As genealogists, our basic activity is the process of searching for information about our ancestors. This process centers on historical documents and records. Because our families very likely moved from one place to another, to find these historical documents and records we are compelled to do wide searches in a large number of repositories, archives, and libraries. Current technology focused on the internet has opened up a seemingly infinite amount of information. Searching through all this information for the specific details we need to identify our ancestors may seem impossible or, at least, overwhelming. Fortunately, we have some extremely powerful tools to help us with our searches.
Among the various large, online search engines, Google Search is well established as the most extensive and available and it ranks first in almost any category of possible comparison with any other search engine. Google is funded by advertising and has grown to one of the largest and most influential companies in the world.
Genealogists, taken as a group of people, probably do not have any more experience in using Google to make online searches than the population at large. In my experience, many people have no idea how to make educated and effective online searches. They are reduced to entering randomly selected terms and being frustrated with the lack of results from their searches. Because Google, as with any other online program, has been developed by engineers and programmers the results of searching are often impenetrable to the non-initiate.
There are a few genealogists who have developed their own suggested methods for improving the accuracy and speed of searching on Google. I am not alone nor unique in suggesting various ways of improving both searching accuracy and speed. However, it is very easy to suggest methods that rapidly become more complicated than the objectives they are trying to achieve. It is important to maintain a balance between failing to find the object of your search and becoming so bogged down in programming a search that you lose sight of the purpose of searching in the first place.
Google has provided a considerable number of websites containing information about the search process and various methods for increasing accuracy and speed. But there is a basic chicken and egg issue; how do you find the help pages if you don't know how to search. Hence, the need for some basic education about searching online with Google.
Before getting into the subject of searching any further, rather than adding a list of the helpful websites at the end of this discussion, I decided to provide the list at the beginning. Here are some of the Google websites that talk about the methods of doing searches.
- Search Help Center, https://support.google.com/websearch/?hl=en#topic=3081620
- Search Help, How to search on Google, https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/134479?hl=en
- Search operators, https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2466433
- Image search on Google, https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/112511
- Search for images with reverse image search, https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808
- Filter your search results, https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/142143
- Advanced Search for websites, https://www.google.com/advanced_search
- Advanced Search for images, https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search
- Google Inside Search, https://www.google.com/intl/es419/insidesearch/
- Google Safety Center, https://www.google.com/safetycenter/everyone/start/devices/
The last item on the list is the Google Safety Center, https://www.google.com/safetycenter/everyone/start/devices/. No matter what level of experience you have with computers and online searching, you need to be aware and cautious about malware, programs designed to damage or take control of your computer. You also need to know how to avoid unwanted, inappropriate content. The Google Safety Center can get you started in avoid some of the problems associated with searching online.
Stay tuned for more information on searching on Google.