Genealogy research can take a long time. For most genealogists, that’s ok. Genealogists who have a limited amount of time to work on research could benefit from a little help. Google Alerts can be the helper you always wanted.
Google Alerts are “customized, automated Google keyword searches”. When you create a Google Alert, you are making use of a “set it and forget it” type of research tool. Results could come back while you are doing other things! It will let you know when it has found something that you asked it to look for.
The first thing you need to do is go to Google Alerts and sign into your Google account. If you have an gmail email address – then you already have a Google Alerts account waiting for you to start using it. Those who do not use gmail might need to quickly make an email account there in order to use Google Alerts.
Next, you need to tell Google Alerts what you want it to search the internet for. Click the pencil icon to get started. Type in a term you want to have it search for. That term could be an ancestor’s first and last name, the town he or she grew up in, or the cemetery the person is buried in. Make one alert for each search term. Don’t put them all together into one!
The next step is to click on the gear icon. It gives you a choice about how you want Google to let you know when it has found something that matches one or more of your search terms. You select a time of day when you want to be sent the alerts. Or, you can choose to receive all alerts in a single email. Google will send the alerts to your gmail account.
Did you make a mistake with one of the search terms you selected? It is possible to get rid of that search term by clicking on the trash can icon next to it. You can change the terms you want Google Alerts to search for at any time.
When Google Alerts finds something that matches what you told it to look for, it will let you know via an email. The best thing about Google Alerts is that it searches for new information that matches the things you set it up to search for.
It’s not going to give you old stuff (that you may have already been aware of). Be aware that Google Alerts is a long-term research strategy, and that it may be a while before it finds something relevant to your search terms.
Image by John Loo on Flickr.
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