Check Out Our Genealogy Blog »

Get the Most from a Google Search

Google (1)How many times have you put in a key word to search on Google and come up with thousands of selections and after going through 500 plus links you finally come across what you needed?  Countless times I’m sure, but there are a few tips to help you narrow down the search.

A reminder is that you need to decide what type of information you are seeking.  For instance, if you are looking for an image, then start with the Google section titled “Images”. Other sections include maps, videos, books, patents and places, which are under the ‘more’ category. The main search is the ‘web’ which covers every type of content you could possibly look for in a search.  Starting with that part would yield too many results.

If you attempting to locate something on a certain individual, place their name in quote marks “John Smith”, but be willing to try different variations of the person’s name.  There could be “Jon Smith”, “Johnny Smith“, “John E. Smith”, John Edward Smith” or “John Smythe”.  To really help narrow the results place the name in the quote marks then a plus sign + and the keyword genealogy. Another good method is to place the ancestor’s name then the colon mark : no space then the word ‘genealogy‘, such as Joseph Harrison:genealogy. This really helps push anything related to family history and your ancestor up near the top of the search. Or another method is place the name in quote marks then plus sign and then in quote marks the hometown name.

Another name tip is to reverse the name. Write the surname then a comma and the given name or names in the search box.  If you know a married couple’s full names, especially the wife’s maiden name, place the husband’s surname first, then his given name and add the wife’s maiden name.  A whole wealth of information can come out of that combination.

Birth information or marriage records can be looked for by putting in the Google search the full name and the item looking for, such as; “John Smith birth” or “John Smith marriage”. Of course look for just a surname, but add these special marks, the ~ mark then in quote marks the surname and then the word family, such as; ~genealogy “Hopkins Family”.

Looking for a certain town but are unsure of the county then place a dash mark between the town and the two-letter state initials.  If would be written Tallahassee-FL.  Looking for something special about a hometown, try any postcards that might be online. In the images search box place; “Manchester, MD” postcards and many will result representing different time periods.

Especially with more common names it helps to narrow the search based on time periods.  So if your ancestor lived approximately from 1824 and 1900, then put in their given and last name then the plus sign and the time frame with period dots in between such as;  Walter Murphy + 1824..1900.

If you believe an ancestor was part of a certain war, government position, military group, etc. then place their name then plus sign and that particular event. In the search box place it like;

Milton Newman + post office.


Experience with these tips and the ancestors’ names and hometowns.  I have come up with some surprising results, information I didn’t know even existed just by trying different searches.

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.