USGenWeb Search Secrets

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

Searching the USGenWeb Archives
1. Go to the USGenWeb home page and click Project Archives, then National Search Engine. To search all states at once, click the link to Search all of US <>. Otherwise, click your state of interest. We’ll pick Kansas.
2. On the state page, you’ll see a search box and filters. To do a simple search, enter your search term (such as an ancestor’s name), then click Search. If you get too many results, experiment with the filter options. Unsure which county to search? Select the All Counties filter. Otherwise, choose one where your ancestor lived. When using Match (All or Any), note that All returns files containing every search word (though not necessarily near each other), while Any lists files containing any of your search words. Use Synonyms is supposed to pull in variations of your search terms (you search for record, and it finds records and recordings), but it doesn’t seem to work.
You can enclose a full name in quotation marks to find the exact name. Some search pages link to more search symbols at <>, but these tips don’t work: A tilde (~) in front of a search word doesn’t exclude the word from our searches, and using the percent sign (%) as a wildcard or the pipe character (|) as “or” returns results as if the % or | were a space. So you’ll want to run searches on alternate name spellings, and try, for example, “Stearns John” in addition to “John Stearns.” 
3. By default, results are ranked by relevance, although you can sort them by last modified date or title. If you selected Long as an output format in the filters, each result displays a hyperlink to the file, two-line excerpt, and date the file was created or modified. Picking Short or URL as the output format will eliminate the excerpt and date. Click each result to open a new page with the transcription.
4. You can use your web browser’s Find function (control-F on a PC; command-F on a Mac) to quickly find the name you’re looking for. At the top of the transcription, note the title and page number (or microfilm reel) of the source for the information; use this to track down the original record.

Searching the Census Image Project

Use this search to locate county-level indexes of US census records and, in some cases, a digitized image of the census form itself. (Though some census transcriptions are included in the archive search, many aren’t.)
1. Go to the main census project page <> and click a state (we picked Virginia), then look for the county you want to search. Beneath it, you’ll see the available census year(s).
2. Click the census year you want (we chose the 1870 Charlotte County census). We clicked Index for a list of names; click the year to see the image. The next page displays the census transcription, with surnames listed in alphabetical order. The amount of information varies depending on the volunteer who transcribed it, but usually includes the number for the census page where the surname is listed. You also might see the person’s age, sex and house number.

3.  If an image of the record is available, you’ll see a link at the top of the page. Select the URL, then copy and paste it into the address bar of your web browser. On the next page, click the link to the image to open it, or you can right-click the image and save to your computer.

Searching Tombstone Records

1. Some states, such as Iowa, have participated in USGenWeb’s tombstone transcription project. Start by going to Iowa’s home page <>, then clicking the Special Projects tab and choosing the Iowa Gravestone Photo Project. 
2. In the search box, choose your county, mark whether the surname “starts with” or “sounds like,” and type in the surname. Click Submit. You also can search on a first name or a cemetery name.
3. Click on a search result to see a photo of the tombstone.
4. Returning to the special projects page, I found a link to a WPA graves registration project done in the 1930s <>. You can search this project by first name and surname, and choose all available counties or a selected county. Results returned the selected name and the tombstone inscription. Due to the volunteer nature of the USGenWeb, requesting a photograph of the tombstone (if it still exists) is as easy as e-mailing the county coordinator and asking for help.
From the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine