If you have family surnames that are quite common (Smith, Jones, Johnson, Williams, etc) you need to add some keywords to help in the search. Place the given name with the surname in quote marks such as “Henry W. Jones”, but add with it the spouse’s name such as “Henry W. Jones” “Sarah Jones”, or better yet, add the spouse’s maiden name; “Henry W. Jones” “Sarah Ferguson”. Now you have narrowed it down especially using a little less common name, the spouse’s maiden name.
Another technique using keywords is placing the ancestor’s name in quotes and now add a location (a hometown, county or state). So you could have “Henry W. Jones” Rhode Island. Now these keywords methods can be used for any database search or the broad Google search. Remember to also use the Google books search. Many family ancestors have been located in the depths of a vintage book.
Dates will help narrow a search also. Place the ancestor’s name or a hometown name followed by a date range 1900..1940 (note no spaces just two dots).
Most the searches using Google are centered around people, places in the United States. Yet, Google runs search engines for most nations, and you’ll get slightly different results using them. The United Kingdom site, for example, is <www.google.co.uk>. To find these “native” sites like Ireland, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and many other, search the regular U.S. Google site placing ‘google [name of country]’.
A big must is to always cover all spelling variations or possible typos in your ancestors’ names. Use an asterisk (*) to search different given or surname variations. For Richardson you could search Ric*ards*n to show other spellings such as Rickardsen. Keep in mind your ancestor may have never spelled their name that way but a clerk or transcriber got it wrong.
In doing census databases and you have had no luck, try this. In the search place the hometown, county and state. Then search just the given name. If the hometown is good size in population, add a birth year or lived in time frame. Yes, if it is William, there may be quite a few, but there has been many a successful search looking just for the given name, no surname searched.
Search siblings, aunts and uncles of your direct lineage. This is known as ‘sideways search‘. You be amazed how your direct lineage relatives could be living in the same household or as a neighbor to other relatives.
So just a few ideas to assist in your research.
Photos: Natchez, Mississippi around 1900; 1860 Vermont census; Dix Brothers in 1890s and the Spice family in 1890.
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