After blogging about the use of Boolean searches for genealogy, I decided to try and track down a compact cheatsheet or template I could use when searching in Google. I didn’t come across anything that served my purposes completely, so I made my own. I thought it might be helpful for others, so have posted it here for you to use. I’m sure my list will change as I work with it more and more, but it is a good starting place.
Using whichever search engine you prefer, just plug in your own data using this punctuation and format, and see what kind of results you get:
While compiling this list I came across some previously untapped resources in the search results. I am talking about some high quality original sources that enriched my research and were golden. I encourage you to come up with your own template, and to mix and match the search terms and compare the number of hits you get.
Too many hits? Try adding additional search terms to your string until you have shaped it and narrowed it to suit you. Then copy it and add it to your personal template.
To get an idea of how the construction of a search string affects the number of hits that will result, I’ve included a chart that illustrates my own results in one session:
When using a search engine it is helpful to know a few keyboard shortcuts. I cannot keep track of more than a few in my head, so am sharing the ones I use most often:
I hope this gives your online searching a boost. I’d love to hear your success stories!
Good news everyone! You are finally old enough to use a “cheat sheet” legitimately. In fact, it is one of the secrets of successful genealogists because genealogy is an “open book” test. You can’t store all the necessary information in your head, so knowing where to look for that information really differentiates the pros from the amateurs.
It is essential that you begin to create your own cheat sheets for the localities you research the most, and also for general research topics.
Family Tree Magazine has developed some handy cheat sheets for general topics and they are free.
Click this link for access to these quick reference guides. Here are some snippets from several cheat sheets. I like this timeline of naturalization laws:
This war service reference guide will help you know which military conflicts your ancestor might have been a part of:
This source checklist comes in handy:
There are plenty more on Family Tree Magazine’s website, so check them out. Create a link to them in your digital genealogy toolkit, and add printouts to your reference binder, Cheater 😉
For links to this and other handy genealogy tools, click on Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit on the menu bar above.