Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How to do Custom Searches with Google for Genealogists: Part Three -- Specific Search Functions

Google Search recognizes some of the common Boolean Algebraic Search Terms and Operators. Some genealogists advocate using these additional functions to modify searches. Above is a screenshot of the Search Operators page. I seldom use these terms for the simple reason that I feel that the more specific you are with your initial searches, the more likely you are to miss the obvious results. I will only result to using these additional functions if I keep getting little or no accurate results from my searches.

I generally use very few "tricks' when searching. I can usually guess the pertinent search terms for the simple reason that I have done so many searches over the years. Google Search remembers my searches and for any repeated searches, the cache on the Google Chrome browser usually supplies the search term after I type one or two letters. If I am searching for something entirely new, I begin with a general search and then use words from the results to modify additional searches. In this way, searching is similar to the blindfold game where the other participants tell you if you are getting warmer or colder in finding something in a room you cannot see, but the interest does much more efficiently.

Therefore, searching on the internet is an acquired skill and the more you practice searching, the more competent you will become. There is really no substitute for constant searching. Let me give an example of what I mean. Let's say you want to find websites with family trees such as and Let's also suppose that you just attended a class where the instructor advocated using the Search Operators and so you look at the list. You see two such operators that might help you: site: and related:. Here are the explanations about these operators from the Google Search operators webpage:

Note the comment that says, "Don't worry about memorizing every operator, because you can also use the Advanced Search page to create these searches." Here is a screenshot of the Advanced Search page.

Essentially, from a technical standpoint, these search fields allow you to add Boolean Algebraic Search Terms and Operators without referring to a list of the operators. If you are interested, here is an example of "real" Boolean Algebra:

Another help for understanding online searches is the entire mathematical study of Set Theory. Both Set Theory and Boolean Algebra had and continue to have a major impact on the development of computer programming. Do you really need to know all this to find information about your ancestors online? Not really, but it does help. 

Stay tuned.

Here are the previous articles in this series.

No comments:

Post a Comment