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Internet Research
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Internet Research

In only a few years, the Internet has become one of the most valuable tools for genealogists. Most libraries, archives, government departments, genealogical and historical societies maintain Web sites to provide information about their organizations and their holdings. There are also Web sites hosted by individuals and organizations to share indexes, family trees or other material related to their area of research. Some Web sites serve as portals or gateways to link sites of common interest.

Internet Search Engines

The Internet can be explored further by using search engines. All offer "Advanced Search" features so that you can specify which words and phrases to include or eliminate.


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One of the advantages of this search engine is that it allows you to limit your search to Canadian Web sites only. There is also a "Search within results" feature to refine your search.



This search engine offers a "Cluster" feature. For example, type in Gimli genealogy and at the bottom of the page you will see subject clusters such as "iceland genealogy links...search engine."



Teoma offers a "Refine" feature with suggestions to narrow your search.



AltaVista allows you to search using a "Truncation" feature, for example, Estonia* will also find hits for Estonian. The * wildcard is especially helpful when searching for spelling variations of names, for example "Anne Gra*nger" for Granger or Grainger.



Vivísimo also offers a "Cluster" feature.

You can use the Internet to dig up information on a surname, a place or a subject. Here are just a few examples:

  • On your ancestor's attestation form from his First World War personnel record, it indicates that he previously served in the 1st Oxfordshire. Search the Internet for information about that regiment using "1st Oxfordshire" as your search term.
  • On your ancestor's death record, the ink is so faint that the place of birth is difficult to read. You're not sure if it's Rasteco or Rustico. Search using the words Rasteco Canada and then Rustico Canada, and you will quickly discover that Rustico is a place in Prince Edward Island.
  • Your ancestor was born in Ukraine. Search using the words Ukraine genealogy to find sites to start your research.
  • You want to find out if other researchers are working on the same surname as you. Try searching using terms such as "Blasier family" or separate words such as Blasier genealogy.

Internet Search Tips

Use quotation marks around a phrase to indicate that you want the words to appear in sequence.
Examples: "war of 1812," "friedrich schroeder," "schroeder friedrich"

Too many hits? Add more words to narrow your search.
Examples: "kirk family" pembroke, "famille chartrand" rimouski

Use "Advanced Search" functions to limit searches by eliminating unwanted words.
Example: welk NOT lawrence or welk - lawrence

Anything underlined is a link to more information or to another Web page or Web site. Click on the underlined word(s).

Search engines will lead you to numerous Web sites. Learn to navigate those sites efficiently:

  • To help with financial costs, many genealogy Web sites make arrangements with commercial Web sites or companies to provide advertisements, banners or links on their own site. When you visit a site, you may find a search box at the top of the page inviting you to Search for your ancestors or Find your ancestors. This may take you out of the site you're on and into a subscription or fee-based site. Before using a search box, scan the whole page to see if there is a box that says Search this site.
  • When you find a Web site of interest to you, it may be difficult to spot the name or word you're looking for on the page. Hit the "Control" and "F" keys at the same time and a "Find" box will pop up on your screen. Enter your search term and it will be highlighted on the page.
  • Some Web pages are in PDF format, which means that they can only be read with Adobe Acrobat software. On those pages, use the binoculars icon on the Acrobat Reader menu to search for a particular word or phrase. If a PDF page will not load, it usually means that you do not have that software or you are using an older version. You can download the most recent version free from Adobe Acrobat Reader [www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html].
  • Some sites offer free databases, which include their own search engine. Other sites charge fees or a subscription rate, or charge fees for downloading images of documents.

Many libraries provide library-card holders with free access to subscription databases for specialized resources such as newspapers, biographies, encyclopedias and periodicals.

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites [www.cyndislist.com/] on the Internet was one of the first genealogy portals. Her site provides a categorized index to international genealogical resources on the Internet.

Some Web sites offer message boards, mailing lists, newsletters, links and also allow you to post your own family. One of the largest is RootsWeb [www.rootsweb.com/]. Although it is American based, it includes many Canadian connections, such as Canada GenWeb [www.rootsweb.com/%7Ewebsites/international/canada.html]. Note that some database searches will link you to the subscription-based Ancestry.com, which financially supports RootsWeb.


GEDCOM [www.familysearch.org/eng/Home/FAQ/frameset_faq.asp?FAQ=faq_gedcom.asp] stands for Genealogical Data Communications and is a file format specification (not software) that allows different genealogical software programs to share data with each other. It was developed by the Family and Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to provide a flexible, uniform format for exchanging computerized genealogical data.

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