Sometimes, a simple internet search is enough to help you fill in some blanks in your genealogy. It can turn up a varied assortment of data from birth, marriage and death certificates; obituaries for the person you are searching or one of their family members; books that mention the individual; cemetery transcriptions or a family tree that includes your ancestor.
Internet searches will not work for everyone. If your ancestor has a common name, chances are you are going to have to wade through a large amount of results before finding the right one. You can narrow the field by adding the name of a parent, spouse or child, or by adding dates or locations. With some ancestors, there may be limited or no information at all on them available online.
Using search engines for genealogy takes patience. It may be necessary to try several name variations to locate your ancestor. Try using their full name, replacing their first or middle name with an initial or dropping their first or middle name. Don't forget to try alternate spellings as well. It's not uncommon to find variations in the spelling.
Use advanced search options. Put parenthesis("") around names to have the search engine match the name exactly. Use a minus sign (-) to eliminate results with unwanted words. Use the OR option if you are not positive about information. This can be especially helpful if you are not positive of a date. For instance, if your ancestor was born around 1900, you can search John Smith 1899 OR 1900 OR 1901.
Be aware of stop words. There are certain words that are generally ignored when you put them in a search engine unless you help the search engine understand the word is needed. The word will is one of these words so if searching for an ancestor named Will, make sure to use parenthesis. Alternately, you can use the plus sign (+) to indicate the word will should be searched.