This is one of a series of articles about Google’s search interface and its application to genealogy.
Have you read Daniel M. Lynch's new book, Google Your Family Tree? If you don't have the book, you can learn many of the tips and tricks by doing a Google search for "Google" and "Genealogy." What you'll find is that Google is gradually introducing pseudo-multiple fields that are essential for many types of searches, including genealogy searches.
To account for an optional middle name and to simulate first and last name fields, separate the first and last names with an asterisk (*), like this:
Fortunately, Google is “smart” enough to look for “synonyms” like Daniel for Dan. Unfortunately, the same algorithm will match Attorney instead of Lawyer. To simulate of name fields, you must take another step. Include the names in reverse order to match web pages that list last name first:
To account for occurrences without middle names, also include the names without the asterisk:
It also occurs to me that we’re seeing results with just Dan. To assure we get Dan and Lawyer, put quotes around the names:
Unfortunately, using quotes disables synonym checking, so we’re no longer seeing Daniel. You’ll have to use additional searches to match other common spellings or forms of names.
Introduce a pseudo-date field to search for a range of dates. Separate the two dates by two dots like this: 1958..2009. To make certain the date applies to any of the three name arrangements, we add parentheses like so:
Other Pseudo Fields
Google provides a whole set of special words and prefixes which can be used in the single search field to invoke the same capabilities as its multiple-field advanced search. For example, if we wanted to search records only on FamilySearch.org, we could use the “site:” prefix:
Single field or multi-field
Now, if you can’t remember how to invoke all these pseudo-fields inside Google’s single-field home page, you can use Google’s multi-field Advanced Search page and accomplish the same things. Q.E.D. These single-field special tips, tricks, weird punctuation rules, etc. create the equivalent of a multiple field search.
Think about it. Google, with dozens and dozens of search engineers—certainly many times more than FamilySearch has working on search—can’t figure out how to make a natural-language single-field search work for something as simple as searching for all forms of a person’s name and a date associated with that person. If Google can’t do it, what chance is there that FamilySearch can do it?!?
Google Genealogy Searches
If you’re serious about doing genealogy searches with Google, you’re better off using one of the many multi-field genealogy search forms that are available. These search forms remember all the arcane Google rules for you. You enter data in a simple, genealogy-oriented search form and the website generates the weird Google single-field search syntax for you.
One example of such a website is www.genealogy-search-help.com which gives this familiar-looking search form:
Enter all the information you know and click Submit. Most Google genealogy search websites responds with several choices and this website is no exception. Pick a choice and the website suggests one or more Google searches for you to try. For the example above, some of the suggestions are:
- "Drusilla Dorris" OR "Drusilla * Dorris" OR "Dorris, Drusilla" "James Hendricks" ~genealogy OR ~ancestry – One of three forms of the spouse’s name. The other two are suggested as separate searches.
- "Drusilla Dorris" OR "Drusilla * Dorris" OR "Dorris, Drusilla" "James Hendricks" Tennessee OR +TN – Same as above, but includes place of birth instead of subjects “genealogy” or “ancestry.”
- "Drusilla Dorris" OR "Drusilla * Dorris" OR "Dorris, Drusilla" James -Hendricks Utah OR +UT – Use death instead of birth place. Check for websites that didn’t know married name.
- allintitle: Dorris ~genealogy OR ~ancestry – Search for Dorris websites.
For additional information about Google genealogy searches, see
- Barry & Associates, Inc., Genealogy-Search-Help.com (www.genealogy-search-help.com : accessed 17 June 2009); this is the example website from above.
- “Easy Google Genealogy Searcher,” Ancestor Search …Find your family history (www.searchforancestors.com : accessed 17 June 2009); special forms that work instead of remembering all the special Google keywords and prefixes.
- “Easy Google Genealogy Searcher - Part 2,” Ancestor Search …Find your family history (www.searchforancestors.com : accessed 17 June 2009); more special forms.
- Kathi Reid, “Using Google in Genealogy Searches,” Ancestor Search …Find your family history (www.searchforancestors.com : accessed 17 June 2009).
- Kathi Reid, “Google in Genealogy Searches,” Ancestor Search …Find your family history (www.searchforancestors.com : accessed 17 June 2009).
- Kimberly Powell, “Google Genealogy Style,” About.com (http://genealogy.about.com : accessed 17 June 2009).
For more help with Google Search, see