Most people have used Google to search for their ancestors. Google has some search modifiers that are helpful for searching anthing on the internet, but it seems like they were Made with a Capital M for Genealogy research! Here I will explain Google's tips on making your search go easier using their modifiers. There is no space after some of the modifiers. I will give you the link to the page at the end.
The first one you have probably used to make your search more precise. Using quote marks means search for those exact words. So, looking for John Smith, you don't want to end up with all the Smiths in the world, just the ones named John so you would type:
"John Smith"But let's say you want only the John Smiths in a certain place, for example Devon. Then you would type the name in quotes and a plus sign modifier, then no space and the place you want, in this case Devon or wherever you are looking for him. Three examples:
"John Smith" +Devon, "John Smith" +school, "John Smith" +postmasterThese days with social media so popular, you type "John Smith" and your results include all the John Smiths on FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. This is where the minus sign comes in handy. As above, type the name in quotes but with a minus sign modifier, then no space and whatever words you want to filter out of your search. For example:
"John Smith" -Facebook, "John Smith" -explorerYou can also use several modifiers at the same time, there is really no limit on how many you can use.
"John Smith" +Devon +school, "John Smith" -Facebook -LinkedInAnother modifier is OR. You would use it when you aren't sure which you want so you will get results for one or the other.
"John Smith" OR "James Smith" , "John Smith" +postmaster OR teacherHere is an example of multiple modifiers:
"John Smith" +postmaster OR teacher -facebook -linkedin -GeorgiaIf you are looking for something that you don't know all the words you can use an asterisk, like looking for an adage, or the lyrics of a song:
"One for the * two for the * three for"Since you are looking for an ancestor, another good one to remember is the ~ tilde symbol, with no space. Try entering genealogy, or medicine, or whatever field you want. Here are 3 examples:
"John Smith" ~genealogy, "John Smith" ~medicine, "John Smith" ~militaryThis will give you a better chance of getting the John Smiths in results that are relevant to your research. When I entered it using ~genealogy, one of the first results was a book on archive.org titled "Record of the Smith family descended from John Smith born 1655."
If you are looking for a John Smith only in the 1800's, you would use the double dot modifier, no spaces.
"John Smith" 1800..1899Now this one is my Favourite, capital F! It is really helpful when you have a site full of links and you don't know which one might have mention of your ancestor. It is the site modifier. This will search the whole site for the word, words or phrase you want. You enter the word(s) you are searching for, (space) then site (no space) and the : colon symbol, (no space) and URL of the site (with or without the http://) you want to search. You can copy and paste the URL for accuracy. This is an example:
smith louisa site:www.theshipslist.com/You will get a list of all the entries in the site The Ships List that mention Louisa Smith.
Besides searching for ancestors, google can do other tricks for you. Try a math problem.
30% of 55, or 423+((594*3) /4)The define: modifier will find the definition of the word: define:gregarious
Google will also give you conversions. Three examples...
28C in F, 40$ in pounds, 89 miles in KmWhen searching for images, use the Search Tool drop down menu on the toolbar. There you can filter by size, colours, type etc.
To get more relevant results always use the Google of the country you are searching in:
google. com/ .ca/ .uk/ .fr/ .ie/ .au/ .deIf you don't know what it is, in your Google type google [country] and it will give it to you.
I hope bringing these little tricks to your attention will help you wade through all the plethora of results when searching for your ancestors using Google.
Here's a little something fun. This is something they don't tell you, and what I discovered in one of those Serendipity moments. You know those google-doodles they put up on special occasions? Well, Google thinks you are special. If you have a google or gmail account, have your birthday added to your profile and are signed in on your birthday, Google will put up a google-doodle just for you, because they think that day is something to celebrate! Mouse-over the doodle and it says Happy Birthday to You.
NOTE: In 2015 Google changed some of their qualifiers (or operators) - The ~ symbol is no longer valid.