Monday, November 17, 2014

Tuesday's Tip - Don't Rely on the Search Engine

Don't get angry when you don't find what you're
looking for in the main search engine. Look under
more specific databases!
So after being out of the genealogical loop for awhile I finally found the motivation (and time) to get back into things.  I started by going through my family tree and verifying that everything was sourced and had been researched to the best of my abilities.  A daunting task, but one that needed doing.  So I came across a couple in my tree that I hadn't been very good at getting information for.  I had a tombstone, knew who they belonged to by talking with family, but not much else.

I was looking at the tombstone for this couple, one Raymond and Hazel Herman buried in Union Cemetery in Dodge County, Wisconsin, when I noticed that Raymond died in 1959 at the age of about 39.  How young.  How sad.  I also noticed his wife outlived him by quite a lot and passed in 2006.  I did a search on Ancestry for Raymond Herman and got a bunch of nothing regarding his death.  This was before the SSDI really covered much so I wasn't too hopeful there.  I did find an obituary for his wife, Hazel, fairly easily.  The obit was wonderful and told me when they were married and the year for when he died.  Well, that's lovely, and very useful, but I wanted more of a date.  Even a month to go with that year would help.  A location of death would help too although looking at her obit I could narrow it down to Kohlsville, Washington County, WI.  Still I didn't want to be looking through an entire year's worth of obits to try to find Raymond.

So I jumped to the homepage and clicked on the link for Birth, Marriage, and Death Records and saw a link on the far right under "Featured Collections" where I could search their entire card catalog.  I typed in "Wisconsin".  I was delighted when I saw that there was a death record index from 1959-1997.  I entered Raymond's name and it popped up as easy as that.  I have no idea why it didn't come up in my main search.  I had his name spelled the same as it appeared in the death record, but it took me actually searching that specific database to get anything.  Now I know that Raymond died on December 14th, 1959 and I can try to find an obituary or request a death certificate for him.  I need to verify that this Raymond truly was the child of Valentine and Hulda Herman.  Now I can get a little closer to doing just that.

Bottom line engines can be temperamental. You can put your information into the main engine and find very little that is relevant to the person you're looking for, but if you perform the same search in a specific database, it can yield genealogical gold!

Happy hunting!


  1. Good advice! It always annoys me when things don't pop up when you are using the same search criteria thought. Oh well. It's good to be thorough.

  2. Sometimes I think that's search engine is set up for newbies only. You get plenty of results for the census, SSDI, FAG, and military records that you have to go to Fold3 for. When I search for someone out of my comfort zone (VA and WV) I check out what they have for that state. I'm also going to the card catalog a lot more these days. ~ Cathy

  3. Excellent tips. Yes, search engines and search providers within sites can be temperamental sometimes so it's always good to narrow down the criteria sometimes and try some alternative searches. Also, conduct research on multiple sites.

  4. Great Piece Cheryl...for those moments when you get hung up doing something the usual route.

  5. Good points, Cheryl. I wonder sometimes if the hit is buried beneath 10,000 other hits. Other times, you swear you had already searched for the specific record previously. I think it is a great idea to circle back after a global search and look for specific records once you have some idea of place and time.