Admit it. You return again and again to the popular genealogy Web sites – FamilySearch, USGenWeb, RootsWeb and others – looking for clues about your ancestors. If you’re repeating the same searches but not finding much, it’s time to give your technique an overhaul.
We’ve taken a fresh look at seven familiar sites, examined their search options, and even figured out how to use Google <google.com> to probe them more efficiently. So get out of that rut – and finally find your ancestors – with these “hacks” for effectively mining the Internet’s most-frequented family history stops.
It’s a myth that Ellis Island officials purposefully changed immigrants’ names. The volunteer record transcribers may have made occasional mistakes, though, or had trouble interpreting handwritten records. So finding your relatives might require-some creative searching methods, such as:
Try the Advanced Search. Ellis Island’s basic search options include first and lastnames and an approximate year of birth. If you’re looking for a common name, select Advanced Search from the Passenger Search pull-down menu to access additional search options, such as similar-sounding names, year of arrival, town of origin and ethnicity.
Use Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step tools. At <stevemorse.org>, you can choose from two One-Step search forms — Gold and White — to sort through the Ellis Island database more efficiently. The White Form, which uses Ellis Island’s search engine, lets you look for up to 30 alternate surname spellings at once: Just select the Sounds Like (Many) option.
The Gold Form offers the most search flexibility, and because it uses a different search engine from the Ellis Island site’s, it retrieves results faster when you do searches with partial or no names. To search for every passenger from a particular place, leave the name fields blank and specify the town name. You also can do a more-precise Soundex search: Instead of using standard American Soundex codes with one letter and three digits, Morse’s Gold Form uses the six-digit Daitch-Mokot off Soundex system. (Find more hints for using Morse’s One-Step tools to trace immigrant ancestors in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine.)