2020 Donald R. Snow
Page last updated 2020-03-26.
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ABSTRACT:  Internet search engines, and Google in particular, are very helpful for many things on your computer. For family history these include finding genealogy data, particular websites and databases, finding information and spelling of locations, searching for images, maps, and books, and translating text to and from many languages. And there are options when showing the results such as highlighting the search terms in the resulting websites. This class will discuss Google and its uses. 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 searching with Google in particular, for genealogy and family history

  6. Search engines began with the Internet and the World Wide Web 50 years ago
    1. Search Engine History --
    2. The History of Search Engines -- 
    3. Wikipedia --  
  7. There are 100s of different search engines and some find different things than others, so use more than one and read the search info before using one since they use different syntaxes
  8. Metasearch engines -- websites that search several search engines at once
    1. Wikipedia article -- --
    2. List of metasearch engines -- 
    3. Example -- Dogpile -- 
    4. Example -- -- 


  9. Google was started more than 20 years ago by graduate students at Stanford University -- for Google's history see
  10. Google has search engines for more than 200 countries and you get different reuslts from each, so consider your intended searches -- see Google Country List and URLs here -- -- e.g., for England use -- same search syntax seems to work in all 
  11. The Advanced Search in Google includes boxes for each of the above syntax, so you don't have to remember it --
  12. Google Advanced Search for Genealogy, Parts 1 and 2 --  and

  14. Caps and punctuation are ignored,  search terms "england genealogy" (no quotes) and "ENGland, Genealogy" (no quotes) give same results
  15. "[term or phrase]" gets exactly that term or phrase, i.e. "Joseph Smith" (with the quotes) gets results with Joseph Smith together; otherwise you get pages with Joseph and Smith on same page, but not necesssaryily together. -- Try your own name in quotes; also try different orders in quotes, e.g. "donald r. snow", "snow, donald r", "donald snow", etc.
  16. Wildcard: asterisk "*" (no quotes) allows any character, word, or phrase in that place, e.g. anders*n picks up anderson and anderssen (Swedes and Danes); in terms inside of quotes it allows any characters between, e.g. "donald * snow" picks up donald r. snow, donald ray snow, donald and the snow white horse, etc. ; "erastus*snow" returns Erastus Snow, Erastus Beman Snow, and even Erastus and Artimesia Beman Snow; for non-quotes with full words you don't need it since it searches for all terms anyway  
  17. Stem searches: Google brings back anything starting with what you type in, e.g. histor brings back history, histories, historical, etc.
  18. Minus sign:  "-[term]" (no quotes) eliminates hits with that term; helpful to narrow down results when you get too many hits 

  19. To search for a number range, e.g. year range, quantity, distance, cost, etc.; e.g. "1500..1600" (without the quotes) shows hits only in the 1500s; to seach for prices include $ 
  20. To search so it includes synonyms use "~" (tilde, no quotes) in front of term; e.g. "~genealogy" returns hits with  genealogy, family history, misspellings of genealogy, and several other related terms .  There is no list of all synonyms that Google uses, but you can generate such a list by successively subtracting out terms already found, e.g. include "-[already observed term1]" "-[already observed term2]", etc.
  21. 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 Beman Snow; Erastus Snow marries Artimesia Beman; Artimesia Beman, wife of Erastus Snow; etc.
    4. "sep AROUND(5) 1879" (without the quotes) picks up  xx Sep 1879, Sep xx, 1879, September of 1879, Sep xxth of 1879, etc.
  22. 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, so OR gives more than AND
  23. To find the county that a city is in use "Morgantown West Virginia county" (without the quotes), for example
  24. 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 with the results there are usually other results shown using that number.
  25. To find correct spelling of a word type something close, e.g. "irland", and you get "Did you mean Ireland?"
  26. Site searches - " snow" (no quotes) searches only that website for snow; just including the URL would find those and additional websites, not just from that website; site searches may be very helfpul 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. site: "Family History Consultants" -- finds FH Consultant info there
    4. "to view a digital" snow -- shows the posted digital books and articles that include the Snow family
  27. To find only particular types of files use "filetype:[extension], e.g. "filetype:pdf " or "filetype:ged" (no quotes and no space between filetype: and extension) -- finds only pdfs or only GEDCOMS -- some types to search for: pdf, ged, doc, xls, jpg, ppt, etc.
  28. Linked sites: "link:[website]" -- finds all websites linked to a particular site, e.g. try "link:"
  29. Microphones can be used to dictate the search terms into Google -- click on the microphone icon on the Google search box and speak the search terms you want.
  30. Clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky" takes you directly to the top listed website

  32. For simplicy when checking Google results, or for any search engine, hold down the CTRL key when clicking on the link so it will open in a new tab and keep your place in the Google results page -- saves having to refind your place later  
  33. Search terms can be made more visible in several ways.
    1. Use CTRL-F to find and highlight terms on any webpage  
    2. On Chrome browser install and turn on the extension -- "Highlight Keywords For Google Search" -- 
    3.  On Firefox browser install and turn on the Add-On -- Highlight for Google -- 


  34. Type in "translate nacimiento" (no uotes) you get "birth" since it assumes you want English; to tranlate to German, for example, enter "translate nacimiento to German" (no quotes); "translate spanish to german" opens two boxes where you can type any word into the first and see the translation in the second and you can change the languages by clicking on the pick arrows (downward pointing triangles)  
  35. Has a translation section -- -- Write or copy foreign language text into the box, set languages from and to, and see the translation
  36. Translating entire webistes between languages, e.g. Swedish to English or English to Spanish, go to ; then:
    1. Example:  To see FamilySearch in Swahili type "" (without the quotes) into the left search box, set English there and set Swahili in the right box; the URL in the right box will now be a link which will show everything in Swahili for that webpage and everything linked from it until you type another URL in the search box -- it won't translate pdf's nor images with writing, but all the other text will be 
    2. Example:  To see all my class notes in Spanish, set entry language as English and enter "" (without the quotes); set Spanish for the tranlation language and the URL in the right box is now a link which will show all the webpages and notes in Spanish 


  37. Internet search engines are extremely helpful in genealogy and lots of other places and new features are added regularly.
  38. Different search engines find different things, so use more than one. 
  39. This just scratches the surface of what Google can do -- additional things are discussed in other sets of my notes and articles includeing Books, Images, Photos, Maps, "My Maps", Google Alerts, and much more
  40. It pays to know the basics about search engines, so you can get more out of them. 

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