Not long ago I helped a friend trace her family tree. After writing down some basic information, I went online and searched the “usual suspects.” I began my search on the databases of FamilySearch at www.familysearch.com and the WorldConnect Project at worldconnect.rootsweb.com. Between the two (both freely searchable), I thought I had a good chance at finding her family, as the sites have close to 1 billion names on file.
However, because one of her family names was extremely unusual, I used an underutilized technique: I searched for the name on a non-genealogy search engine, Google at www.google.com. Eureka! The very first hit was a Web page that contained a post about her ancestor. And, after one e-mail, she discovered that the woman who had posted the note was a second cousin. Even better, the cousin has already researched a great deal of the family.
Doing a simple search on a non-genealogy search engine is not the best technique for all researchers, particularly if you are hunting for your Smith or Jones family. Plug in an unusual name, however, and the search engine can find some of the most oddball (and useful) Web references to your ancestor.
In addition, try your “unusual name” search on several search engines. Each search engine is set up differently in how it “spiders” and indexes Web pages. In addition to Google, how about spending a few minutes today searching with these engines?
• All The Web
• Northern Light
Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of two astronomy books. Her Web site is at www.ancestornews.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org