We’ve included three important, but not common, tricks as well as more advanced techniques for those who have spent a lot of time on Google searching family history.
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6 Google Search Tricks
1. Use Quotation Marks
This is also known as a string or keyword search. It’s one of the most effective and obvious ways to limit Google search results. Google will search all pages that contain the term James Wilcox if you enter a name such as James Wilcox.
These terms do not have to be related – you might find a page that contains both Wilcox and James, but not necessarily one where they appear together.
To limit your results, use “James Wilcox”, or “Wilcox James” (remember that most genealogy-related sites put the last name first). To make sure they are exact, you can also use quotations around terms such as “obituary”, otherwise Google will substitute other words such as ‘death’ and ‘died’.
2. Use the Minus Sign
Sometimes, when searching for our ancestors, particularly those with common names and places, we might find that the person or place we were not looking for keeps coming up, clouding our search results.
We keep seeing James Wilcox from Somerset, for example. We’ll not use the term Somerset because he’s certainly not our guy.
To exclude unwanted results, place a minus sign in front of a term. To further refine results, the minus sign can also be placed before many terms (e.g. -dunbar-somerset-1907 or term strings (-Wilcox and James Robinson). Make sure the minus sign is directly placed before the term without any space between. This can be used to exclude certain sites (-rootsweb).
3. Find Site-Specific Results
Do you want to only see search results for specific websites, such as FamilySearch
To do this, use site:SITEURL” before any term. Example: site:familysearch.org “wilcox, James” -note that we didn’t place a space between ‘site:’ and the URL and that we didn’t include the ‘http://www’ part either.
4. Search only page titles
It can be extremely helpful to have the pages that you find solely focused on a particular ancestor when searching for them. You can also search for articles that are focused on a specific surname when you search for it.
This is done by making sure that the search term appears in the page title. Although this is not always possible, it can help you find information about people, biographies, or more detailed data.
Search only page titles by using ‘allintitle’. Example: allintitle “Wilcox,”. You can also use ‘allintext’ to search the text and exclude the titles.
5. You can search for a date range
This is one of the most overlooked Google search tips for genealogists. This cool trick allows you to search multiple dates simultaneously without needing to enter each one individually. This is a great trick if you need to search for birth, marriage, or death records (or any other date-based source), but don’t know exactly when it happened.
To do this, add DATE.DATE (two periods between dates such as 1900-1910) to your search box. Based on our information, James Wilcox was most probably born between 1835-1839.
We could therefore search for Wilcox, James 1835-1839. It will only show pages that contain all or some of the following dates: 1835, 1836. 1837., 1838, and 1839. It will not exclude pages which include other dates (which is something we don’t usually want to do). If we wanted to exclude any date, we could type -DATE after our terms.
6. Find terms that are similar to each other
Google’s search engine for ancestors can be frustrating because it will search a page for all your terms. However, you may not see any associations between your terms. This can create major problems for genealogists, as many pages contain long lists of names and dates.
For example, it is possible to locate the exact dates, names and other details that you are looking for, but not in relation to one another. Our searches for James Wilcox 1837 led us to pages that included James Wilcox 1837 and that date 1837. However, that date was often applied on other people.
Google allows you to search for terms that are similar to each other. To do this, enter AROUND (1) between the terms. Example: “James Wilcox”, AROUND (10) 1837. This means that Google will search for pages that contain the exact name James Wilcox within 10 words of 1837.
The modifying number can be changed to any number you like (“James Wilcox”) AROUND (3)1837 or “James Wilcox (1) Mahala”) A lower number indicates a closer association, and therefore, more results. This can be applied to multiple terms. This will allow you to find more relevant results.
These “secret” tips will help you with your Google genealogy searches. Combine them to get the best results. For more information, see our Google Image Search for Genealogy Help Article.