by: Charles Young
My Genealogy

Tips for Finding Ancestors and Relatives on the Internet


This site Web
A genealogy-specific search engine or directory may yield information that you cannot find on a general search page. For best results, use several different search tools. You can narrow your search and improve your results from general search pages. Not finding your ancestors? Try publishing your info.

Rootsweb is much more than a search engine, their are many services and helps such as message boards, and mailing lists. It is an excellent starting place, and most of their services are free. Search for your (recently deceased) ancestors in the;

or search for names in

GeneaNet: search for individuals by name, place, and start / end dates.

Family Search: search Mormon (LDS) Church genealogy data. Maybe you will save yourself a trip to the nearest Family History Center. has several free resources including searches and message boards. You must pay a membership fee for some of their other services.

Family Tree Maker allows you to search for a certain name. Results include;

Cyndi Howell offers a comprehensive list of sites that offer genealogy information, directories, software, and etc. This list is being updated, but it is slow. It took 8 months for my page to be listed here.

General Search Engines -- finding a needle in a haystack

You may already suspect that your favorite search engine may not be finding data that you are looking for on the internet -- even though the information may be out there. It is true -- search engines index only small fraction of the web, and probably very few personal genealogy web pages containing the information you are looking for. If you still want to use a general search engine, here are some tips for fine tuning your search along with some reasons that you may miss some data that is out there somewhere.

If you have ever used a general search engine to search for a common name like Young or Brown, you know that you must narrow your search. Most people do not have the time to sift through all the thousands of pages containing the words young or brown. These tips for narrowing your search work for all the search engines listed in the first (green) box. If you want more information, most good search engines have advanced help available.

Look for phrases -- use quotation marks.

If you are looking for people having the last name Young, try searching for this phrase;

Force words to appear -- put a + in front of them

To insist that the web page contains certain words, regardless of whether they are in an exact phrase, put a plus sign (+) in front of the words you absolutely want to show up. Example;

Combine quotes and + sign.


Why this does not always work:

If you do happen to find an interesting page that may list some of your relatives, be sure to bookmark it. It may disappear from the search engine at any time. It seems that some search engines may list a new page for a few weeks before the spam robot kicks it out.

There is a reason that search engines seem to discriminate against genealogy sites. If they do not take drastic action, then spammers will be able to have their pages listed in any search results, even though their page has nothing to do with what you are searching for. I know of 2 possible solutions to this problem;

So, do not give up if you do not find what you are looking for on your favorite search engine / directory. Use a search engine or list that specializes in genealogy. Have you tried the ones I listed?

Here is a list of some of my favorite general search engines / directories. The advanced search page is listed for power searches if available and if the main page ignores quotes and + signs.

Vivísimo | Search results are organized to help you quickly find the results you are interested in. Try it by typing a search phrase in the box below. Note the options in the results page for opening pages in a new window, full window, or preview.

Google -- Seems to index many low-traffic sites

AltaVista -- Strict spam rules kick out some genealogy pages. Uses keywords.

Lycos | Excite | HotBot | Windows Live | Zap Meta

Yahoo Advanced -- Ignores keywords. Exact phrase option may give unrelated results. Controversial because Yahoo hosts adult content.

Ask Jeeves for kids -- children's filtered searching

Link to list of other chilren's search sites

These search engines may have limited genealogy listings. Web Crawler | Galaxy (Advanced) | Scrub The Web ( Some unrelated results ) | whatUseek | Rex Skyline | Look Smart

I have tried many other search engines. Some return no results, results too general, no genealogy listings, no recent listings, or otherwise unsuitable. If you have found a search engine that gives good results that I didn't list, or have other comments, please tell me about it.

Some links for finding living relatives

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