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Genealogical Search Tips
Think outside the box:
This is perhaps the most basic axiom and cliché of genealogy. However, it is a cliché for a reason. While it may seem that this tip is empty of “hands-on” content, it is actually very applicable to your search. If you are in a dead end, consider searching places you have as of yet did not search. Do things you haven’t done yet. Ask people for new ideas. Often times we are caught into patterns. This can sometimes help, but it is also very limiting.
Always double check:
Thought it sounds very basic, you would be surprised how many eager genealogists make this mistake. It’s not uncommon to type incorrect or misspelled search terms, names, dates, etc. Make sure your information is as accurate as possible, across all data points available to you.
Change match types:
If you’re getting too many results, use “precise match” to narrow your search and get more accurate results (to do this, place your search term in parentheses). If you don’t get results at all, try using misspellings and/or more general search terms and work from there. Try deleting some information or broadening search criteria.
Notice all search options:
Many search engines have advanced search options which enable greater flexibility with your query and results. These options help you pinpoint the exact information you are looking for with increased accuracy, running searches which include city, county, middle name, maiden name, birth, death, marriage, & divorce year.
Try similar sounds & misspelling:
Often immigrant surnames are “lost in translation” and transcribed poorly, spelled wrong, or changes overtime to accommodate the surrounding culture. The Soundex and Double Metaphone databases contain common misspellings and alternatives to surnames.
Work with what you have:
Keep in mind that you will rarely have a full picture and all the information you require. Sometimes even elementary information such as first name will be missing. In these cases, search using all the information you have. You can even try to make an “educated” guess and scan the results to see if anything familiar pops up.
Reach out to the community:
Another way to move past brick walls and dead ends is scanning the forums. May people post vital and important information there that might be relevant to your search. Also, the community forum houses veteran genealogy experts that can offer advice and information that may lead you to your next breakthrough.