • pink
  • black
  • white
I wish sepia were a color choice, but other than that, the list of colors seems to work pretty well.

The filtering is applied as you type, so as you enter color:b, you'll see pictures that contain both black and blue areas. It isn't until you type color:black that you will see only photos that contain the color black.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tagged as a Thinking Blog

Randy Seaver of Genea Musings has just tagged the Ancestor Search blog as a Thinking Blog and I must say I’m flattered. He likes the Google related articles he finds here, so I think it is actually the smart people at Google who keep him thinking and not me.

My task now is to select more bloggers who make me think (without duplicating blogs that have already been chosen), so here are my choices:

The 48th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry - An On-Line Journal Dedicated to the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment of the Civil War. John David Hoptak, Park Ranger at the Antietam National Battlefield, writes about the Civil War regiment of my ancestors. He makes me think about what life must have been like for those soldiers/miners best known for their digging of the Petersburg Mine in June-July 1864 before the Battle of the Crater.

Paul Allen, the Lesser - Paul Allen, one of the original founders of although no longer with the company, writes about the future of the Internet and makes me think about what the web could be in time.

OliveTree Genealogy Blog - Lorine McGinnis Schulze publishes news about passenger lists and passengers list recreations which makes me think about all those who immigrated to the U.S. , their sacrifices and their difficulties.

24/7 Family History Circle - The Family History Circle Blog is published by, but it isn't just about Ancestry. It is chock full of useful genealogy ideas, tips, and research help written by the pros. It certainly makes me think about all the things I still need to do as I work on my family tree.

Here are the rules to be followed:
  • If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to blogs that make you think, tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking!
  • The origin of the meme, is at The Thinking Blogger.
  • Display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Thanks, Randy, for choosing Ancestor Search as one of your five thinking blogs.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Google Translation Dictionary

I spend a lot of time searching the "foreign web" researching my genealogy. I've recently written about the new Google Search Translation where I can conduct, in English, full searches of content written in other languages and yet read my search results and the resulting web pages in English.

Google has continued to expand its Translation services by adding a Translation Dictionary to its Translation page. Now there are 3 tabs on the Google Translate page.

  • Text and Web - The original translate page where you can enter a word into the translate box or an URL for the whole web page translation.

  • Search Results - Translates Google search results and resulting web pages.

  • Dictionary - Translates a word or phrase and gives its multiple meanings with related phrases

There are two major differences that I see between the original Google Translate and the new Google Translate Dictionary.

  • If a word has multiple meanings, the dictionary will show the each of the word meanings whereas the original Google Translate will choose only one meaning. This leads to some of the weird and convoluted Google translations we have all seen.

  • The Google Dictionary will show related phrases to show how the word is used.
Here is Google Translate Dictionary for the word family where Google only shows one meaning:

Here is Google Translate Dictionary for the word relationships where Google finds two meanings:

The Google Translate Dictionary is still in Beta and I've gotten some unusual results from the dictionary. For example, when I looked for the English to French for the word genealogy , the Google Translate Dictionary said that no translation could be found.

Also, the Translate Dictionary does not use the Google spellchecker to remind you of spelling problems. I was surprised that Google Translate didn't find a translation for a word I entered, but closer scrutiny showed it was because I entered a typo and not that the dictionary was missing my word.

At this time translations are available between English and French, German, Italian, Korean and Spanish.

Genealogy Google Search Ideas

Learn more Google tips and tricks for searching your ancestors.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 DNA testing

The newest genealogy partnership was announced June 18th between The Generations Network and Sorenson Genomics' ancestral DNA testing. The press release promises that family history will be revolutionized by allowing people to trace their roots and connect to distant cousins through DNA.

However, the press release doesn't give any details about the type of DNA tests that will be available through

It is my father's line that I am interested in investigating by DNA. His paternal line is filled with dead ends, brick walls, and family relationships I haven't been able to put together by records available.

For my father's line, I would need a Y chromosome DNA test done by testing a known male member of my biological family against the potential relatives. Uh-oh. It looks like this will be impossible for me since my father has died and I do not have a brother. I do have a grandson through my daughter, but from what I read, the YDNA test would do his only his paternal line, not mine.

There is another DNA testing method which utilizes the mother who passes her mtDNA to both male and female offspring. A match between the mtDNA of a male potential relative and your mtDNA would mean there is a common female ancestor. A male's mtDNA comes only from his mother and is not passed on to his offspring, so it looks like the mtDNA will only do my maternal line.

I will have to do some more research to see if there is a way DNA testing can help me with my father's line and the press release did not announce the type of testing it will make available. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Google Operator "+" (It's Not What You May Think)

Google has several operators which can give better search results and are simple to use once you understand how they work.

+ Use a plus sign before words that you want to appear in your search results with no variation of the word.

Google searches for all of your words, whether or not you put a “+” before them. I have seen people enter +search +words +like +this +into +Google, with a + before every keyword, but it is not necessary.

So when do you use the "+" operator? Use the "+" operator when you want the search word to appear in the results with no stemming; that is, no variation of the word. Google uses stemming technology so that it will search not only for your search terms, but also for words that are similar to some or all of those terms.

If you are searching for the surname Powers and do not want the words Power or Powered to appear in your search results, then search for +Powers. If you are searching for Kathi, and do not want results that for Kathy or Cathy or Cathi, then search for +Kathi. If you are searching for the surname Church and do not want results that contain the word Churches, search for +Church.




I usually do a search without the "+" operator to start but if I see that I am receiving results with unwanted stemmed words, I'll redo the search using the "+" operator.

Notice that there is no space between the + and the keyword. Be sure to try the Easy Google Genealogy Searcher which puts advanced Google features on one page with suggested keywords and advice about how each feature is useful for genealogy searches.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Timeline Search by Google

Ever since I saw Google's new timeline search in its experimental labs, I thought genealogy would be the perfect application for its use.

The timeline search is available to use now even though Google says it is not quite ready for primetime. To see how the timeline works, use the command thomas jefferson view:timeline and get the results Thomas Jefferson .

But I wondered how it would work for genealogy.

Usually when I do a genealogy time line, it is because I want to display my family history against a setting of historical milestones. Many genealogy programs such as Family Tree Maker will already do timelines for broad world events such as World War I or World War II.

But I was thinking that perhaps the Google timeline will allow me to put the life of my ancestor in a context of more personal historical milestones, such as his regiment in the Civil War, the company he worked for, or the town he lived in.

I started with an ancestor's regiment in the Civil War using this command
48th regiment pennsylvania civil war view:timeline

and got a timeline of the company's activities pulled from various websites. This timeline gives a good visualization of the regiment during the Civil War.

I wondered if the Google timeline search could give some historical background to important life events in my ancestors' lifetimes. For example, my Irish great-grandfather moved from Pottsville, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia in the late 1870's to start a new job with Baldwin Locomotive Works. What was going on in both places during these times? Well, a timeline search for
pottsville pennsylvania view:timeline

shows that the 1870's was a time of the Molly Maguires in Pottsville, unions vs. industrialists - a time when some in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a fraternal and peaceful organization of Irishmen, were being accused of being a Molly Maguire who were charged, unjustly some say, of murders, brutal assaults, robberies, arson, and sabotage.

And a time line search for
baldwin locomotive works view:timeline

shows the the 1870's was a time of great growth and expansion for the locomotive company. So, Google timeline has given me historical context for my ancestor's move and makes it visually easy to see why my Irish great-grandfather probably left Pottsville for Philadelphia.

Google timeline works best with searches related to people, companies, events and places. It is interesting to put the life of ancestor in a context of personal historical milestones.

For more Google Search Tips, go to Google Genealogy Search Tips.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Hurricane Season is Here. Is your Genealogy Data Protected?

What does June 1st mean to you? To me it signifies the beginning of hurricane season. And this year is predicted to be a doozy.

I've lived through nine hurricanes in the last few years, so I know the drill. We are warned to have bottled water, food that doesn't need refrigeration, a battery-powered radio and extra batteries.

But what I really have been thinking about recently is all my irreplaceable genealogy data - my genealogy files and all my scanned photos and documents. I have the Maxtor OneTouch Mini External Hard Drive which backs up my files every night. That gives me great piece of mind if my computer should fail, but I realize it won't help if we are hit by a hurricane. It sits right behind my computer, so if the room with my computer is damaged, the backup drive will be damaged also.

I have backup CDs of my genealogy that I keep in the bank safe deposit box, but I have seen on TV some banks vaults that have been flooded after hurricanes. I've sent CDs to other family members but they live in hurricane areas also.

So, the question is what can I do to make sure I don't lose my genealogy data if we should be hit by a hurricane?

Today, I'm going to take a look at Mozy. It gives 2GB of storage for free where I can upload my photos and files. I haven't tried it yet, so I can't give it a review, but I figure June 1, the first day of hurricane season, is the appropriate day to sign up and give it a try.