Tutorial: Searching the Web With Mocavo

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

Type an ancestral name, place or type of document into Google, and you’re guaranteed to get millions of hits. For most purposes, that’s not a problem–but for genealogists, it means wading through pages of search results, trying to find matches that relate to their families.

A new-on-the-scene search engine, Mocavo, aims to solve that problem. It’s genealogy-specific and blazing fast, and it searches tens of thousands of websites such as forums, blogs, state archives, Find A Grave, the Library of Congress, Internet Archive and the National Archives.

You’ll still get a lot of hits using Mocavo, but they’ll relate directly to family history. A Google search for “Miles Dimmitt” generates 1,300 results, while Mocavo finds just 70–all genealogy-focused. Running a search with built-in “genealogy filters” is particularly great if you have a common surname or one that doubles as a common word (such as Hill or White).

Mocavo even lets you upload a family tree via Facebook (webmasters were considering non-Facebook methods at press time), then matches results from across the web to your tree data.

Although Mocavo works a lot like Google in terms of simple and advanced web searching, there are a few tricks to utilizing this tool to its fullest extent. Here are our favorites:
1. When you get to the Mocavo home page, don’t be misled by the simple look. Follow the site’s hint to enclose names in quotation marks for better search results. Don’t worry that using quotes will result in missed matches for web pages where the name contains a middle name or initial: Mocavo is smart enough to find the name even with another word or letter between the first name and surname. It also will find names that appear in reversed order, with the last name first.


2. Click Search. As you can see from this example, Mocavo pulls results from websites such as Find A Grave and the message boards (but not’s subscription content).


3. Click on a result to open the new page within a frame on Mocavo. This means you don’t have to go back and forth from search results pages to Mocavo. You can initiate a new Mocavo search from the box in the top frame. To leave the Mocavo frame and stay on the message board, click Close at the top.


4. By default, Mocavo searches for all the words you type in the search box. But if you get too many results, you can use the minus sign (-) to exclude the word or phrase following it from your search results. This search returns pages with the name Miles Dimmit and the word Indiana, but not Missouri. My results narrowed to a mere 19. If you get too few results, experiment with removing the minus sign or omitting a different word.


5. Sometimes a search returns dozens (or hundreds) of results from the same website. If you’ve already searched that site, you’ll waste time perusing all the results again. Just as you used the minus sign to exclude words from your search, you can also use it to exclude results from specific websites. Using the minus sign with the URL of the message boards, for example, eliminates the message board matches from my results.


6. Still need to filter out some results? Add a birth, death or marriage year to the search box. This could return a page that’s relevant to your ancestor, not someone else with the same name.

From the November 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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