Cyber Solutions: Free Advice

Cyber Solutions: Free Advice

How do I weed out irrelevant results from my Internet searches?

Q. I’m researching the surname Free, and when I type it into search engines, many results are for the word free (no cost). Any tips for weeding out irrelevant responses?

A. Plenty of surnames double as common English words — Grant, Hall and White, to name a few more. Such names may complicate searching, but you can target the most relevant matches with a few tricks: Search on a phrase with the last name plus family or genealogy. You might enter “Grant family” or “Hall genealogy” (using quotation marks to find the words as an exact phrase). Try searching on a first and last name, too (“Jonathan Hall”). Experiment with the placement of the surname (“George W. White” vs. “White George W”), as well as middle names and initials — you can even try using just an initial for the first name (“Jarvis A. Grant” and “J. A. Grant”). If the person’s name is common, add another search term, such as a town, county or state (“George W. White” Oxford), an occupation (“George W. White” artist) or the person’s spouse (“William White” “Ruth Green”), to focus on the right family.

Web directories are especially useful for ferreting out genealogy sites and pages related to surnames like these. LinkPendium <www.linkpendium.com>, for instance, catalogs more than 5 million online surname resources, including 33 sites for the surname Free. The Surnames section of Cyndi’s List <cyndislist.com/surn-gen.htrn> also links to many surname sites. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the first letter of the name.

From the September 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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