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Date Range

You can specify a date range for genealogical records that contain a date by using the following format: <first year..last year>. For example:

This will find records of john smith between 1850 and 1900. As with the negative operator, we would recommend only using a date range if your search results are being overwhelmed with too many records.

1880 telephone book
Date ranges are useful for finding specific types of records, such as this 1880 telephone book (the earliest telephone book from the UK).

Search by First Name Abbreviation - There are many types of genealogy records (such as city directories and street directories) that abbreviate first names in their listings. For example, George is listed as Geo, James is listed as Jas, Charles as Chas, Florence as Flo and William as Wm. It is always a good idea when performing internet genealogy searches to try searching using the first name abbreviation. For example, search for <jas smith> instead of <james smith>.

GenealogyInTime Magazine maintains a list of over 200 first name abbreviations with our online dictionary List of First Name Abbreviations.

 

Putting It All Together

Below are examples of more complex queries that you can use as templates for your own queries:




In general, start by keeping your searches as simple as possible and then progressively build up to more complex searches as circumstances warrant.

Looking for a different kind of search engine to help you find your ancestors or to track down living relatives? Try A Million Short Search Engine, which specializes in searching less popular websites.

 

Focus on Just One Website

One final approach is to focus search results on just one website. This is done using the site command, as shown in the example below.

A couple more examples:

- To search just the Google Newspaper Archive (which is massive) try “john smith” site: news.google.com/newspapers

- To search just Australia's Trove system (which is also massive) try “john smith” site: trove.nla.gov.au

 

Things to Ignore

Finally, here is a list of things you can ignore with genealogy searches:

  1. Case sensitivity. Searching for "John Smith" is the same as searching for "john smith". It does not matter whether you use uppercase letters or lowercase letters. For this reason, we tend to stick to using lower case letters on names and we capitalize place names for readability purposes (this is not required, you could just as easily use "boston" as "Boston").
  2. Standard punctuation such as (,) (:) (;), etc. The search engine will ignore standard punctuation unless it is used to join two names together, such as "Smith-Jones" in which case it is needed.
  3. Small join words such as "a", "and", "the", etc. The search engine will ignore these types of words.
genealogy girl
What our genealogy search algorithm really looks like.

Now it is time to take what you learned in this article and apply it to finding your ancestors.

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Good luck with your searches!
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Further Reading

We also have over 15 genealogy articles specifically devoted to Google genealogy searches. Below are some of our most popular genealogy search articles:

Hot Tips on How to Use Google for Genealogy Searches

Ten Innovations in Online Genealogy Search

Genealogy Limitations on Google Searches

A Country Guide to Google Search Engines

If you want one-click access to the Genealogy Search Engine and listings of the latest online genealogy records plus a whole bunch of other genealogical goodies, consider using the free Genealogy Toolbar.