Your Guide to Finding Ancestors with Google

Google Search Tips

Often your search results in too many hits to wade need the power of Google's ADVANCE SEARCH
(Link is in tiny letters, to the right of the search box).

You want to find out something about your Powers Family, specifically John Powers who was born in 1788 in County Cork Ireland, married in Ireland, Matilda Moore. He died 1862 in Flint, Genessee Co. Michigan (this is a made up example; don't add him to your family tree!)

  • powers family finds the two words anywhere on the page; "powers family" finds the phrase.
  • "John Powers" "Matilda Moore" finds pages with both phrases --although not necessarily married ot each other. . (But won't find John C. Powers married Matilda Jane Moore )
  • "Matilda * Moore" will find Matilda Moore, Matilda Jane Moore, Matilda Ann Moore, etc. The asterisk will not truncate a word; it wouldn't, for example, find Matildalee. Notice that the whole phrase is in quotation marks; an asterisk won't work without them.
  • powers -austin allows you to skip all the pages about Austin Powers (no space after the -)
  • +powers finds only powers, not power or powering, for example.
  • Try to add specific information, e.g. try +Powers "County Cork" finds Powers (but not Power) and the phrase "County Cork" on the same page.
  • Remember: the name may be reversed, especially in an index. Try "Powers, John" as well as John Powers
  • What other word would be likely to be on the page? Keep narrowing down with less common words... John Powers Flint Genesee Cemetery. Google assumes AND between words, so any results page will contain all of these words (not necessarily close together).
  • Powers ~genealogy finds pages with the words Powers and genealogy or synonyms for the word genealogy.
  • Dates can be a way to limit results. "John Powers" 1788 will find pages with the phrase John Powers and the date 1788 on the page. If we knew only that he was born ca. 1788, we can search "John Powers" 1785...1791 to find pages with the phrase John Powers and any of the numbers 1785 thorough 1791.
  • Too much to remember? Just use the advanced search pages
  • YouTube video "Using Google to find gedcom files"

Getting the most from Google results

If you get results from a large genealogy site, e.g. Rootsweb, the results list may show a link to "more results from... " Clicking that link will bring up other hits from that site.

Get a "file not found" message when you click the link? Go back to the results page and click "cached" to bring up a cached version of the page.

Beyond Basic Googling

Download the Google Toolbar so you don't have to keep going to to make your searches. In addition to quick searching, this toolbar offers many helpful features. I particularly like the bookmarks tool, which allows me to save bookmarks on the web, so I can add them and find them from any computer. See the toolbar button gallery for a choice of Google tools. Here is a YouTube video that shows one helpful you can use the Google Toolbar for genealogy.

Remember to use Google Images to see if you can find picture. Adding the words post card may find local pictures.

Search Google Books to find text in books that have been scanned. Some books are available for viewing on the web; some will refer you to where you can find the book. In the Google Books Advanced Search you can limit results to
           (the default is all books)

You can search a selection of books included because of their genealogical value at the Google Thomas J. Kemp's Book Library

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher and Easy Google Genealogy Searcher II will help you construct searches.

Google Alerts will notify you by e-mail anytime the crawler finds a new instance of your search term. At first I loved this, but then I turned it off because I kept getting the same information over and over. Try it to see if you like it.

Build a custom google search to crawl a list of websites.

More information:


Return to Bobbie's Genealogy Classroom
This page last updated December 28, 2013