Google Tip: Backwards and Forwards

Last weekend when I was in St. Louis, I chatted with someone who was at a computer next to me.  She was painstakingly googling people by typing in the name she wanted several different ways, then looking at the results individually, like this:

“John Smith”

and then

“Smith, John” (because  if people are in some sort of index, they’ll usually be last name first)

and then

“John H. Smith”

and then

“John Harry Smith”

It was painful to watch.  If you’re doing that, stop.  You can search all of the ways John might appear at once by doing it in one fell swoop, like this:

“John Smith” OR “Smith, John” OR “John H. Smith” OR “John Harry Smith”

The “OR” allows you to add in multiple options (as long as you capitalize it—so make sure you do).  The quotes help you find John Smith rather than John Jones and Joe Smith.  If you don’t know the middle name of the person, but want to make sure you don’t miss him, use an asterisk in the middle, like this:  “John * Smith.”  That’s a wildcard, so it will pull all of the John Smiths with middle names or initials.  That way you can inspect each and every one of them yourself.  Lucky you!

If you’re not googling your ancestors, you should start right now.  Not everything is on the genealogy sites, and you might be amazed at what you find.

This is the second in an occasional series on how to use Google to find people.  They’ll get more advanced as time goes on, so if you already knew this one, you get a gold star…and stay tuned for more!

Photo by bradleypjohnson

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2 Responses

  1. Amy Boland 7 years ago
  2. Matt Quinn 7 years ago