What I Have Learned About Google for Genealogists

Several of my friends have shared their insights using Google and have agreed that I can use their discoveries to share with you.

Doing a basic web search using Google, can leave potential new information about our Robert Mills search via Google Aug 2016families hidden. Start by entering a search term, a person’s name, or a URL. Some names are so common that you should add other terms to narrow the search. For example, when I put in the name “Robert Mills” (in quotes) I got about 395,000 hits, including the top listing for the man who designed the Washington Monument. However, that’s not who I want to search for. I added an additional term “1867..1932” (year range of his life) and lowered the options to about 59,000 results. Still too many. Next, I added location: Kentucky and the count went up to about 70,000 results. The difference is that the first few entries were a perfect match. I found that Ancestry.com and FindAGrave each had correct information about Robert Mills.

Let’s look at Images, the next most popular method of looking for information  (images.Google, com). When the page appeared, I clicked on “Search Tools” that shows up below the search box. I selected “Black and White” because those are the only photos Robert Mills family photo found via Google Images 21 Aug 2016available for this time period. I used the same terms used above and received the following message: “1867..1932 was dropped from your search because it is not supported for this type of search.”  Because I had a photo in my possession, seeing it in Images was not a surprise. But there were many images that didn’t match and offered confusion rather than a new discovery. I need to better understand how to search images to gain access to what I want.

Google Books (books.Google.com) is an often overlooked resource because they stopped adding books, but they have already added many books that are copyright free. book cover Russell County KY History & FamiliesTo continue using Robert Mills as an example, I need to explain that he was a farmer who lived in Pulaski or Russell Counties in Kentucky. Those delimiters should help narrow the field of appropriate books. I found nothing appropriate using Robert Mills’ name, adding “farmer” and “Russell County Kentucky.” That should not come as a surprise since he had a small farm and did not make a name for himself. To find something useful, I took off his name and found, “Russell County, Kentucky: history & families” that wasn’t a complete search, so I couldn’t look in the index to see if he or his family received any mention. Because there are other possible locations to find the book, I looked at WorldCat and found the book on FamilySearch.org. It has not been digitized, so it looks like a library lend is in my future.

Next week we’ll look at other features available in Google that include: Translate; Maps; Earth; Scholar; Docs; Drive; Blogger; and YouTube.

Try these Google tools and improve your searches.

___ All images taken from Google: I snipped the first one from a basic search; the second image is one I posted and I have a copy of the original; the third is an image from Google Books.