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"Finding Genealogy Treasures by
Searching for Images on the Internet"

This lesson has some interesting search techniques that can lead you to some very wonderful results in the search for your ancestors.

Today, search engine artificial intelligence is incredibly advanced and they are now utilizing what is called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). What LSI is all about is how one word relates to another and how likely word parings are to appear on a page.

Google is at the top of the list. I believe that other search engines follow their lead. Because of this, I want to use the Google search engine to show examples. You can, of course, try the examples shown to you on other search engines.

Here's What Others Who Have
Used These Methods Are Saying...

*"I just had to write to tell you that I tried the Image search following your instructions and came up with what I am sure is the only picture I will ever see of my great-great grandfather. As you can imagine, this is totally amazing for me and so thrilling! Just wanted to let you know and to thank you for all you do for us genealogists, especially older, less skilled ones such as I. Keep up the good work and Good Luck and Blessings to you and your Family." (Yvonne Rivington)

*"Thanks Robert for the lesson of Google images. I tried your tutorial and found a wealth of information, not just images. The first site I went to took me three days to glean all I could from it - lots of obituaries I would not have found any other way. I have put these family names in Google before but never came up with this information.

My best find was a picture of my great grandparents with their two sons, my grandfather and his brother. I have also made several new contacts and found old contacts that I can correspond with.

What a great lesson! I never even gave those words above the search box a thought. I'm glad you did and shared with us." (Marlyne Natali)

So what is all the fuss about? Try it for yourself...

Go to the Google search engine at- www.google.com

You will see different options right above the search box (or, field). They include:

Web    Images    Groups    News    more

The Web option is the default when you go to Google because you usually search the "Web" for Web pages. However, today, we are going to try "Images" searches.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you continue, please make SURE that you change your "preferences" before you do any searches. It is very easy to do...

First, look to the right of the Google search box. Do you see the word (text link in small letters) that says "Preferences"?

Click on the Preferences link.

Now, scroll down the page a little and look for the "SafeSearch Filtering" area. Then click on the option (or, radio button) that says "Use strict filtering (Filter both explicit text and explicit images)". You know that you've made the right choice if there is a green dot on that option.

Scroll down the page a little further and look for the "Number of Results" area. If you have a high speed connection, you may want to display a 100 results per page.

Then, click the "Save Preferences" button and you are all set.

WHY did we do this? Because if you don't have the filters set up, you can type in the most innocent words, including almost any female first name, and have very horrible images in your results.

You might want to make sure that your children or grandchildren have their preferences set to filter out the garbage images.

How to Use Google's Images Search
to Find Good Genealogy Stuff

From Google, click on the "Images" link. It will bring you to this URL (Web address):


Now you can type in different key words that will bring back images that may be a help to your family research quest. Try this along with me:

Do a Google "Images" search on the key words: ragan cemetery

There are about 39 results that include mostly pictures of tombstones (headstones, gravestones, or whatever you want to call them. NOTE: This is a hint).

Now, let's do an Images search on the key words:

ragan tombstone

This brings back about 8 results. Some are DIFFERENT than the previous search with the key word cemetery.

Look at what happens when you try these Images searches on Google:

ragan headstone

This brings back 0 results.

ragan gravestone

This brings back 0 results.

ragan memorial stone

Also brings back 0 results.

Now, let's try doing an Images search on just the word stone along with my surname:

ragan stone

This brings about 18 results, with some pictures of tombstones. There are some that I didn't see in the other searches.

Okay, Ragan isn't the most popular surname in the world, but there were some good results.

What about doing Images searches on COMMON surnames?

Here's an example:

A Google Images search on: smith tombstone

Brings back about 2100 results!

This means we have to narrow things down. So, let's says that you want to look for an ancestor named John Smith...

Try an Images search for:

john smith tombstone

There are mixed results. There are pictures of tombstones with people with the first name, "John" but Smith is not the last name.

But, with an Images search for:

"john smith" tombstone

Now there are about 8 results that DO show tombstones for John Smith. One even shows the stone for the wife of John Smith.

This goes back to the lesson in last month's issue. You have to use PHRASES when looking for ancestors with common names.

Note in this case: The key words of the name John Smith are put in a phrase, using quotation marks...

"john smith"

Since key words are in the quotation marks the search engine will look for the EXACT phrase, John Smith. So, your results will show the key words john and smith TOGETHER.

Spacing IS an Issue

It is important to have the spacing correct in your key words using the quotation marks. In the phrase "john smith"

...note the spacing:

  • These is NO space between the beginning quotation mark and the j in key word john.
  • There IS a space between the words john and smith.
  • These is NO space between the end quotation mark and the h at the end of the key word smith.

Keeping that in mind, try these Images searches:

Do an Images search for:

"john smith" stone

There are about 26 results with pictures of stones that the previous search didn't pick up.

Now try an Images search for:

"john smith" memorial stone

There is only 1 result.

How about:

smith memorial stone

There are about 55 results. They are mixed results but some of them are good.

Get the idea? Now try them with your surnames of interest.

If you want to save any of the pictures that you see, click on them to make sure you have the largest one available and not just the "thumbnail" picture. Then...

RIGHT CLICK on the picture and choose the "Save Target As" option on the drop down menu that pops up. You can save any picture to any folder or place on your computer.

My Very Best to You and Yours,

Robert Ragan

About Robert Ragan:

Robert Ragan has been actively involved with computers and genealogy since the 1980s and is a former director of a Family History Center in Jacksonville, Florida. He has written several guides, tutorials and a home-study course on Internet genealogy research and has published the Treasure Maps genealogy email newsletter since 1995 and is publisher of http://www.amberskyline.com/treasuremaps/ - Your resource for genealogy, family tree and family history products, research tools and other genealogy search helps.

Copyright 1995-2007 by Robert Ragan - All Rights Reserved.