Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Using Google to Find Common Surnames in a Genealogy Search

If you are searching for a surname that is also a common word such as Fox, Sales, Day, Park, or Green, you may have found that most of your searches bring up unwanted web pages that have nothing to do with genealogy.

Surnames that also can be first names such as James, Dennis or George have the same challenge.

Here are some tips to help find these difficult-to-find surnames using Google. These ideas work for all surnames, but are especially helpful for common word names:

  • Use Google's Personalized Search. As Google learns your preferences, it will know that you are searching for Fox the surname and not fox the animal.
  • Add ~genealogy to your query. Surprisingly, not every genealogy webpage has the word "genealogy" on the page, but using ~genealogy will find pages that use the words family history, family tree, or ancestry. A search would look like fox ~genealogy
  • Eliminate false results by telling Google NOT to give results when a particular word appears on a web page. For example, fox -animal will eliminate all web pages on which the word animal appears. You can do more than one subtraction in a search. If you have eliminated all the pages about the animal fox, but find you are now getting search results about Fox News, you can add another subtracter to your query fox -animal -news which will eliminate all web pages on which the word animal and news appear.
  • Add specifics to your query:
    • Add first name to query using quotes. Search for "John Fox"
    • Add a year range (generally birth and date death) to query. Search for "John Fox" 1800..1861
    • Add location to query. Search for "John Fox" 1800..1861 Connecticut
    • Add an additional name to query. If John Fox married Mary Wagner, search for "John Fox" "Mary Wagner" 1800..1861 Connecticut

  • Add likely keywords that will appear on a genealogy page such as family or born. The keywords family or born are words that will more than likely appear on a genealogy web page and will help limit your search results to genealogy web pages.
  • Another technique is "allintitle:" operator. This will search for the word in the title of the web page. This may capture some additional genealogy web pages about the surname usually buried deep in the search results. allintitle: fox genealogy
  • Instead of using the Google search engine, try the Google Directory. Personal Web Pages found in the Google directory come from those submitted to dmoz.org. Although the DMOZ directory is woefully out-of-date and seems to regularly purge worthy websites, you still might find a helpful surname website here.
  • Sometimes, a surname specific search engine is the only way to get results. Try the
    Surname Finder Search which searches databases by surname only.

Of course, all of these suggestions can be mixed and matched. More Google Search Tips

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