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Using Search Engines for Genealogy Research

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Search engines can be very helpful in finding information about your ancestors, especially for obscure information you can't find elsewhere.


Google is one of the most popular search engines in the world. You can use it to find a variety of information.

  1. General Search - You can search for your ancestors by name using quote marks to get a lower number of more accurate results. You can search for your ancestors address, their home town, maps of any locality or country they lived in, locations of record centers, heritage centers, libraries, archives and government offices. You can also search for cemeteries and burial sites by cemetery or by name.
  2. Google Maps - will show you several views of the home of your ancestors as it looks today and in the recent past. Views include road map with directions, landscape and street view. Street view includes views of individual houses and properties. You can look up your ancestors address and see what is there today. Sometimes your ancestors home is still standing! You can look back up to 12 years to see what the property looked like in 2007 or 2014 or possibly other years. Sometimes an empty lot had a building back in 2007 that has since been torn down or replaced.
  3. Google images will show you all the images it can find for your search term. You might want to enter the surname of your ancestor or your ancestors entire name and see what comes up. This is a good way to find obituary photos if the name is not too common.
  4. Google Books - shows you pages of old out of print books scanned by google. Often these are obsure reference books that might have just the information you are looking for!

Other search engines

Some search engines are more specific and only search certain databases. Often record centers and archives will have an internal search engine for their specific record database. One of the best is familysearch.org/search where you can search the vast holdings of the LDS Mormons who have a huge genealogy library. National archives of foreign countries often have large databases of their records online and they will have a search engine to help you locate the records you need. You might have to search in their language however.

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This page written by: Sharon Centanne

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