25    Mar 20073 comments

Surf’s Up: Searching for Family

The Internet is an amazing place, continually collecting information from people around the world.

The sheer amount of information can be overwhelming, as we discover family pages, cemetery data, photographs, family trees and more documents.

If you consider yourself a good online researcher, you can go directly to Yahoo or Google or other general sites. However, the mass of information returned can be impossible to get through, much could be irrelevant to your genealogical quest, but you might turn up an undiscovered gem or two.

Who among us hasn't Googled themselves and watched in wonder as our lives seemingly scroll down the page? There is so much in cyberspace, but how do we find relevant data?

As discussed in the past few articles, spelling is a major problem. For some people, the trouble is very basic - they can't even spell "genealogy." To see how many people are in the same boat, search for geneology, geniology, geneaoplogy, geneologie, genlogy or other even more creative forms on the major search engines and note how many times the error pops up in various websites.

Search engines are what we work with, with specific techniques and tips to access the desired data. If you organize a good search, you'll limit the junk, and focus on useful information.


There are general search engines and indexes, genealogy search engines and indexes, and specific ethnic resources.

General Search Engines and Indexes

These include Yahoo, Google, About.com and others, online encyclopedias, library sites, newsgroups and message boards to name a few. It doesn't hurt to search each one, but be prepared for much irrelevant information.

Genealogy Search Engines and Indexes

These include the massive compilation of sites at Cyndi's List, and other sites like Distant Cousin, Genealogy Pages, GeneaLinks, Genealogy Home Page, Gengateway.com, Genealogy Search, and Genealogy Portal, About.com's focused genealogy pages. These sites offer links to other listings of links and resources. While these are free, don't forget Ancestry.com which is a subscription for-fee website with masses of databases, links, resources.

Additionally there is the Ellis Island Database, and also Steve Morse's One-Step Pages for navigating, many US and Canadian sites, and many ethnic-specific resources including Jewish, British, European, Eastern European and those farther afield.

For Jewish resources, there are a host of sites, beginning with JewishGen www.jewishgen.org, and continuing with Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, Jewish Webindex, Cindy's List - Jewish, Harry Leichter's Jewish Genealogy list, Judaism 101 - Hebrew Alphabet, JewishLink.net
Jewish Calendar, Jewish Migration Histories Timeline, Sephardic resources, Holocaust research, Avotaynu's Consolidated Surname Index, and many others.

And as good as all of these are for a variety of reasons, you'll have to search each one individually, which can be tedious, for hundreds of searches for each family of interest on as many websites as you can find.

MyHeritage's Megadex

Wouldn't it be great to search, at once, hundreds of genealogically relevant websites? MyHeritage thought so, and now you can search for all the names and their variations in some 1,200 genealogy-specific databases, with only one simple click at MyHeritage Research - a focused genealogy search engine.

For each search, click on up to 10 spelling variants at a time, save searches to avoid backtracking or duplication, and schedule automatic searches to alert you to new data.

It queries Websites, databases, archives and message boards; covering all gtypes of genealogy records including census records, family trees, immigration records, military records, medical records, cemetery records, court, land and probate documents, and other informational sources, such as newspapers, telephone directories, and more.

And because MyHeritage has a team of dedicated genealogists, they are always looking for new sources to include, and which automatic searches will pick up. For the current list of databases, click here.

Click here to start learning about MyHeritage's super search engine Megadex™ which will help you find richer information about your ancestors.

For example, if you are searching for Williamson, you'll also need to search for Williemson, Williamsen and Williamsohn, because names have evolved and the names are written differently in various languages and countries. Other errors or variants in spelling may be due to hard-to-read handwriting, transcription, transliteration and typing.

Soundex is a phonetic system that's been around since 1918 and assigns numbers to letters, enabling a "sounds alike" method, but not all databases work with Soundex. Conducting a Soundex search means you will retrieve many false positives which are irrelevant. And it may not pick up Villiamson or Wilhelmson, which would be relvant.

Megadex was invented by MyHeritage to overcome these challenges. It shows you the most common spelling variations, and allows searching for a subset of variations in a single, one click search that covers most major genealogy databases on the Internet (as well as those which do not support "sounds like").

Go to the search screen, type in a name:
Click to view photo in full size

When you click, you'll get a screen with multiple choices. Check off the ones you want to search first (up to 10 at a time):

Click to view photo in full size

As the search is performed, the results for each database will show up, and you can select which ones to look at. You receive a long table of results, and can start working immediately on them without waiting for the entire table to load.

There are two very convenient features: You can save each search, which helps eliminate duplication or back tracking of work already done and you can also schedule automatic searches to find new results, as databases are updated frequently.

Why don't you try a search now? How many hits did you get? Were they useful? Readers are invited to write in and comment on their experiences with Megadex. Let me know if you've encountered any problems.

Search for your ancestors:

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Thanks
  2. Hi, Thanks for your nice work. I like your blog. I was trying to find out some Death Records in past few days. So I will like to add some more information here about my experience. For the last few days I was trying to find out death records of my 3rd great grandmother in internet. I am not very much technical person, but I have enough idea about searching procedures in internet. I didn't know for sure that she had died in Philadelphia but knew her husband had died in Phil. After long search I found http\;//www.deathrecordsobituarysearch.com.


    NOTE FROM SCHELLY: The site referenced is a subscription site and has no relation to MyHeritage.com. Visitors must register to receive an index to the search results. To receive actual information, visitors must sign up for a paid subscription.

  3. Nice post :)

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