2018 by Donald R. Snow -- This page last updated 2018-09-21.
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ABSTRACT:  Internet search engines, and Google in particular, can do many things in family history.  These include finding information, searching for particular websites and databases, finding correct spelling of places or words, searching for images, maps, and books, and translating text to and from many languages.  And there are many options to use with the results such as highlighting the search terms in the resulting websites. This class will discuss some of these and show the syntax search rules.  The notes for this class and related articles, all with active Internet links, are on Don's website .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( ) of Provo and St. George, Utah.
  2. These notes, with active Internet links and other related articles, are posted on Don's website .
  3. Tips:  (1)  Easy to put an icon on your desktop for the URL for these notes; just drag the icon in front of the address in your browser to your desktop.  (2)  To open a link from here in another tab, but keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  4. This class will discuss using search engines, and Google in particular, in genealogy and family history -- Google .

  6. Search engines began with the Internet and the World Wide Web 50 years ago
    1. Search Engine History --
    2. A Brief History of Search Engines --
  7. Google was started 20 years ago by graduate students at Stanford University -- for Google's history see
  8. Metasearch engines -- programs that search several search engines at once
    1. Meta-Search engines -- --
    2. Example -- Dogpile -- -- searches several search engines simultaneously
  9. Different search engines usually find a few different webpages, so it helps to search with more than one and there are hundreds of search engines -- see articles and lists of many search engines designed for different types of searching
    2. -- Phil Bradley's list
    5. Locating Genealogical Websites on
    6. Book by Daniel M. Lynch "Google Your Family Tree" --


  10. Google ignores capitals and most punctuation, so searching for "england genealogy" gives same results as searching for "ENGland, Genealogy" (without the quotes)
  11. Quotation marks tell Google to search for exactly that phrase, e.g. "Joseph Smith" (with the quotes) brings back webpages with Joseph Smith; otherwise you get pages with Joseph and Smith, but not necessarily together -- this helps in searching for a particular name, but requires that the spelling and words be in exactly that order
    1. Try typing in your own name in quotes and see what comes up.
    2. Placing asterisks (*) between the search terms inside quotation marks gives results with other words in between, i.e. the number of words up to the number of asterisks, so "erastus***snow" returns Erastus Snow, Erastus Beman Snow, and even Erastus and Artimesia Beman Snow.
  12. Plus sign: adding "+[   ]", e.g. "+Utah" (without the quotes) requires that the pages must show the term Utah
    1. To find GEDCOM files include "+ged" or "+gedcom" and/or "+index" (since webpages with GEDCOM's usually contain an index page)
    2. To find pdf files include "+pdf"
  13. To find only particular types of files use "Filetype:ged" (no space between Filetype and the search term) brings back only GEDCOM files; other types to look for are pdf, doc, xls, jpg, etc.
  14. Minus sign: "-[term]" says search results must not contain [term]
    1. Including "-England" (without the quotes), tells Google to disregard all webpages containing the word "England"
    2. Useful to eliminate incorrect hits, e.g  to eliminate all references to another person with the same name, but who was a doctor, search for "[name] -doctor -Dr" (without the quotes) 
  15. Limiting the years, quantity, distance, cost, etc.: "1500..1600" (without the quotes) yields only hits in the 1500s
  16. Check synonyms also:  Tilde "~" in front of the term tells Google to include any term meaning the same, e.g. "~genealogy" brings back webpages containing genealogy, family history, misspellings of genealogy, and several other terms -- There is no list of all synonyms Google uses, but you can build up such a list of synonyms by successively subtracting out the already-found synonyms, e.g. add "-[already observed word1]" "-[already observed word2]", etc.
  17. Converting measures - use "IN" (in caps) converts measures, money, etc., e.g. "1 British pound IN US money"and "20 ounces IN kilograms" -- Note that under the results numbers there are usually pick arrows (small triangles pointing downward) which allow you to select other measures to convert the same number.
  18. Site searches - "" (no quotes) searches only the website; "at" seems to give additional site searches, e.g. "[search term] at" for site searches
    1. Especially helpful for large websites -- examples
      1. "book of mormon" -- finds letters in my Erastus Snow letter Collection containing "Book of Mormon"
      2. "St. George" -- finds St. George Temple on that website only
      3. "Family History Consultants" -- finds FH Consultant info on
      4. "to view a digital" snow -- shows the posted digital books and articles that include the Snow family
  19. Linked sites: "link:[web site]" -- finds all websites linked to a particular site, e.g. try "link:"
  20. Clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky" takes you directly to the top listed website
  21. Boolean searches:  Google assumes you want webpages that include all search terms, so it automatically assumes "AND" between terms; if you include "OR" (no quotes) you get sites with either one or the other or both terms
  22. Proximity searches:  use "[search term] AROUND(n) [search term]" (without the quotes) -- AROUND has to be in caps and  n  is the maximum number of words you want between the two search terms -- powerful search tool, but doesn't always work correctly
    1. Example: ""donald r" AROUND(2) snow" (without the outside quotes) searches for the words with at most 2 words between, with or without the period, and in either order, so it picks up "Donald R. Snow", "Donald R Snow", "Snow, Donald R.", "Snow Jr Donald R", etc.
    2. ""Snow" AROUND(100) woburn" (without the outside quotes) picks up all occurrences of Snow with Woburn (city in Massachusetts) within 100 words
    3. "snow AROUND(10) beman" (without the quotes) picks up Erastus Snow; Erastus Fairbanks Snow (never was his real name); Erastus Beman Snow; Erastus Snow marries Artimesia Beman; Artimesia Beman, wife of Erastus Snow; etc.
    4. "sep AROUND(5) 1879" (without the quotes) picks up Sep xx, 1879, September of 1879, Sep xxth of 1879, etc.
  23. Wildcards -- Google automatically searches using the "stem" of whatever you enter, e.g. histor will search for history, histories, historical, etc., but an asterisk "*" can be used to substitute for an entire word and can be repeated, e.g. "donald * snow" returns Donald R. Snow, Donald Ray Snow, Donald M. Snow, etc.
  24. To find the county that a city is in use "Morgantown West Virginia county" (without the quotes), for example
  25. To find correct spelling of a word type something close, e.g. "irland", and you get "Did you mean Ireland?"
  26. The Advanced Search in Google includes boxes for each of the above syntax, so you don't have to remember it --
  27. To locate the search terms in a resulting website and/or have them highlighted in the results, which is a very helpful finding tool
    1. Use CTRL-F (find) and type in the search term -- this finds the search terms in the results
    2. For Chrome use the extension "Highlight Key Words For Google Search" -- -- this highlights the search terms
    3. For Firefox use the Add-On Google Toolbar Lite -- -- highlights the search terms
    4. For Internet Explorer install the "Google Toolbar" -- -- See short video about installing and using it here - Google Tool Bar-- highlights the search terms
    5. For Opera click on the pick arrow in a result (the little down-pointing arrows), select Cached, and use CTRL-F; type in the search term in the Find box and it finds all the terms and highlights the first occurrence; click through all occurrences, highlighting as it goes -- Keep in mind that this is the cached page (saved previously) and may not represent the latest version; the date is at the top; usually they are very close to the same -- This also works in other browsers.
  28. Google has search engines for more than 200 countries and you get different results from each; so especailly try the one for the country where your ancestor lived, e.g. for England use -- see details at ; see Google country list at
  29. Google Scholar -- -- Filters out much junk, but sometimes filters out too much
  30. Google Advanced Search for Genealogy --  and
  31. Let Me Google That For You -- -- Helps you type questions into Google and shows you the result
  32. Helpful Google genealogy search interface at 

  34. Google has scanned and posted online many good out-of-print genealogy and family history books from various libraries --
  35. Example: type in your own, or any name, in quotes to see if it occurs in any book 
  36. Can search or read the entire book online and many time you can download the entire book in various formats, e.g. pdf -- What you get is the picture of each page, not the text-searchable pdf layer, so you have to OCR it (Optical Character Recognition) to make it searchable
  37. A freeware program (for private use) that does a reasonable job of OCR on Google pdf downloads is PDF-XChangeEditor from
  38. Google also has way for you to list all the books you own to keep track of them -- sign in to  with your Google account
  39. More details about Google Books online are in my  Family History Books Online  notes.

  41. Can search for online images of your ancestors -- just type in their name in quotation marks, e.g. "Brigham Young", do a search and use the filters on the left-hand side to see just images; or else click on the Images button at top and do the search
  42. Using Advanced Image search you can specify that you only want small, medium, or large images, low or high resolution, etc.
  43. Helpful info about image searches on -- Can even drag and drop an image on the Image Search box and have Google find similar images

  45. Shows locations of parishes -- example: type "Sandbach England" (without the quotes) into -- or else click on the Maps button at the top and do the search -- Sandbach is a parish in Cheshire, England
  46. Google's "My Maps" allows you to create your own maps and make them private or public -- See don's class notes on Google's "My Maps"
  47. Example: Life of Ann Stafford Snow Condie (Don's Grandmother) -- do Google search for "google my maps" "Ann Stafford (with the quote marks)
  48. Ideas for User-Created maps -- where you have lived, where you went to school, your ancestor's migrations, or special events in an ancestor's life
  49. Google Earth -- very impressive program -- see

  51. Type in "set timer for" [H hours M minutes S seconds] or else [8:30 pm], etc. -- Sets an alarm that beeps; helps remind you to do something or just to take a break from sitting at your computer 
  52. Language translation
    1. Type in "translate nacimiento english" -- Result is "birth"
    2. Has a translation section --
    3. Write or copy foreign language text into the box, set languages from and to, and get translation 
    4. Can also have it translate websites to and from various languages, e.g. English to Spanish
    5. Example:  To see FamilySearch in Swahili type "" (without the quotes) into the text box field, set English to Swahili and click Translate -- all text is translated into Swahili -- images, including pdf's, aren't translated -- translation stays turned on as you click on links from there, but turns off when you type a new URL in the browser address field or enter a search term
    6. Example:  To see all my class notes in Spanish copy and paste "" (without the quotes) into the text box field, set English to Spanish, click Translate -- shows all my notes and linked webpages translated into Spanish -- returns to English when you type a new URL into the browser address box
  53. PICASA 3 -- free image organizer and editor and has facial recognition from Google; has been replaced by GOOGLE PHOTOS, but still available to download for free on other websites -- do a Google search for "Picasa download"
  54. New Google Android and iPhone app -- PHOTO SCAN -- lines up edges of photo and gives you a good quality photo
  55. See what the world is searching for --
  56. Google Inside Search blog -- -- helpful information about Google searches
  57. Google Alerts -- -- Notifies you of changes to websites you list
  58. Google Enterprise Labs -- -- Innovations and experiments
  59. Easy Google Genealogy Searcher -- -- allows you to enter search terms and do various kinds of genealogy searches with Google, but is limited in the sites it searches
  60. Can set up searches for just websites you want at -- 
  61. Google can do many other things that we are not discussing here -- click More > Even More -- to see some 
  62. Helps for Google searches


  63. Some of the above approaches work with other search engines, but not all -- read their Helps
  64. The Free Genealogy Search Engine --
  65. Mocavo (bought by FindMyPast) does free simple genealogy searches --
  66. MyHeritage does good genealogy searches on your ancestor tree -- commercial, but will be free to LDS members as a FamilySearch Partner website
  67. Yippy -- (new version of Clusty -- ) -- clusters the results so you can find the category more easily
  68. Yahoo Babelfish text and website translation -- 
  69. Top Genealogy Search Engines and Directories -- 
  70. CNN article that says using Google is good for your brain --

  72. Internet search engines are extremely helpful in genealogy, especially Google; new features being added all the time
  73. Different search engines find different things, so use more than one.

Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .