Live show air date: June 25, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.
The first 4 minutes of the video is the “Waiting Room.” This welcomes viewers and counts down to the start of the live show.
Today’s Topic: How to get better Google search results faster.
Our Goal: Up to 90% reduction in the number of search results, and higher quality results on the first few pages.
In this session we discussed:
Identifying what you already have, (the “searchables”) and
using Google Tools to flesh out the details
so that we can tell a richer, more complete story.
Start broad and then analyze your results to determine if you need to narrow your search by adding more details and search operators.
Reviewing your initial search results will possibly reveal alternative spellings you may want to explore.
The search operator we used in this episode was quotation marks.
Example: “Washington McClellan”
Quotation marks can be used on single words or phrases. They tell Google that:
all search results must include in word or phrase,
the words must be spelled exactly as you spelled them,
the words in phrases must appear in the order your typed them.
You can have multiple words and phrases in your query.
Example: “mcalister” “harness” shop “logan utah”
If you discover an address during your searching, you can plot it in Google Earth. Search for it in the search box. Click the placemark button in the toolbar (the yellow pushpin icon) to mark the location.
(Learn more about using Google Earth in episode 12 of Elevenses with Lisa available here.)
Time Saving Tips:
When reviewing large webpages, quickly find your keywords (“searchables”) by doing a Find on Page: Control (PC) or Command (Mac) + F. Type the words in the pop-up box to jump directly to them on the page.
On the search results page, click Image results in the menu. This allows you to quickly spot sites with images that appear to be applicable to your search goal. Click the image to visit the site.
Use the quotations marks search operator in all of the free Google tools.
Learn More with These Resources
Book: Cooke, Lisa Louise, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Genealogy Gems Publications, print. Video Series: Cooke, Lisa Louise, Google Earth for Genealogy digital video download series, Genealogy Gems Publications, For a limited time use coupon code EARTH11 to get 25% off both of the resources above at the Genealogy Gems Store here.
Use code EARTH11 to get 25% off
Answers to Your Questions
Gwynn: If I have a My Google Map and pin on those will they show up on the google maps desktop version or do I have to redo them? For example, I have a map of Ohio with ancestor dates and locations.
Lisa: Google has recently added a button to the toolbar that will take you to Google Earth on Chrome. So, if you are looking at your placemark on the map and you click that button, it will open the same general location in Chrome, but currently it will not bring the placemark with it. I would not be surprised at all though if we see that functionality in the future.
Ceirra: I played with Google Earth from last week but couldn’t get back to even 1937???
Lisa: If you mean there were no Rumsey Maps (in the Layers panel) in a particular area, that’s not uncommon. That’s where pulling maps from other sources like the David Rumsey website can help. He has 100,000 maps digitized, searchable and downloadable that you can then use to create an overlay in Google Earth. And there are many, many other online sources for old maps. Read: The Best Way to Find Old Maps for Genealogy at the David Rumsey Website
Cynthia: If we have something from our relatives, what is the best way to put it on the internet to share with others?
Lisa: I really think posting on your own blog is the best way to share. It also provides a vehicle for being found by other researchers interested in your family when they Google. I have videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel explaining how to set up a free Blogger blog.
MargtheCar: Are quotation marks case sensitive?
Steve: If you had two different spellings of a name, do you run separate searches for put both spellings in one search?
Lisa: You could run this search: “washington mcclellan” OR “Washington mcclelland”
Kelli: I ordered google toolbox 3. I have the first two. Are they worth sharing – or have things changed enough that I should just toss them? Shelf space, you know :).
Lisa: They are worth sharing if you warn them may encounter some things that no longer work or have changed. Search has some of the biggest changes. The Google Earth section hasn’t changed much since the last edition of the book.
K M Vaughan: Can we legally use the image from the library?
Gwynn: Lisa, what do you think of the new google books viewer, Im not a fan because I cant see the source.
Lisa: It takes getting used to, I agree! But I think the overview page is actually quite an improvement. I’m publishing a newly updated version of my class Google Books: the Tool I Use Every Day in Premium membership that features the new viewer.
Karen: Can you use – minus?
Lisa: Yes indeed. Here’s an example of combining quotation marks and minus sign in the same query: “Richard Lincoln” -abraham – president
Robyn: I don’t find that the 1850..1880 works for me. What could I be doing wrong
Lisa: Problems could include:
Running the search on mobile
You have a space in the string – no spaces
There are no available results that include those numbers
Using more or less than 2 periods
K M Vaughan: Can your Google tools on mobile
Lisa: Yes, all the tools (such as Google Books, Scholar, Patents, etc.) can all be used on mobile, however you may find some minor differences, and some search operators may not work.
Cynthia: I have been trying to find the marriage certificate of my grandmother and her 3 husband, in 1953 and cannot find anything. What can I do to marrow the search
Lisa: Without the benefit of seeing the specific situation, I would recommend focusing your search on the record collection you need rather than the names of individual ancestors. I go into detail on this strategy in the book.
Carolyn: What did you use to make the video?
Lisa: I used Camtasia which I LOVE. Stay tuned, because next week we’re going to talk about making videos and some of the my favorite free tools as well.
Doug: What tool do you use to create the entries in Google Earth for the presentation (the autoplay part)?
From Lisa: I used Camtasia. Stay tuned, because next week we’re going to talk about making videos!
Blenheim Palace Grand Cabinet china. Learn more about Blenheim Palace, the home of Winston Churchill, at the website.
Garden-side tea time at Blenheim Palace
The best part about teaching is when I get to hear back from you about what resonated with you, and how you used what you heard to make a wonderful discovery. Doris has been a Genealogy Gems premium member since 2015 and she wrote to say “I’m finally listening to the Elevenses series! Just watched Episode 1 and wanted to share a find.”
Doris explained how she used my tip on being sure to turn the page of passport application records to ensure you don’t miss additional pages. She made quite a discovery!
Thank you to Doris for sharing her story. I sent her the video I created and the photo that I enhanced and colorized at MyHeritage.
Please give our videos a thumbs up at YouTube: As a friend of the show, will you please give the videos a thumbs up (you’ll find the icon just below each video) and leave a comment? Your input makes a huge difference in encouraging YouTube to distribute the show – and it warms my heart too, thank you!
Did you give this Google search operator a try in your genealogy searching this week? Please share your experience. And of course I’m always interested in your questions and feedback. Please leave a comment below. This is your chance to join our community’s conversation!
The Genealogy Gems Podcast is the leading genealogy and family history show. Launched in 2007, the show is hosted by genealogy author, keynote presenter, and video producer Lisa Louise Cooke. The podcast features genealogy news, interviews, stories and how-to instruction. It can be found in all major podcasting directories, or download the exclusive Genealogy Gems Podcast app to listen to all the episodes and receive bonus content.
Do you love genealogy, mysteries and puzzle solving? Well in this episode we have not one but two tales of mystery.
The first has a Valentine’s theme centered around a mysterious love letter. Professional genealogist Kathleen Ackerman will be here to share how a love letter that was missing its last page took her on a genealogical journey full of surprises.
Our second story is a mystery full of twists, turns and murder that will ultimately resurrect your faith that what you think is lost, may still be found.
Frank recently wrote in saying that he listened to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 227 and my conversation with Ran Snir, MyHeritage DNA Product Manager about their genetic genealogy tools The Theory of Family Relativity™ and AutoClusters. This got him thinking about his own test results and a frustration he has had trying to find matches and records in pursuit of this Galician roots.
“Ancestry’s records are almost non-existent, except for some parish records, but this is the region from which Cuba and Argentina were populated, and the ultimate ancestry of Cubans in the US. I have done the AncestryDNA test but my matches are few and far between.
On the other hand, I have worked with a Spanish genealogist and have some records that go back to the 17th century. Is there any program like Ancestry, 23andme, or My Heritage, that can do Galician (Spanish) genealogy well.”
Regarding DNA matches and testing pools:
DNA companies test all types of people and because testers can download their results and upload them to other companies, their pools of people are becoming more similar. Generally, they don’t focus on particular groups. They just report the results based on the pool they currently have.
Conduct a Google Search: Galician (Spanish) genealogy “Galicia”. Click here to see the Google search results.
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Third Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke available in the Genealogy Gems Store.
Available in the Genealogy Gems Store.
Lisa’s video classes and handouts on Google search are included in Genealogy Gems Premium Membership. Learn more here.
Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.
“I am a regular listener to your podcasts. And I am the family historian. I recently received a trove of documents from my Uncle who had been working to chart the family for 25 years. He passed away last year. His most recent quest was to find as many old family pictures as possible and I have continued to reach out to distant relatives. I enjoyed the recent podcast about the New York photographer website and hope it will help me identify people in some of these very old pictures.
(Episode 236 – Interview with David Lowe, Specialist for the Photography Collection at the New York Public Library on a free tool they provide that can help you identify your old photos. Also a discussion of how to find unindexed records at Ancestry.com.)
My question: a friend of mine has inherited all of her family’s old family pictures. The pictures are from the late 1800’s. She doesn’t know who most of the people are. She is not interested in learning and apparently there aren’t any members of the family who have taken the role of family historian. Is there anything to do with these pictures other than to dispose of them? It makes me sad to know that no one is interested. When I learned a branch of my family tree had tossed all of their old family pictures, I felt awful and it has taken me some time to accept that I might not ever find replacements for this branch.”
There are ways to make real progress identifying photos. I’m going to be covering more of this on upcoming episodes. I would start by asking your friend to write down states / counties / towns where she thinks her family lived, as well as her direct ancestors as far as she knows (even if it’s just grandparents or great grandparents.) With some basic genealogical info on the most recent members of the family and some possible locations, you could then post at least some of the photos on Deadfred.com.
This is a site where people search on families and locations and other identifying information to find unidentified photos of their family members. Many, many photos have made their way to family historians through DeadFred.
If you don’t have time to post them on DeadFred, and you do know the county where some of the photos came from, you could offer to donate them to the local genealogical society. They might be willing to take them, and their volunteers might be willing to do it.
I agree with you, it would be such a shame to toss them because you can be sure there is someone out there who would treasure them and may even hold answers.
Kathleen Ackerman graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of General Studies: Family History degree in April 2012. She now has her own research company, Finding Ties that Bind. She is also working on a Master’s Degree in Genealogy, Paleography and Heraldry from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.
Kathleen is the director for the Cave Creek Arizona Family History Center. She loves to help others as they learn about their family history. For seven years, she served as the Treasurer and British Institute Director for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. Besides her volunteer and school work, she spends most of her free time either working on her husband’s English and Scottish lines or playing with her granddaughter.
“In 2010, my mother found three pages of a letter addressed to “Mamie” among my grandparent’s things. My grandmother has passed away and my grandfather did not remember who Mamie was or why they had the letter. My mom sent me the letter in hopes that I could figure it out.”
Miriam (Mamie) Smith Patelzick 1891-1911 (Photo courtesy of Kathleen Ackerman)
The last page which may have contained the writer’s signature was missing. This is where Kathleen’s search began.
The first three pages of the love letter. (Courtesy of Kathleen Ackerman)
Kathleen turned to census records from the time period, and Google Maps to verify where Medicine Lodge was in comparison to Small, Idaho, the place from which the letter was sent. No such town could be found.
She then turned to old maps to see if the town had once existed. She used maps on the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection website. She found a map of Idaho from 1909, that showed Small, Medicine Lodge river and Reno (all mentioned in letter). They were all in Fremont County, Idaho. Her confidence that she had the right person grew.
1909 Idaho map published by Geo. F. Cram, Chicago (DavidRumsey.com)
The search moved on into vital records. A marriage certificate for Mamie and William Patelzick in Dec 1910 was located.Perhaps they had eloped?
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t listened to the episode yet. The next image reveals the writer of the letter.
Later, Kathleen’s mother surprisingly found the final page of the letter:
Found! The last page of the love letter. (Courtesy of Kathleen Ackerman)
A surprise indeed, and a mystery solved!
Thank you to Kathleen Ackerman for sharing her story! You can visit her at her website, Finding Ties that Bind.
Announcing the Next Generation of Google for Genealogy
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox By Lisa Louise Cooke
Discover the answers to your family history mysteries using cutting-edge Google search strategies. A comprehensive resource for all of Google’s free tools, this easy-to-follow book provides the how-to information you need in plain English. You will first gain a strong foundation in how to search quickly and effectively. Then you’ll dig deeper into solving real-life challenges that genealogists regularly face. This book will show you how to flex your new Google muscles by mining each of the free tools to deliver satisfying and enlightening results. You will develop a mastery of Google that will serve you now and for years to come.
This book features:
Step-by-step clear instructions and loads of images that help you easily follow along.
Tips for searching faster and achieving better results to solve the real challenges that genealogists face.
How to go beyond Google search by using the wide range of powerful free tools that Google offers.
Cutting-edge technology like Google Earth to tell your family’s stories in new and exciting ways!
Google your family history with Genealogy Gems! Google has a great collection of free online search tools–all powered by the same Google search engine–that can help you discover your family history. In this new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning video, Google guru Lisa Louise Cooke demonstrates how she fleshed out a story on her family tree by using Google searches, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Books, Google Scholar, and more.
Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members may now watch a brand new video tutorial: “Reconstruct Your Ancestors’ World with Google.” In this 60-minute video, renowned Google expert Lisa Louise Cooke uncovered a story on her family tree by using a variety of Google tools–then brings all her discoveries together in a compelling video that can be shared with your family.
Lisa’s case study begins with a story from her family archive: a short autobiographical sketch.
Already a rich narrative, the story is just the beginning of what can be learned about this family for free when you run certain details through Google’s many powerful online search tools: Google search, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Books, Google Scholar, Google Alerts, Google Patents, and even YouTube (which is owned by Google).
Google your own genealogy gems
In this video–available exclusively to Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members–Lisa walks you through each step in the Google search methodology process. She helps you formulate “Google-able” questions and know which part of the vast Google search system might best help you answer them. Then she demonstrates how to search Google’s various facets most effectively and efficiently with queries that bring up the kinds of results you want. You’ll learn important tips such as the difference between Google Books and Google Scholar and how to fine-tune your Google Image searches. Finally, you’ll see how she skillfully and creatively threads together her discoveries to reconstruct meaningful stories she can share with her relatives.
Lisa delivered this presentation at RootsTech, the world’s biggest annual genealogy conference, but only as a Premium eLearning member do you have access to the downloadable handout that summarizes everything you need to know.
More about Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning
Every month, Premium eLearning Members get access to a brand new Premium Video just like this one, along with a new Premium Podcast episode. Plus, you get access to an archive of all previous video classes and podcast episodes. Enjoy them entirely at your own pace–all for less than $5 a month! You’ll find all kinds of genealogy topics, but especially DNA, online research, maps and geographical tools, using Evernote for genealogy, organizing your family history, technology, mobile and cloud-based research, and more! Here’s a 10-minute clip from Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 157 that includes an overview of how Premium eLearning works–check it out!
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Google search expert Lisa Louise Cooke advises a genealogist on three ways to improve Google search results. See how these little improvements can make a big difference in your own Google searches!
This Genealogist Wants to Improve Google Search Results
Gene from Phoenix recently watched a free webinar in which I talked about improving Google search results for genealogy and then sent me this follow-up email:
“Lisa, I enjoyed the free webinar, Thank you!
I tried your suggestions for searching Google but still can’t get what I want.
My ancestor was Moses Fountain (possibly from NY but can only find him in IN)
I put in “Moses Fountain” 1800-1832 -Italy -Rome -hotel
When my search comes up the first page is all of the hotel & fountain in Rome, Italy. There is no genealogy (all my inquiries) until page 2. I cannot -New York as he may have come from there, so I’ll continue to get Albany fountain (like the water fountain.) Thanks for any suggestions you might have.” -Gene in Phoenix, AZ
3 Powerful Techniques that can Improve Google Search Results
Kudos to Gene for jumping onto Google and giving it a go after the webinar. Getting started is the most important part of achieving genealogical success! In order to improve Google search results, Gene needs to make a few adjustments to tell Google more specifically what is wanted:
1. Use the Google search operators correctly
First, Gene will need to fix the numrange search. If you haven’t watched the webinar yet (what are you waiting for?) a numrange search is when you give Google two four-digit numbers and specify that you only want webpages included in your search results that have a four-digit number that falls within that range. And of course years are expressed in four-digit numbers, so this is incredibly useful for genealogists. Gene has a dash between the two numbers (a very logical approach since this is how we are used to expressing a range), but a numrange search requires two periods instead, like this:
2. Add a Google search term to narrow results.
Gene didn’t see genealogical search results until page 2 of the results. An easy way to bring pages related to genealogy to the forefront of the results is to add the word genealogy to your search query:
As you can see above, this improves things quite a bit. Isn’t it amazing what a difference one well-chosen keyword can make to improve Google search results?
3. Consider carefully which Google search terms to remove
Gene removed some irrelevant search results by placing a minus sign directly in front of the search terms Italy, Rome, and hotel. This tells Google to subtract all pages from search results that contain these words. This is a very powerful tool, particularly when it comes to ancestors who have common surnames. (For instance, if you were researching an ancestor named John Lincoln, your results would be inundated with results for President Abraham Lincoln, simply due to the volume of pages that mention him. If John was not related to this famous president, you could add -Abraham and -president to your search query, and his footprints on your results would be dramatically reduced.) By the way, notice that the minus sign touches the word it is removing. There should be no space between the minus and the word.
But Gene continues to get irrelevant search results relating to a Moses Fountain in Washington Park, Albany, New York. The concern expressed here is that removing New York may inadvertently remove good search results, since this ancestor may have been from New York. Instead of removing New York, why not subtract a more targeted search term, such as Albany or Washington Park? Since it’s also possible that Moses Fountain was from Albany, I’d start by removing Washington Park.
How can you subtract a whole phrase? Put quotation marks around it so that Google understands it is a phrase and not two separate words that are unconnected. Then put a minus sign right in front of it. In Gene’s case, it would look like this: -“Washington Park.” The resulting search results eliminate the reference to the fountain in Albany:
Improve Google search results even more dramatically
Watch this free 90-minute webinar and learn more about improving your Google searches for genealogy, along with other powerful strategies for reconstructing your family history. While you’re watching, subscribe to the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel to keep up with the many free video tutorials we publish there!
Ever thought of visiting your childhood home? Here’s a story about people who are actually buying theirs back. For the rest of us, here’s how to use Google and Google Earth to revisit your childhood home and relive some memories–without spending a dime.
Your childhood home–or perhaps another beloved family home–is your own personal address on Memory Lane. Who wouldn’t love to stroll up to its doors and recapture some memories?
The image above is of my husband’s great grandfather’s home in Winthrop, Minnesota. It’s a home that I have many photos of, have researched, and have come to feel personally connected to although I’ve never seen it in person. It’s one of many ancestral homes that I yearn to visit one day. So as you can imagine, I really enjoyed this report from The Wall Street Journal about a few lucky folks who are living the dream of not only visiting, but owning and restoring, their childhood home.
Even if you’re not interested in buying back an old family home, many of us are curious about the houses we used to love. Are those houses still there? What do they look like now? What else can we learn about them?
Let’s explore three ideas to help you stroll down memory lane. Then, I’ll share a discovery from a Genealogy Gems Premium podcast listener who recently dropped me a line.
1. Find the address for your childhood home
If you don’t recall the street address of your favorite family home, ask a relative or look it up. For U.S. addresses since 1940, you might start with the U.S. Public Records Index, searchable in part or full at Ancestry.com (volumes 1 and 2 for 1950-1993), FamilySearch.org or MyHeritage.com (click here to learn more about that database). Look also in records such as:
Johnstown, PA city directory listing, 1889, digitized on Ancestry.com.
draft registrations and other military paperwork
Social Security application forms, known as SS-5 forms (click here to learn more about them)
old family letters
newspaper articles (click here for tips on searching digitized newspaper content by address)
For U.S. addresses from 1880-1940, look to U.S. census records, which include street names and house numbers. In the example below from the 1930 census, you can see “Cedar Street” written vertically by the red arrow, and the house number written for each household entry, as shown in blue.
From the 1930 US census, Ancestry.com.
If you can’t find an address on an old record, but you think you could navigate yourself there on a map, it’s time to go to Google Earth and fly yourself there!
2. Use Google Earth to view your childhood home now
Google Earth is your on-ramp to your own personal Memory Lane. Go to the site, enter an address, and watch yourself “fly” to that address. If you don’t know an exact address but you know where to look, enter a street name or even a city. Then zoom in to the neighborhood and street section of interest. Activate Street View, if it’s available. Not sure how to do that? Watch my free Google Earth for Genealogy Video Class to get started.
Once you’ve found the location, take a close look. Is the house still there? What does it look like now? How has the landscape changed? The neighborhood?
You can use Google Earth to revisit your own childhood home or another family landmark, such as an ancestor’s homestead or burial place. (Click here to read about one genealogist’s virtual trip to an ancestor’s business using Google Earth’s Street View, and click here to see how another genealogist used historical map overlays in Google Earth to identify an old home’s location.)
3. Google the address of your childhood home
Googling the address of your family home may produce unexpected and interesting results like these:
a) Sale listings. If your house has been on the market in recent years, you may be able to find a listing with great details, and even pictures of the inside today. Top Google search results from specific addresses often bring up real estate websites with varying degrees of information, such as square footage, current estimated value, year built, most recent sale date and price, and more. Weed through these entries to see whether Zillow or another similar site shows a current or past listing for sale or rent. These may contain more details and may even have interior and exterior pictures of the house as it is now.
Watch closely—Google may bring up houses nearby, not the one you’re looking for. But even a neighborhood listing for a house built on a similar floor plan may jog your memories of the home and may give you a sense of what the area is like now.
b) Historical information. A Google search result may bring up historical news coverage or obituaries from digitized newspaper websites like Newspapers.com (a subscription may be required to view these in full). Or you may find something really fascinating, like a discovery made by Genealogy Gems Premium member Heather. After listening to me talk about this subject in Premium Podcast episode 141 (click here to subscribe), Heather wrote me this email:
“I love listening to the podcasts while driving to and from work, often sharing my own thoughts with you. This happened yesterday while listening to the latest Premium Podcast episode on family homes. I decided that I had to write and share what I managed to find! Since I have deep family roots in Connecticut back to 1650s, I managed to find a few family homes, but I started searching with the more recent generations and addresses that I knew. The two homes where my great-grandparents (Inez Hart and John Milton Burrall) and my great-grand aunts (Mary and Lucy Burrall) lived were written up in an application for the National Register of Historic Places!
The National Park Service is working on digitizing these applications. I found the application with a narrative description of the home and pictures of the interior and exterior. I have found other applications that have also included some genealogy of the family who lived in the home. Here is the website for the National Park Service and the database search page.”
Thanks for sending these in, Heather! And for sending along copies of the applications she found. The multi-page applications (more than 10 pages each!) include historical background on the buildings and former owners, as well as photos and site maps. Above is a photo–and below is an excerpt–from these applications.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase (at no additional cost to you) after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!