Web Ready: Smart Searching

Web Ready: Smart Searching

By carefully wording your online searches, you can reel in the most relevant results.

You’ve likely performed Web searches that produced thousands of bad matches or no matches at all. But by carefully wording your queries, you can filter out those bad matches and reel in the most relevant results. Here are a few tricks to get you started (for more tips, see the February 2004 Family Tree Magazine):

1. If you’re searching for information on a surname, and you get too many matches, narrow the search by adding a genealogy-related word, such as family, ancestry, ancestors or descendants (for instance, Schaubhut and genealogy). The word and tells the search engine to return only results with both the words Schaubhut and genealogy.

2. To search on an exact phrase, such as a full name, use quotation marks (for example, “Julius B. Chafee”). To find multiple spellings, separate the search terms by the word or (for instance, “Julius B. Chafee” or “Julius B. Chaffee”).

3. To limit a search further, add a place name (town, county, state) to a surname (such as Robertson and “South Worcester”).

4. You also might search on the names of a husband and wife simultaneously (as in “William White” and “Ruth Green”). Or search on the names of two siblings if you don’t know the parents’ names.

5. Next, try searching on a place name and a subject term (such as “Bradford County” and Pennsylvania and cemeteries).
Your goal is to search on a combination of words that uniquely apply to the family or subject you’re researching. If you get too many irrelevant matches, try adding more words to your query to narrow your search. If you don’t get any matches, search on fewer words to broaden your search, or try a whole new strategy.

From the September 2004 Trace Your Family History.

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