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Monday, June 29, 2009

Revisiting Bing for Genealogy Searches

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of ways to search on the Internet, but like many people, I have used Google for quite a while. In analyzing the reasons for sticking with Google, it comes down to consistency in searches. I can almost always predict what I will find with Google and nearly always find what I am looking for. I have a lot of interest in trying out new search engines, if there is something better then I will use it.

Bing has been introduced with a huge sales campaign. Recent news articles have even suggested that people prefer Bing to Google.

First of all, Bing has a lot of contemporary links on its home page. My first impression would be that I would have to spend some time figuring out how to get rid of references to Michael Jackson and vacation destinations, all of which has no interest to me at all. I already know that I don't care for Microsoft's mapping program, so that is one strike down already.

Right now I am researching the Mormon Pioneer settlement of Arizona. So I chose a search term "mormon pioneer settlement arizona" that I have used extensively on Google. When I made the same search on Bing, I got some general references to Mormons and Pioneers, but what I did not get was any direct reference to the book by James H. McClintock called, in part, "Mormon Settlement in Arizona." There just happen to be a half a dozen or so complete text and digitized copies of this book on the Internet.

My first effort showed me that Bing is not there yet. But, let's try again. This time I choose a completely different area and search term, "immigration records 1864." On Google I got over 100,000 returns with many very specific sites on the first page of hits. The results of the same search on Bing returned more hits and apparently about the same selection of results.

Now it was back to a more specific search, this time for a person I knew was mentioned in hundreds of sites on the Web, my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner. In Bing, interestingly, the search found only 14 references including an indirect reference to McClintock's book, but missed any of the references in the Arizona State Archive's collection.

The same search on Google found 5,970 references to "henry martin tanner" including the Arizona Archives Online on the first page of results.

I am going to have to conclude that Bing is not there yet. It does OK with a general search, finding major Websites like Ancestry.com, but on a search for a specific term such as the name of an ancestor, it is sadly lacking in depth and usability. I also did not find that Bing was yet an alternative to Google that I would spend my time making a double search.

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