Thursday, March 10, 2016

Never Forget to Google It

Even in this rapidly-evolving digitized age of genealogical research, we sometimes need a friendly reminder of the basics.

As I work my way forward in time, filling in the blanks on all the descendants of my ancestors—because, genetic genealogy—I've gotten stuck on some of those more recent entries. What if there are no records find-able on Find A Grave? What if the auto-correct on Ancestry doesn't fill in the blanks on the name of the town where a distant relative was born?

There is a work-around to those pesky—and missing—details: look it up on Google!

Yeah, I already knew that. Likely, so did you. But it never hurts to be reminded.

I have a number of subscriptions to services that genealogists find invaluable, such as newspaper digitization projects, but you and I know not all obituaries are resident within the collection of companies such as Genealogy Bank or Newspaper Archives. Lately, I've taken to bypassing that tedious sign-in-with-password dance at each of these sites and gone first to Google. Putting the full name in quotes, then topping it off with the single word, "obituaries," I hit the search button and see what comes up. I've been pleasantly surprised to add data to my genealogical records from the harvest gleaned from Google searches.

Another challenge, especially in those decades far removed from the present, is to find the appropriate location for the now-nonexistent small towns of yesteryear. I always like to put in city (or, for rural locations back east, at least the township) and county, as well as the state and nation. Doing that for records from the mid-1800s, say, might lead to references concerning places no longer on the map. Yes, I know I can find a collection with the pertinent historic maps for the area and time period, but I'd just as soon type in the name in the Google dialog box. Sometimes, the answer comes up much faster. I like that. Lots.

Though we like to think we've outgrown all those pockets of genealogical gems buried in the back alleys of the 1990s Internet, they are still out there. Though a headache to search directly on the site, itself—hey, that's where Cyndi's List got its street cred—sometimes a Google search will yield results with much less effort. Of course, that's more likely to apply to a search for a Cuthbert than a Johnson. That's where I'm thankful for the good fortune to have some unusually-named ancestors, along with a breadcrumb trail including a few pertinent hints like place of birth or death.

Not just for everyday life but for my genealogical puzzles, I've found Google growing into my go-to resource, my just-in-case place for any time I run into a research roadblock. Or any time I want to polish up those database details.

Google is one of those online utilities that we so take for granted, we tend to forget its overall usefulness. I'm glad this week's research tasks reminded me to keep this one handy in my digital toolkit.

Above: "The Lakes of Llanberis, from the road from Carnarvon going to Llanberis, Carnarvonshire, July 14, 1792," by British watercolor landscape painter, John Warwick Smith; courtesy Google Art Project via Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Jacqi, thanks for that reminder! I often forget to try that.

  2. Amen! Make a web search a "to-do" list item.


  3. Yes we need to always check google. It's so easy and can yield great results. Thanks for the reminder. I'm still working on a new blog behind the scenes. Worked some on maps today.

  4. In quotes I will have yo try that! :)


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