Great Googly Moogly! (Using Google for Your Genealogy Research)

(Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission)

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, this phrase meant that something was cool, unbelievable or just plain amazing.  It could also be a reaction to something shocking. And, even though I’m not using the phrase like I did when I was a kid living in the valley,in my case Possum Walk, seems appropriate to me that “Google” now refers to the coolest, most unbelievable, amazing and shocking search engine you will ever use! Here are some ways to use Google to not only find just about anything in the UNIVERSE, but also to research your ancestry.

  1. Type in one of your ancestor’s names in the search box at www.google.com. For example, if I type in “Maxon Austin” (with the quotation marks), I will get a list of several websites or online documents that contain information about my second great grandfather. Hits come from websites with family histories and county histories, court records or transcribed historical documents. If your ancestor has a common name like Smith or Jones, be sure to put qualifiers after the name such as the state or county where they were living or add an uncommon first name related to your Smith or Jones family.
  2. Google maps are another tool to use in your genealogical journey. Use current maps to find cemeteries, locations of land on which an ancestor lived or even directions to get to a library, church or repository. There’s nothing like knowing where you’re going! Be sure to check the feature to look at current landmarks or satellite pictures of a location in which you are interested. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. You can use this on most mobile devices, too!
  3. Find historical maps of a location online. Many older maps are in the public domain–especially if they were published before 1923. You can search for many of these maps using Google. Sanborn Insurance maps are a great resource for the Missouri area, and the actual maps are available online. Google can also lead you to collections like those housed at www.davidrumsey.com, which has more than 150,000 maps, largely dating from the 1700s and 1800s. Maps are such handy tools for genealogy because they might help you know where your ancestor’s neighbors—often relatives—are located! Use a variety of words and phrases for your search terms; you might try a town, street, church or business to find a particular location of interest. Maps are also great to use in writing your family history.
  4. Search yourself! Google yourself and see what information is available online. Maybe you will like what you see, or maybe you won’t. At any rate, you might want to see if any of your personal information is out there. Some records are in the public domain and you can’t change them, but being aware of them is important.
  5. Finally, search for people you know have done research on your family, and see if a book has been published!

So, get Googling! If you see me at the library, and I hear that you have been using Google for your research, you just might get a high five from me.  Or at least a “great googly moogly!”

About Tim

Tim is the past president of the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri and teaches genealogy help classes at the library on a regular basis.
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