Online Genealogy Class
Instructor: Kathy Wedyke
Narrowing the Search
Now that you have learned how to use the search engines effectively, it is time to learn how to fine-tune those searches to turn up pages on your specific family and not anyone who happens to share a surname. Several techniques can be used to turn those 3,002,420 SMITH pages in AltaVista into a reasonable amount of Web sites with a decent chance of containing the information that you are looking for.
Include Given Names
Searching for given names in conjunction with surnames can really help to focus your search.
In cases such as this, where the name is such a common one, this technique may not help you to narrow the search results enough. Try searching for a family member with a more unusual name (such as Jebediah). Try as many different combinations as you can think of, because not everyone will know everything that you do about the family. Remember to try phrase searching as well.
Include Place Names
Why look at SMITH family Web pages from Zimbabwe when your SMITH ancestors were from Virginia? Most family historians tend to mention locations in their online information, so use this to your advantage. Use the math search technique and try searching for:
That takes the 3,000,000+ SMITH sites on AltaVista down to about 36,000. Not bad for a simple little search term!
Search for Less Common Surnames
One of the most often overlooked ways of narrowing your search is to search first on the more uncommon surnames in your family tree. If your SMITHS married into the SNAGGLEPUSS family, then start by searching for SNAGGLEPUSS. They will be a lot easier to find and will, hopefully, lead you right back to your SMITH family. The downside to this type of search, however, is that you are limiting information sources to people who knew that the SMITH and SNAGGLEPUSS families were connected in the first place.