Friday, August 20, 2010

Follow Friday: Google Your Ancestors

I have become a real fan of Google for my genealogy research. With more and more information being digitized and put online every day, it is amazing what you can find! Google's mission is to make information easily accessible to all of us. As a researcher that is music to my ears!

One Google search of my great grandparents' names led me to an interview done by the Issaquah Historical Society with my mom's first cousin that she hadn't seen or spoken to in almost 60 years. Since then we have enjoyed a mutually beneficial and thoroughly enjoyable collaboration, enabling us both to learn more about our Reini family. I have provided much of the research and she has provided photos, documents and, best of all, flesh-and-blood first-hand stories of my great grandparents who raised her. We even went to visit her this spring and the cousins were reunited after all of these years.

Many of my searches end up at Google Books. In my experience, there are already a number of historical publication on early counties and their founding families. In these, I have found all kinds of interesting tidbits on many of my ancestors that help to fill out lives that would otherwise be just names and dates on a page. Google Books has the goal to digitize ALL the books in the world, which on August 5th they estimated to be approximately 130 Million. So, keep checking back. You never know what might pop up!

Quite often in my Googling, I find others who are researching the same families that I am. It seems that many of the researchers with the best documented genealogies do not put their work on, but they DO put it on Rootsweb. In contrast to the sites behind a pay wall, Rootsweb appears to be fully indexed by Googlebots, thus included in your Google search results. The Rootsweb WorldConnect Project is just FULL of well documented trees with extensive source material.  It is especially refreshing to be able to contact the researchers directly via their listed email addresses.

I love to use Google Maps to get a better understanding of where my ancestors lived and migrated, as well as how far away they lived from "suspected" relatives. When you Google a place name, usually a Google map will come up at the top of the page. After clicking on it, there is an option to choose "Directions." From there you can plot exactly how many miles it is from one of those small towns we so often come across in our research to another area of interest.

Google Translate is a big help when I am researching records in other countries or trying to read a letter written by one of my immigrant ancestors.

Just tonight I saw that Roots Television has a new video on using Google News archives for genealogy. I think I will have to check that out too!

I could go on and on about the genealogy applications of Google. Heck, I'm even using Google's free services to publish this blog.  If you haven't tried Googling yet, give it a whirl. You might be surprised what you learn!


  1. I'm a Google addict too. Just yesterday I found my great great grandfather on a Temperance list on the Salem Co., NJ Historical Society website using Google search. There's also a free Application called "GooReader 1.7" that is too awesome for words. Google Maps and Google Earth are a MUST have! And you are right about Rootsweb...use it all the time! I could go on and on....

  2. Thanks for commenting, Lisa. I will have to check that App out. Seriously, this post could have been ten times longer with all of the great info I have found using Google!

  3. Regarding RootsWeb World Connect, I believe others, like me, like to post there because it has always been free for a very long time. I don't post to Ancestry, they have an old tree of mine, but I never update that. With RootsWeb, I get many people writing me, and I love it. Thanks for your post.

  4. Like you, I am a fan of Google and Rootsweb. A very helpful book is 'Google Your Family Tree', by Daniel M. Lynch. I removed the source details from my Rootsweb WorldConnect tree because they were not displayed in a way that I liked, but if anyone contacts me and wants to swap information, I can cite my sources.