Google Commands: How to Search More Effectively

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Google is a great way to search for genealogical information.  The following are ways to improve finding family information:

eGoogle Helps

From Google Your Family Tree, by Daniel M. Lynch 2008


AND   Combines words. When no commands are in the search, Google will assume that AND is the command. AND must be capitalized.

              Example John AND Mary Englebert

OR     To search for one word/phrase or another. OR must be capitalized. Example, lynch OR linch

“ “     To search for an exact phrase Example, "John Smith"

*        A wildcard used inside quotes. One asterisk for one set of characters; two asterisks for two sets; etc.)

              Example, "John * Smith"

-        To exclude a word or phrase. No space between the hyphen and the next word.  Example, John Kennedy -president 

+       To include exactly this word, excluding variants. No space between the plus sign and the next word.  Example, +foreset.

~       To find the keyword or similar words. No space between the tilde and the next word.  Example, Smith ~genealogy

..       To search for a range of numbers like a date range. No spaces between the numbers and the periods.  Do not use a hyphen, only the two periods between the numbers. 

              Example, 1800..1900

Google allows up to 32 keywords in any search.  Generally, with common names only 4 or 5 keywords in combination can provide a navigable number of sites for research. 

Google advanced searches

The goal of any Google family-history search is to include everyone you want to find and exclude everyone you don't want to find. Of course we can never be that surgical in our searches, but Google (and other search engines) have set up special tools to allow us to get closer to the target without excluding any good matches. Here are some advanced tools for that purpose. The sources include several online sites that can be found by searching 'Google search tools'. 

When you are searching within a site, you must be able to specify the site name correctly.  Enter your keyword first, then any of these advanced operators with a colon and the site information.  There is no space between the : and the site information.

Operator: related:
Purpose: Find similar sites to a site containing information you are searching for
Example: related:A genealogy of Runnels and Reynolds families in America
Explanation: returns other sites that contain all the keywords (in this case in a book title). Don't use " "
Impact: Allows you to find other sites with similar information

Operator: site:
Purpose: Find content within a site
Example: Adams
Explanation: 'Adams' is the word searched for within the site
Impact: Returns just those parts of a site that contain the word searched for 

Operator: cache:
Purpose: Find the most recent published page for a site; also find keywords (search terms) on the page
Example: cache:A genealogy of Runnels and Reynolds family in America
Explanation: Google stores earlier versions of a site. If the site is no longer online, you can view the most recent online version.
Impact: Many family history sites are projects of individuals, who may no longer support them.  By using cache your keword is highlighted in the returned information.  This is especially helpful when the returned page has long lists or text.  If you use multiple keywords, each one is highlighted in a different color. 

Operator: intext:
Purpose: Find text with keywords in it
Example: intext:Peter Stuyvesant England
Explanation: While intext: applies only to 'Peter', the other keywords must also be present on the site, though not necessarily in the text (can be in the title or URL).
Impact: Returns a page when all words are present in the text of a site 

Operator: intext: with site:
Purpose: Find text with keywords in it on a particular site
Example: intext:birthday
Explanation:'birthday' is the word you want to search for on the blog
Impact: Returns a page when the keyword is present on that page of that site

Operator: intitle:
Purpose: Find documents or books by title; can include other search elements
Example: intitle:Peter Stuyvesant England
Explanation: 'Peter' must be in the title of the book or article, while the other keywords must be somewhere in the document
Impact: Allows you to find a book or document when you know part of the title, or wish to find a work on a topic

Operator: allintitle:
Purpose: Find documents or books by title
Example: allintitle:Peter Stuyvesant England
Explanation: all words (Peter, Stuyvesant, England) must appear in the title
Impact: For when you know the title or suspect a topic is the title of a book or document

Operator: inurl:
Purpose: Find sites by address and other search elements
Example: inurl:Peter Stuyvesant England
Explanation: This search allows multiple operators to be used, since only the first term 'Peter' must appear in the url
Impact: Used primarily if you have been to a site before and can't remember the address 

Operator: allinurl:
Purpose: find sites by address only (other search terms not allowed)
Example: allinurl:Peter Stuyvesant England
Explanation: all search elements must be in the URL (web address)
Impact: For narrowing down a search for a known website

Google Family History Related Keywords

Try these special keywords to find sites where others may have supplied information about the person you are searching for. Try with and without " ". With " " returns sites with the exact phrase within the " "; without " " returns sites with the keywords anywhere on the site. These keywords can be combined with other operators and keywords. Inspired in part by Google Your Family Tree by Daniel M Lynch as cited above. 

was born
was born in
was born on
was married in
was married on
was married at
died in
died on
was buried

Searching Images, Maps and Books

Searching on Google is typically done on the WEB.  However, there are other options which can be very useful for genealogy research. 

IMAGES include all types of prints, pictures, paintings or drawings of people and places to enhance your research.  Use keywords and operators the same way that you use them for Google WEB.  You can find, for example, a picture of the hospital room in 1920s where an ancestor died, or the school on a houseboat in 1930s in New York for children with parents who had tuberculosis.  

MAPS is a worldwide tool to find a specific town, village, city, borough or region.  Using the + and - buttons on the zoom bar allow you to define the area of your search.  It may be helpful to locate nearby villages and towns for additional records.  If you insert a specific address for a building or home that is still in existence, you can view the building or home in its current state.

BOOKS is shown under the MORE tab.  Use keywords and operators the same way that you use them for Google WEB.  Often, the search will return the entire text of a book.  In other cases information to obtain the book is given.

VIDEOS are generally too recent for genealogical research.  However, old newsreels and family films can be uploaded to blogs and YOU TUBE and are available for research through Google.  The same keyword and operator protocols apply. 

Using Search Engines for Genealogical Research

Although GOOGLE is the most comprehensive of the search engines for locating genealogical information, other web engines are also useful. In August 2009 Microsoft announced that it was acquiring YAHOO search engine to merge it with its own engine – BING. Fierce market competition between these principal search engines should only serve to make genealogical research easier. 

Many websites are added each day to the Internet. If you have searched for information on an ancestor more than 60 days previously, it is worth searching again. The information changes at any amazing rate on the Internet.

There are also websites that utilize several search engines at one time. Notably, try,, or

Google, Yahoo and Bing all have web records, image records, video records, etc. When researching information in books, try using the WEB function first, as it will also provide you with documents, articles and papers not included in the BOOKS function.