The Google Genealogist

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Syllabus for class taught by Devin Ashby, of FamilySearch. Presented at the BYU 2010 Conference on Computerized Family History & Genealogy.

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Google is a wonderful resource. There are so many products and services provided by Google, and most all are free! The purpose of this class is to introduce eight Google products and eight attributes that can help you become a Google genealogist. The eight products are: Google Search, Google Alerts, Picasa, Blogger, YouTube, Google Books, Google Maps, and Google Sites.
The Google genealogist takes full advantage of technology and the internet to preserve and provide family history. One of the best ways to stay current with Google is to follow the official Google blog and view the tip of the day.


There are literally billions of web pages. Google is free and easy to use. If you have too many results, use “ ” and + and – to refine your search results. Use advanced search and change your preferences for better results. Check out Google search features here:

Attribute #1: The Google genealogist is constantly improving his search experience by trying new things.

How do I start?


Google Alerts are the equivalent of having periodic Google searches e-mailed to you. This is a great way to let Google crawl the internet and send you information on your ancestors. An example of an alert would be: “Walter Johnson” +Utah. It’s totally automatic and totally free.

Attribute #2: The Google genealogist has several Google alerts operating at any given time.

How do I start?


Picasa is Google’s photo tool. It allows you to edit, find, and share photos. Picasa Web albums let you store your photos online, and if you have a Blogger account, your photos will be stored online automatically. There are several YouTube videos that discuss how to use Picasa. Picnik is a tool that allows you to edit and manipulate photos in your browser.

Attribute #3: The Google genealogist backs up images and other data online regularly.

How do I start?
How do I start?


Blogger makes networking with friends and family easier than ever. Maintaining a blog will let you post and publish content whenever you want. Blogs are very addicting, so plan on spending some online time if you create one. It’s easy to post photos, text, videos, RSS feeds, slideshows, links, newsreels, logos, etc. An example of a genealogy blog is Dick Eastman’s newsletter:

Attribute #4: The Google genealogist takes advantage of blogging through reading and posting good information and reliable sources.

How do I start?


Google’s YouTube lets you post video content online for free. In fact, every minute, 15 hours of video is uploaded using YouTube. One great thing about YouTube is it helps you make video files of your family videos. This makes it much easier to store and distribute than old VHS tapes, and these days most digital cameras have a video function, so it’s easy to upload videos. You have the option to make videos personal or public.

Attribute #5: The Google genealogist stores video content online for free.

How do I start? or


Google Books Search allows you to search the full text of books. Google continues to update this site, adding in-copyright and in-print books, in-copyright but out-of-print books, and out-of-copyright books. Some books are even available for downloading. Others have previews only.

Attribute #6: The Google genealogist uses Google books to save time, effort, and money by doing research online.

How do I start?


Description: Use Google Maps to visit places before you ever go there. With the Street View feature, you can zoom in and see the details of places in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Japan. It can be helpful to create reference points using My Maps so that you can mark certain areas of the world, such as ancestral towns.

Attribute #7: The Google genealogist uses online maps to plan trips and do research before ever taking a trip.

How do I start?


Google Docs gives you the ability to basically do most things you now do with Microsoft Office on the internet. You can do presentations, spreadsheets, documents, drawings, forms, etc. You can upload files directly from your desktop, access things anywhere and share your work with whomever you like. Within Google Docs you can work in real time with several different people and everything is saved online. You can also upload documents that will become searchable through OCR technology.

Attribute #8: The Google genealogist uses Google docs to access data online rather than on paper.

How do I start?


Google Sites will let you create Websites and secure group wikis. Anyone can add file attachments, information from other Google applications, and free-form content. If you have trouble getting started, there are a few videos on YouTube that will take you through how to set up a Web site. If you have some good electronic content, it is really easy to build a family Web site to share your knowledge and let others share what they know.

Attribute #9: The Google genealogist creates a relevant Web site where others can access content and use it.

How do I start?