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Getting More Out of Google: Using Search, Images and News Archive for Your Genealogy Research

Many a genealogy search has started with someone typing a surname into Google's famous white screen. But Google is also chock-full of resources that can bring you much more information than what's on a web search results page. Learn more about Google Images and Google News Archive (as well as tips on using Google Search), just a few of the many ways Google can supercharge your research.

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Many a genealogy search has started with someone typing a surname into Google's famous white screen. But Google is also chock-full of resources that can bring you much more information than what's on a web search results page. Learn more about Google Images and Google News Archive (as well as tips on using Google Search), just a few of the many ways Google can supercharge your research.

The Basics: Who Doesn't Know How to Use Google Search?

Ever had an argument with someone on what to type in the search box as you "Google" something? I used to insist on double quotes around search terms (e.g. "Eliza Quennell") and if nothing turned up, only then trying the phrase without them. On its website, Google advises that quotes usually aren't needed, since if you put two words together, it will focus on that phrase already.

My preference is still to double quote terms, hoping for a specific hit or two. I then take information from those hits (e.g. I discover she lived in Surrey) to expand another search, this time without double quotes (e.g. Eliza Quennell Surrey) to see what else I can find, such as possible Quennell relatives of Eliza in Surrey.

Instead of clicking on the main link on the results page, I also prefer to click on the tiny "cache" link at the end of a result to view the cached version of the website first. The cached version highlights your search terms, for quick scanning. Sometimes it also gives you the message "these terms only appear in links pointing to this page," telling you that there's nothing there anymore.

On its website, Google recommends using its wildcard search, "a little-known feature that can be very powerful." Including an asterisk (*) in a query tells the search engine to fill in the blanks on your query. You can use this to find suggestions on complete names and locations. (e.g. West *, Kentucky or William * McKenzie.)

Google Images

Type your query into the search box, and then click on the heading "Images" in the top left corner of Google's main screen. If you're lucky, photos of your ancestors, their census records or their tombstones may pop up. I usually stick to double quotes when googling a name in Google Image. Even with the quotes, you could end up with pages of random people who have the same name, as well as pictures that have no clear connection to your query at all.

Clicking on the image gives you the chance of visiting the website on which Google found the image – I once found an entire line of ancestors I hadn't really been looking for that way. I had typed in a great-grandfather's name; a photo of him and his wife were on a website devoted entirely to her lineage, which I hadn't yet begun to research. The name of the cemetery she and her husband were buried in was also on the website; by doing an image search on the cemetery name, I found even more photos and information.

Google News Archive

For genealogists, the main point of interest in Google News is the Google News Archive. Searching through Google News Archive, however, will require more of your time than a simple web or image search.

The quickest, easiest way to get there is to go to news.google.com/archivesearch. Type in your query and click the button, "search archives." You will get some results, listed underneath a handy timeline graph which lets you narrow down results from different 20-year periods. Above this graph, you will see two options: News Articles and Timeline. Clicking on "Timeline" will bring you more results.

But after perusing both, don't quit! Your original query box is up near the top of the screen, and beside the box is the "Advanced Archive Search" option, which lets you specify date ranges, news sources and languages. You may be able to find more information that way.

You'll want to search with each of these methods because the archive's ability to correctly read text, especially from old and sometimes blurry newspapers, isn't the greatest. If you find even one match from an archived newspaper, get ready to spend some time exploring.

A light blue toolbar will be above a magnified version of the article. This toolbar allows you to zoom in, zoom out, flip pages or make the article full-sized. A smaller screen to the right of the magnified article highlights where in the newspaper the archive has found your query terms, and shows you a dark blue box indicating what part of the page is being magnified to your left. You can click and drag the blue box on your right to hover over highlighted terms.

When you're done looking at the pages in front of you and, indeed, however many pages of that particular issue are available, go back to the light blue toolbar and click on "Browse This Newspaper." Google will then show you any other issues of the newspaper it has. If you have been lucky enough to find a local newspaper, take the time to read through as many issues as possible – you will probably find even more clues.

The interesting thing about Google News Archive, besides the treasure of information available, is that for a high-tech feature, it requires a mindset from the past. The Internet has made things easy for us, but getting the most out of Google News Archive requires that old-fashioned microfiche patience and diligence. Good luck!

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2010.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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