ROOTS-L Archives

Archiver > ROOTS > 2003-03 > 1048252044

From: "... valentine53179" <>
Subject: [ROOTS-L] howtos
Date: Fri, 21 Mar 2003 07:07:24 -0600


Effective use of search engines

WITH APPROVAL of the writer....
this is a good bit of info to PRINTOUT and
save for the time when you REALLY NEED it...
or before you just 'write to your favorite list' for basic stuff....
NOTE number 5!
This will be a bit of GOOD news to those (myself included when I am just casual....) that INSIST on using lower case throughout their queries!
A chance to actually benefit from lower case words!
good luck to us all in our searching...

----- Original Message -----
From: Don Watson
Subject: Effective use of search engines

It's a fact! If search engines get any better, they may replace ALL
websites! Be the first on your block to understand searching the wild,
wild web........

1) Too much information

When too much information in included in a search, you may reduce the
chances for a hit in cases where names have been abbreviated,
misspelled, or are missing.

If you don't get a hit in a genealogy search engine, try using just
the surname. Sometimes a person may be listed by his nickname, his
middle name, or an abbreviated first name and this will keep you
from getting a match. If you search for Josef Schmidt, it will not
match necessarily Jos Schmidt or J. Schmidt. If you are using a search
with location, try the search without the location. The database may
have missing or incorrect geographic information, or the location may
not be where you think it is.

2) Spelling is important

Most search engines will only give hits on EXACT matches. If you don't
get a hit using both the first and last name, try using just the
surname. Sometimes a person's first name may be misspelled,
abbreviated or missing in the database you are searching. Check to
make sure you have typed the name correctly into the search box. Try
spelling variations even if you believe that your surname was always
spelled the same way. Many times, clerks and census takers used some
very creative or careless spelling and also, difficult to read or
faded handwriting may have been transcribed incorrectly.

If the search engine allows for a soundex search (searches for names
that sound alike, but not spelled alike), be sure to try it. Remember,
to a search engine Schmidt and Schmit is NOT a match unless you use a
soundex search. Check under Advanced Search in the search engine you
are using.

If you don't get a hit using a location, double check your typing and
spelling. Use the spell checker in your word processor and then cut
and paste the word to the search engine to make sure you have the
correct spelling to use for a search engine. Try the search with the
location field blank.

3) Watch those abbreviations.

Search engines are not smart. They only know what you tell them. It
cannot be stated too many times that search engines will only give
hits on EXACT matches. Avoid using abbreviations for location names.
For example, a search engine does not know that Germany, Deutschland,
and DEU are the same. If you type in DEU, it will search for those
pages with DEU only, and your search will miss all the webpages that
use the other two words. (This does not apply to search engines that
use a pull-down menu of abbreviated locations). Avoid using
abbreviations for keywords until after your first try. Then you can
experiment with abbreviations.

4) Put the full name in quotes.

In some search engines, if you type Johann Schmidt, you may receive
every occurrence of Johann and every occurrence of Schmidt, but not
Johann Schmidt. For example, if John Jones and Hiram Smith are "out
there", it will show you all of the John's, all the Jones', all the
Hiram's, and all the Smith's -- but not necessarily together. You'll
get thousands of responses, if not millions. If you run into this
problem, try putting "Johann Schmidt" in quotes and the search engine
will search for that exact phrase. You can do the same with locations:
"Darmstadt, Hessen" or "Kassel, Hessen-Kassel" or "Hesse-Cassel". You
may also want to try "Hessen-Darmstadt" AND "Hesse-Darmstadt"
+Frankfurt -Alzey. Just put AND between your first two choices. That
will return all the sites where all three words are found together,
minus Alzey. To avoid having the computer leave out Darmstadt in
Hessen-Darmstadt (because of the minus sign), put "Hessen-Darmstadt"
inside quotation marks. In the case of proper nouns inside of
quotation marks, you may use capital
letters, but not necessarily for those which are outside of quotation
marks, or with a plus + or minus - sign outside of quotation marks.
Remember that "Hesse" is English, and "Hessen" is German.

5) Use only lower case letters.

When entering words in a search engine, always enter them in lower
case, unless they are proper nouns AND inside quotation marks.
Otherwise, do not use capital letters. This is one time you can forget
the grammar rules you learned in school. Search engines are programmed
to accept capitalized words or words with upper case letters in them
and look for exact matches to them. That means that if you typed the
surname SMITH, the search engine MAY not match ANY web pages where
the surname was typed as Smith or smith. If you type Smith, it may not
find SMITH or smith. If you type your search word in all lower case,
the search engine will look for Smith, SMITH, smith, in any variations
of upper and lower case, or mixed case.

6) It's Better to be Single

Always type any word you are searching for in its singular form the
first try. If you were looking for information about churches in
Frankfurt, you should enter the words frankfurt church rather than
frankfurt churches. By using the singular form, search engines will
return webpage matches to you with both singular and plural forms. In
addition, some search engines use word stemming in their searching.
Word stemming allows you to enter a simplified form of a word and then
the search engine searches for all forms of the word. An example would
be the word _find_ . The search engine will search for find,
finder, and finding - but not found. You may want to experiment with a
plural form later. Try, for example, +bensheim +kirchen for the
German church plural form.

7) Forcing a word or words

Try this method in a search engine: schmidt +darmstadt or weber
+heppenheim or grueber +german +genealogy (grueber +deutsch
+genealogie). The word(s) with a plus sign MUST appear in the
response. You can also try fox -animal (fox minus animal) which will
eliminate all web pages on which the word animal appears. You have a
better chance of finding a family named Fox, not a zillion webpages
about the fox. A + (plus sign) forces the computer to make that word
appear in your response. A - (minus sign) keeps the computer from
including a word in your response. For example, +kirche
+deutschland -darmstadt or +church +german -darmstadt
will check for churches in Germany, but leave out Darmstadt church

8) Don't Forget the Spaces.

Don't enter one long run-on word such as
josefhelmutschmidtbischofsheim. Make sure there is a space between
each search word. Enter josef helmut schmidt bischofsheim, or better,
"josef helmut schmidt" +bischofsheim.

9) Each Search Engine is Unique.

Each search engine indexes different webpages, or uses a different
database and each has different rules for searching. Be sure to try
each engine for your names, and if you run into problems, check the
help for that search engine.

This thread: