Using Google Alerts for Genealogy

So you have searched for photos, checked newspaper archives and Googled to find your ancestors, but came up dry. What now? You could repeat your searches on a regular basis in the hopes that someone will add the information you seek. However, that can be time-consuming. Google comes to the rescue with Google Alerts.

Google Alerts are email alerts. You choose the search terms (the name of your ancestor), the type (comprehensive searches everything), how often you receive alerts (daily, weekly or as it finds results) and the number of results you want in each email (20 or 50). Give your email address and Google does the rest.

Depending on the frequency you chose, Google will scour the web to find results that match your search terms. If it finds any, you get an email alert. You can also opt to see alerts in the Google Reader.

Things to remember when using Google Alerts as a free genealogy resource
  • You can set up to 1,000 alerts. If you want to set up more, you will have to use another email address.
  • If your ancestor has a common name, you will get buried in results unless you narrow the field. Try adding more keywords to search on.
  • If you are too detailed in your search terms, you may not get any results.
  • Name misspellings are common. You may want to set up more than one alert for an individual using alternate spellings so you don't miss a result in which the name was spelled differently.

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