13 Surname Web Search Tips
9/25/2009

Use the Web—don't get lost in it—with these 13 lucky surname-searching strategies and sites for finding your family names online.

Getting Personal
The quickest way to locate surname sites is to use one of the major nongenealogy search engines such as Google or AltaVista. Yes, you'll get thousands of hits if you have a common surname (Smith genealogy turns up 282,000), but the top half-dozen or so will probably be relevant. I did a quick run-through on Google for Faulkenberry genealogy and got a manageable 501 results. Wouldn't you know it, one of them actually had land records relating to my third-great-grandfather.

These sites will lead you to more online surnames:

  • Cyndi's List: From Cyndi Howells' invaluable home page, scroll down to the Personal Home Pages category. Then click on the letter of the alphabet for your surname. If you don't find any pages with your name, that doesn't mean it isn't there. Unfortunately, Cyndi's Personal Home Pages are listed alphabetically by the name of the Web page, not necessarily the surname. So if someone named a Web page "Genealogy of the Rutherford Family," that site will be listed with the G pages, not the Rs.

You can work around this problem by going to the top of Cyndi's main page, clicking Search Cyndi's List, and entering your surname. This technique will also help you pick up surnames that are listed as allied families but are not the main surname on a Web site. For example, the "Law, Bruce, French, Parks, Rogers and Hollister" lines are listed under a Taggart page. But Cyndi's on-site search engine will find them.

  • Genealogy Resources on the Internet: You can search for surnames on this site either alphabetically or using the on-site search engine. If you opt for the search engine, it will return any occurrence of the surname, including personal Web sites and surname-specific mailing lists.

  • FamilySearch's Search Family History Web Sites: Although you've probably used the FamilySearch site to explore the Ancestral File or International Genealogical Index (IGI), the site also has links to thousands of personal Web pages. From the main page, click Search, then Search Family History Web Sites. You can narrow your search by Place, Category and Web Site Language, or you can search just sites in the Surname or Surname Association category.

  • Gengateway: This is a portal site to thousands of surname-related Web sites. It contains more than 200,000 listings and 90,000 different surnames. In all, the number of surnames found within entries on the site totals more than 500,000. After entering your surname in the search box, a results page is generated with links to personal Web pages, surname bulletin boards and researchers. The Gengateway site also contains its own searchable query forum.

  • Genealogy.com: The folks best known for selling Family Tree Maker software also host a virtual online community for users' personal Web pages. The pages are searchable by surname or keyword. Enter your search terms and the system will pull out all of the family home pages with that name. Don't panic if the search results number in the thousands: A search of Hume returned 4,302 matching documents, but on close examination, several of the hits were generated from the same Web site.

Web Rings
If you have a Web site, you may have fun joining a WebRing—a loosely knit confederation of sites that contain similar content. There are WebRings for just about every interest, including cats, science fiction, antique lamps and genealogy, even for surnames.

The idea behind WebRings is that they make it easy for Web surfers to find similar sites by clicking from one member in a WebRing to another. The "ring" concept refers to the fact that if you visit every member site, you'll end up back where you started.

The big player in offering WebRings is, appropriately enough, WebRing! You can join one of its existing rings (there are more than 300 dedicated to surnames) or create your own. Joining or creating a WebRing is free and easy to set up.

To create a WebRing, you need to sign up for an ID (it's free). Next, name your ring and describe it ("The Macbeth Family WebRing, dedicated to sites researching the history and genealogy of the Macbeth Family"). You'll be asked to categorize your ring, which in this case would be under Family/Genealogy/Lineages and Surnames. After adding the address (URL) of your site, your ring will be activated. To remain active, the ring must contain at least three Web sites.

At this point, you can send an invitation to Webmasters of other related sites to join your ring. You'll also be given the code to place on your Web site. The code produces a box that identifies your site as belonging to the ring, and contains navigation arrows to visit other sites in the ring.

As RingMaster you can edit the ring's logo, change the color scheme, e-mail everyone in your ring, and view ring statistics. Creating your own WebRing can help you develop a surname- specific virtual community.

Look here for other genealogy WebRings.

More online surname resources:
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