How to Use Genealogy Search Engine Mocavo

By David A. Fryxell Premium

If you conduct any family research online—which, at this point, the vast majority of modern genealogists do—you’re probably familiar with Mocavo, which bills itself as “the world’s largest genealogy search engine.” Like Google for genealogy, it searches sites containing more than 6 billion indexed names. Unlike Google, though, Mocavo focuses strictly on sites with genealogy information. That means a search for your ancestor James Rollins won’t also turn up search results for unwanted books by the contemporary thriller author of the same name. Mocavo also offers its own specialized collections of digitized books, most notably 3.5 million yearbook pages, as well as family trees and documents uploaded by its users.

If you have yet to join those users sharing trees and other content online, however, you’re not making the most of Mocavo. For publishing your own material on Mocavo, you may want to invest in a Plus membership at $59.95 a year. Although Mocavo’s free Basic option lets you upload a tree and add digitized documents, it limits your search power as well as the bells and whistles you get when you add content. Here’s how to go beyond searching with Mocavo, and make the most of the site by uploading genealogy research materials.

1. Once you’ve signed up, getting your family tree onto Mocavo takes only a few clicks. Start by clicking the Upload button in the left-hand menu bar. You’ll get options to upload a tree, document or database. Select Upload a Tree and you’ll see three new choices: You can upload a file straight from your desktop, import a tree you’ve previously uploaded or created on the Geni website, or use Dropbox to upload large files. (You’ll need to have a free Dropbox account for this to work; the app will create a folder in your Dropbox named Mocavo accepts a long list of file formats for uploading family trees:

• Family Tree Builder, up to 6 (FTB)
• Family Tree Legends, up to 5 (FTL)
• Family Tree Maker, up to version 2012 (FTW, FBK, FTM and FTMB)
• Family Tree Maker for Mac, up to version 2 (FTMM, FTMD)
• GenoPro (GNO)
• Gramps (GRAMPS)
• MacFamilyTree (MFTPKG)
• Legacy Family Tree, up to 7.5 (LEG, FDB)
• Personal Ancestral File, up to 5.0 (PAF)
• Reunion 10 (FAMILYFILE)
• RootsMagic, up to 5 (RMGC)

Nonetheless, your safest and fastest bet may be to export a GEDCOM file—the universal file format for family
trees—from whatever program you employ and just upload that to Mocavo. Mocavo won’t use all the extra stuff in your proprietary tree format, anyway, and GEDCOM files get processed immediately. Other formats have to wait in line to get posted, and they may encounter unexpected errors (we could never get a Reunion 10 file to upload successfully, for example).

Note, too, that Mocavo says it will automatically remove living people for privacy reasons by sharing only records that include a death date or a birth date before 1910. Our testing didn’t entirely support this, however, so if you’re concerned, filter out living people when exporting your GEDCOM.

2. Mocavo’s recent updates have improved the look and editing capabilities of family trees. Click on an ancestor and you’ll see buttons to edit the person’s information and life events (here you also can add research notes and upload a profile photo), view his or her pedigree, and view and edit the person’s profile (where you also can upload scanned documents). You also can save a duplicate of your tree, useful if you want a working copy.

3. Another button you’ll see when you click on an ancestor lets you search Mocavo for that person with just one click. Results will include content on Mocavo as well as matches Mocavo finds on the web. Options on the right let you grade the match.

4. Plus members can click a Save As Discovery Alert button to automate the search and get emails when matching content is added to Mocavo. To manage Discovery Alerts, click the Alerts link in the left menu. Here you can see a list of your family tree individuals with their associated alerts. Another Plus benefit: Once your tree is online, Mocavo will scour for Smart Tree suggested matches in others’ trees. To let other Mocavo searchers find your family members, go to Trees>Edit and check the box “Include Tree in Search” (it’s unchecked, keeping your info private, by default).

Trees aren’t all you can upload to Mocavo, which does all the dirty work of making them searchable—by you and others. Uploading to Mocavo is also a handy way to store your family history finds in the cloud.

Use the Upload button to send documents, photos and databases (essentially, documents that Mocavo doesn’t have to scan for optical character recognition, or OCR). You can then access these under Account>Documents. Mocavo will automatically scan and OCR any documents that contain text, and it’s smart enough not to try with family photos. Not to worry, you keep full ownership of anything uploaded.

5. Mocavo also has a free mobile app for iOS or Android that lets you access your uploaded documents on the go. Pictures you take can be sent straight to Mocavo with the app, too. And searches on the app are saved for later study on your computer.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to “the world’s largest genealogy search engine” than just searching.

From the May/June 2013 Family Tree Magazine