Google Ancestry Search

If you clicked on the "Google Census Search" link, then this page will probably look very familiar. As far as I know, there is no tool called "Google Ancestry Search". However, it is quite simple to use Google to search for ancestry data, thus the link "Google Ancestry Search". The "USGenWeb" collection of free ancestry data, one of the largest sources on the internet,  is easily accessible through a Google search.

A lot of websites offering free ancestry data get it from the "USGenWeb" collections. When it comes to free ancestry the best choices are "USGenWeb", "LDS Family Search", the library edition of "Ancestry.Com" and" Heritage Quest Online".  The LDS collections are only accessible through their Family Search website. The library edition of "Ancestry.Com" and "Heritage Quest Online" are available through libraries that subscibe to the service.  The USGenWeb data is available to everyone.

The "USGenWeb" has other ways to access their ancestry data besides a Google search. You could  go to the "USGenWeb Archives" and do a manual search or you could try the "USGenWeb Archives Search Engine", but we will focus on using Google to search their collections and everything else on the web.  

Before doing an ancestry search on Google, you should gather as many facts as possible on what it is your are trying to find.

For the purpose of the test Google Search below, I have already gone into the "USGenWeb" archives and chosen a test entry to make sure my example works. I randomly found a woman by the name of "Eliza Glynn" who lived in Orange County Florida in 1850. So now we have some facts to use in our search query.

  • First name: Eliza
  • Second name: Glynn
  • Lived in State: Florida
  • Lived in County: Orange
  • Year: 1850
A very powerfulGoogle search command operator  is, "allintext". If you start your query with allintext, Google restricts results to those containing all the query terms you specify in the text of the page. For example: 

As you can see above we have narrowed the search to two results. The file we have found in this example is a transcribed census document. The first result is the file I manually found in the "USGenWeb Archives". Without  the "allintext" operator, you would get twenty-four results. Twenty-four is not that many to look through,but  in some cases you might wind up with thousands of results. Notice that I used double quotes for the first and last name. Without the double quotes, Google returned fifty-two thousand results. Fortunately, the file we had found in our first example was the second of the fifty-two thousand results because Google thought it was the best match. 

Another way to use Google to search your ancestry is to use the "+" symbol. The "+" symbol tells Google that the term after the "+"  must  be included in your search. You should not have a space between the "+" and the term.  Lets take the same example I used above and use the "+" and remove the command operator "allintext:

The Google search returned two-hundred and twelve thousands results, but the second was our file from the first example. Again, you may not always be this lucky just using the "+" symbol. In the following example, I used double quotes around the first and last name:

Google returned five results, but not the file we had found in our other two tests. In the above search the double quotes indicates that the first name has to be first followed by last. Lets try reversing the first and last name in quotes.

As you can see in the example above, we have found our census file. One thing to remember is that a lot of census data entries has the last name first. So try both ways just to be sure.

Google also allows you to filter out unwanted results using the "-" symbol. If our above search returned a lot of results with a person with the same name living in New York, we could have filtered these out with the "-" symbol. You would just add -NY or -"New York" at the end of the search query. Warning: Do not use the "-" symbol unless you know for a fact that there are results that contain the term you want filtered.

Since the largest source of free ancestry data is in the USGenWeb Archives, I suggest you use "USGenWeb" as a search term when searching with both the  "allintext" operator and "+" symbol. I guess this would be a good time to mention that the "-" symbol can be used with the "allintext" operator to filter out unwanted results.

If you wanted to use Google to search just the "USGenWeb Archives" files, there is a way to restrict your search to a particular set of files. You can use the "site" operator to tell Google where to search as well as what to search for.  Lets try another example using a relative of mine. 

  • First name: Nehemiah
  • Last name: Smith
  • Lived in: Missouri
  • Year 1850
In the example below I used the "allintext" command operator to search for this person with the facts I had. Unlike "Eliza Glynn", "Nehemiah Smith" was a more common name in the past. The search returned  thousands of results. 

Thousands of results is way to many to search through. I need to reduce the number of results. Since the "USGenWeb" has the largest collection of free ancestry data, then maybe I should use "USGenWeb" as part of my search query.

As you can see that reduced it to twenty-five results. An easy number to search through. You could also use the "+" symbo; to do the search above, but it will give you many more results.

There is yet another way to restrict your search query to a particular area of the internet. By using the command "site" you can specify an area of the internet you want to search. The site command works with "allintext" and the "+" and "-" symbols. In the example below I want to search all of the free ancestry websites at rootsweb to see if somebody has created a website for our example. Here's what the search query would look like using the "allintext" operator:

allintest:"nehemiah smith" site:  ------------------------------------ returned 245 results
allintest:"nehemiah smith" +missouri  site: ---------------------- returned 28 results
allintest:"nehemiah smith" +missouri +madison site: -------- returned 13 results

The more information you have, the more bad results you can filter out. When I tried it without the "allintext" operator:

"nehemiah smith" site:  --------------------------------------- returned 222 results
"nehemiah smith" +missouri site:  -------------------------returned 13 results
"nehemiah smith" +missouri +madison site: ---------- returned 111 results

As you can see in the line above, using the "+madison" as a term in my search, gave me a lot of results I didn't want.

You can make your own "USGenWeb Archives" search tool with a Google query using the right commands. Lets first go to the
 "USGenWeb Archives Search Engine"  and search for "Eliza Glen" or "Glen Eliza". When you click on the website you will see a list of states. Click on "Florida" and you come to the search tool. Under "Search For" put "Glenn Eliza". Don't forget the double quotes. Don't worry about the county. Go ahead and press the "Search" button. You will get one return. This is the 1850 Orange County Florida census file we have been looking for.  Now lets try the same search with Google:

The search returned two results and the first one was the same one the "USGenWeb Archives Search" found. The "USGenWeb" search tool was a bit easier, but as you can see there are many ways using Google to find what you are looking for. The important thing is to not get frustrated and give up. 

 A Google search is very powerful and can be done in many different ways. Try them all and see which works best for you.