Genealogy Search Tools and Tips from the Fall Conference

By Vanessa Wieland

Our genealogy virtual Conference weekends contain plenty of search tools and tips for finding and documenting your family history. Each of these sixteen presentations is filled to the brim with new strategies and ideas for researching and working with your results. Here’s an inside look to whet your appetite and get you ready for this weekend

Timely Search Tools

Google is a powerful search tool that you can tailor to your genealogy search. Are you making the most of what it has to offer?

Lisa Louise Cooke has this to say: “Google is a great search tool to turn to as you conduct your research. For example: A genealogist notices that there is an error in an index on She wants to help fix it, but she’s not sure how. When she goes to Google and searches for an answer, she may run into a problem. The internet and Google have been around for quite a while now, and that means that she will likely run into outdated information while searching for answers.” 

Here’s an easy fix

  1. run your search in Google
  2. at the top of the results page, click the TOOLS button
  3. in the drop down menu that appears, click the down arrow next to ANY TIME, and select “in the past year”
  4. now, the results listed will have been posted online within the last year, making them much more relevant 

Conference search tools

Positive Reinforcement

Shannon Combs-Bennett knows a lot about finding and applying evidence in your genealogy search. If you’re trying to prove (or disprove) a family story or theory, she says, “Always look for records and sources that were created at the time of the event. The more people who “touch” the information the less reliable it is. Lets face it, people can unintentionally insert errors into records, which is why transcripts should be investigated!”

Here’s a great tip from her conference video, Proof Positive: Look for at least two types of proof and try to find as many primary records you can to get as many facts as possible. Shannon is also one of the virtual conference moderators, so she’ll be on hand to answer plenty of questions!

Source-savvy Genealogy Searches

It’s tempting to do a search on or and mine the source itself for facts. But if you leave it at that, you could be leaving valuable information out of your research! Don’t just search the source, learn about the source. For example, as Sunny Morton points out, understanding the instructions the enumerators received can provide insight into clues about census records – especially about your ancestor’s residence.

Tip: Look for information about the source, which you can do through the search tools at your fingertips. Find information about census records and other collections by clicking through to the catalog on, or by browsing all published collections on

Get Familiar with History

This can’t be said enough: if you want to know what records are available for a particular place and time period, reading up about the history provides not only social context for what your ancestors experienced, but it will provide clues as to what records may exist – and where to find them.

In her presentation on Latin-American immigration, Gena Philibert-Ortega points out three things to ask yourself when it comes to tracking your immigrant ancestors that apply to all researchers:

  • What where their modes of transportation?
  • What possible routes could they take?
  • Why immigrate?

Keep the Story

Denise Levenick has some valuable advise when it comes to determining what we should keep and what we should purge when it comes to our family history: “Keep the story, not the stuff.”

Of course, this doesn’t apply across the board; there are plenty of items you’ll want to hang on to and you’ll have to make some judgment calls when it comes to what you inherit. However, she lists a few items that tend to be more clutter than resource: greeting cards with names only, unused items such as journals and notebooks, and copies of material found elsewhere, to name a few.

Takeaway: If it’s not an original document or heirloom and it’s not of value to you personally, take a photo and pass it on or toss it out.

It’s not too late to join the Fall Virtual Conference! Sign up today and use code FTMFALLVC to take $30 off the price.

2017 Fall Conference September