Saturday, September 5, 2015

Automated Searching With Google Alerts


Between work and family, finding time for genealogy can be very challenging for me. I love to research, to poke at my brick walls and see if they’ll poke back, to add new tidbits of information to my family tree so I can better understand and imagine my ancestors’ lives. So when I sometimes have to go weeks – even months! – without having a moment to sit down and do a little digging, I get a little grumpy. It can even turn into an, “I really have to do this” feeling, and that’s not how I want to feel at all. I want genealogy to be one of those relaxing passions I pursue for the love of it, not because I feel obligated to give my ancestors some attention. 

Fortunately, there is a fantastic way to automate your searching and get results delivered right to your inbox. In fact, you’re probably already well aware that Google Alerts can do this for you, but have you actually tried it? If not, what are you waiting for? 

Google Alerts makes it very easy to put the internet to work for you each and every day. Perhaps you’ve exhausted all the search results on Grandpa Edward. Maybe you type his name into Google from time to time in hopes of seeing something new, but aren’t rewarded very often. Or perhaps one day you come up with a number of fresh hits and wonder just how long these new results have existed, waiting for you to find them. 

Using Google Alerts means you don’t have to miss a thing and you don’t have to work hard for it, either. It’s very simple to set up an Alert by visiting www.Google.com/alerts. Just enter the terms you want Google to monitor for you, such as “Edward Smith Jones” and anything else to make sure they pull the results you really want, such as a state, county, or town. 

Like any search, being too specific can work against you, so try to keep your search broad but within a few degrees of the information you definitely want/need. This isn’t as tough with relatives who have fairly uncommon names, but if you have good ol’ Smiths and Johnsons, you will need to add specifics to help differentiate your Smith or Johnson from others. 

Once the alert is saved, Google does the rest. They deliver results daily, if they hit upon results daily. I’ve found that with genealogical searches, I can go weeks or months without seeing a hit on a particular name. But it also saves me from sitting down and thinking to myself, “I haven’t done a search for Grandpa Edward for a few months. I wonder if there’s anything new.” 

I’ve used Google for a number of ongoing searches, from genealogy to alerts on items I might want to purchase, to following news on a book release I’m anticipating. It’s a versatile tool that, of course, is only as good as you make it. So if you haven’t set up some alerts for Google to deliver directly to your inbox, why not give it a try? Also, if you know of an even better tool to automate research, please let me know in the comments!

 
Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

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