Navigation Menu


Our Family Tree

Basic Search Techniques

Advanced Search Techniques

Online Lookup

Free Resources

Research Bulletin Board

A Basic Family Search Tutorial - Page 2

Rule #2

For a slightly abbreviated, printable version of this tutorial CLICK HERE.

OK, Rule #2 - Use short phrases in quotation marks.

Ordinarily, search engines treat each search word as an independent object. But words enclosed by quotation marks are considered to be the same as a single word. Let's go back to our original example. We found that using "Leathers" by itself Google returned 553,000 possible responses for us to look at. Adding the word "family" narrowed it down to 68,700 responses. Put these words into Google again only this time enclose them in quotation marks, so that it looks like this: "Leathers family". Wow!! We just chopped our job down to almost nothing! The use of quotation marks has reduced the number of Google search returns to a mere 166.

Why did this happen? Before, Google was looking for all webpages which had the words Leathers and Family somewhere on the same page, though not necessarily beside each other. The addition of quotation marks tells the Google search algorithm to look only for instances in which the words Leathers and Family are used together as a single term. Does this mean there are 166 webpages that talk about the Leathers family? Yes!!

We've come a long way towards locating the information we want, but 166 pages is still a fair amount of material to sort through. Now is where we need to get very specific about exactly what information we're searching for. As an example, perhaps we are looking for Leathers family trees. We could include the word "tree" within our search quotation marks. Let's try it and see what happens. You will notice that Google returns only one instance of a Leathers Family Tree. That's not much to go on. Surely there must be more out there on the Leathers Family Tree.

This is an instance in which we want to use that heuristic algorithm those Google programmers built in to our advantage. Let's use the word "tree", but let's put it outside the quotation marks. There, that gave us twenty returns, and that's a small enough number that we can easily search each item. Sure enough, the thirteenth page listing entitled "LEATHERS Genealogy" contains the phrase "Leathers family line" which is very similar to "Leathers family tree", so it's worth a look. After clicking on the link it takes us to a page with another link at the top that says "View All LEATHERS family members", and if we click on that link it takes us to a great site with a Leathers family tree on it! Sometimes narrowing a search down too narrowly causes us to miss webpages that contain information we want, but that use slightly different words than our search terms. In that case, try putting search words outside the quotation marks.

It is a good practice to have several search terms in separate quotations. For example, let's go back to our term of "Leathers family" and add to it the term "family history". It is perfectly acceptable to have the word "family" in both terms, since the words are being viewed by the algorithm as independent phrases and not as individual words. If we perform this search we find that we come up with twenty-one returns, the first of which is for a "Leather Family History Society" that it is likely many of you never knew existed before! If you were so inclined you could drop the second search phrase and just use the word "history" outside of the quotation marks. This opens up more possibilities, giving about seventy returns to look at. Mix and match your words using them in quotations and out of quotations. If you find you have more than three total search words/phrases, try using them in different orders. Use these techniques and you will find a wealth of websites you would never have run across using only single word searchs.

OK, let's summarize what we learned about using Rule #2 - Use short phrases in quotation marks.

1. Enclosing two or more words in quotation marks causes the search engine to look for that exact phrase.
2. Narrowing down the search terms too much can cause too few search returns.
3. Try using a search term with another search word outside the quotation marks.
4. Use multiple search terms in separate quotation marks.
5. When three or more search phrases/words are used, mix and match the order they go in to get new results.

Ok, are you ready to tackle Rule #3? We'll learn how to use delimiters and perform Boolean searches on the next page.