OneGreatFamily Blog

  • Genealogy: Google Tips to Help You Navigate Genealogy Database Websites

    The following article is a sample from Barry J. Ewell's book "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History." He is the founder of, an online educational website for genealogy and family history. 

    As you search the web, much of the data you seek will be gathered into websites like and These websites incorporate their own search engines to help you effectively explore their various database collections and assets. As you enter a website, our instinct is to type in the surname or individual you seek and hope you find a match. Take the time to find and review search query outlines that have been provided to help maximize their collections. Be aware that most websites have aspects of their organization and design that are unique to searching their collections and would not be effective in a Google search. The following are some tips to help you navigate searching websites that provide genealogical data:

    Review the contents of the databases. Throughout the Internet, you will find many websites that promote and offer data collections with the same category headings. If you were to compare the collections side by side, you would find portions of collections that are the same and others that are unique to that website. Sometimes you will find the website does not have any data but merely has a search engine that goes out to other websites and searches their databases.

    Whatever the case, it is important to take time to review what makes up the content of the database and where the sources come from so that you can better understand the value of the databases to you-especially if you are getting ready to order a subscription, such as with By looking around, you may be able to find exactly what you are looking for on a free site.

    Start broad and narrow your search. Whenever I start my search, I will usually start with a general, broad search. Based on what I receive in my search results, I will then use the search logic associated with the particular website search engine to narrow my search.

    Starting with a name. The search engine will first look for an exact name match, followed by common variants, misspellings, and nicknames. For example, a search for Bill Smith might return "William Smith," "Wm Smith," "Bill Smith," and "B. Smith."

    Filling in the blanks. When you are entering the data for your search, you must have at least the last name. The other fields can be blank. You don't have to fill in all the fields of your query.

    Be careful with abbreviations. Search engines find only exact matches. If you have used abbreviations, retype your search string using alternatives-for example, PA, then Penn, then Penn¬sylvania. Avoid abbreviations for descriptive terms (such as Sgt., Co., Reg't., Dr., or Jr.). Do not enter titles (like Dr., Earl, or Queen) or suffixes (3rd, III, or Jr.). Just search for the name without the title and then check the results for the ones you want.

    Use of quotation marks " ". Quotation marks are used in searches to denote that you are specifically looking for these words in this order. For example, you are looking for John Lee in Florida, then in your query you would enter John Lee Florida. Chances are, you would receive all the Johns in Lee County, Florida. By using quotations, you are able to make the search more targeted and avoid a lot of unwanted search results. The query now becomes "John Lee" Florida. The search will include results that include both John Lee and Florida.

    By using quotation marks, you tell the search engine that you want the words surrounded in quotations to be in exactly the order you have them.

    Advanced Search. Whenever possible, use the "advanced search" option. The more information you are able to enter in the search criteria, the better results you are likely to receive. For exam¬ple, by adding a date to your search you will help to narrow the scope. Even if you don't know the exact year, an educated guess in the "date" field will improve your results. The following are a few suggestions of how to improve the advance search:

    • Add a middle name, if you know of one
    • Add a birth or death year
    • Add a birth or death place

    Focus on specific databases. Every time a website like adds a collection of data-be it records of Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Adams County Census, or a state's marriage records-the new information is being grouped with similar records. Sometimes the collections are kept as separate databases, and sometimes they are folded in with other data. In either case, you are given the opportunity to search within or among databases. After you complete your initial search, you may feel it prudent to narrow your search by focusing on one of these categories. Usually you can choose by clicking on a radio button or choosing from a dropdown box. The type of category groupings you will see include the following:

    • Ancestry Name Search
    • Census Records
    • Birth, Marriage, and Death Records
    • Social Security Death Index
    • Surname Indexes
    • Passenger and Immigration Records
    • Military Records
    • Directories and Members Lists
    • Family and Local Histories
    • Newspapers and Periodicals
    • Family and Local Histories
    • Photos and Maps
    • Court, Land, and Probate Records

    Read more great genealogy tips in Barry Ewell's book "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History.

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  • Famous Ancestor Of The Week: Mae West

    Mae West

    Racy actress and playwright Mae West was born 17 August 1893 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York as "Mary Jane West." Her father was a prizefighter and later ran a private investigation agency; her mother was a corset model. Her Irish Catholic paternal grandmother strongly disapproved of the family's Protestantism and the laissez-faire way in which the West household was run.

    At age fourteen, Mae began acting in Vaudeville shows for the Hal Clarendon Stock Company. In 1911 she appeared in her first Broadway show, and in 1918 she began writing her own shows. One was so offensive that it was shut down and cast and crew were arrested.

    In 1932 she began acting in movies and performing in radio skits. In 1933 she was the second-highest paid individual in the U.S. (after newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst). Because of their provocative content, her radio skits were banned from many stations. She died on 22 November 1980.

    You can see whether or not you are related to Mae West by going to the Relationship Calculator on the Family Dashboard Page when you login to OneGreatFamily.

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  • You've Submitted Your Family Tree To OneGreatFamily - Now What?

    OneGreatFamily Has So Much To Help You Find Your Ancestors

    Here is a list of things you can do at OneGreatFamily that will increase your chances of success at OneGreatFamily. We hope that as a member you have come to appreciate the unique service provided by OneGreatFamily.

    1. Discover what has been done on your family tree already
    The OneGreatFamily Tree is a powerful genealogy database that is shared and built by people like you all over the world. Every single name, date, place, picture, biography and video clip has been submitted by people like you. In fact, the OneGreatFamily Tree started without a single name. Users in over 80 countries have submitted millions of names . . . and we've only just begun! So what does a "shared" worldwide database mean to you? It means someone else may have already entered dozens or even hundreds of your ancestors!

    2. Start researching where others left off

    Spend some time searching for your ancestors at OneGreatFamily and pay special attention to new information that is added to your family tree over time. This will help you know what research others have already done or are doing on your family tree. You can then spend your time conducting new research or simply verifying information that others have provided.

    3. Meet and collaborate with family

    OneGreatFamily allows people around the world to work on one common family tree. This means others can be researching and improving information on your ancestors. Wouldn't you like to meet and collaborate with these genealogical cousins? You can! OneGreatFamily provides collaboration features that allow you to work with other researchers and family members.

    4. Search millions of names

    At OneGreatFamily, you can search millions of names in the OneGreatFamily Tree and in the Social Security Death Index. When you find an individual that you would like to learn more about, simply click on him or her to view detailed information that we store in our databases.

    With OneGreatFamily, you have the flexibility to choose when to work on your genealogy and when to focus on other needs in your life, knowing that work on your family tree continues.

    5. Visit your Family Dashboard
    Your Family Dashboard is the first page you see when you login to OneGreatFamily. This very unique page allows you to learn interesting facts about your ancestors and family tree. This is also a great place to get ideas of where you can do addition research.

    OneGreatFamily has much to offer that cannot be found on any other genealogy site or within any other genealogy program! If you have other questions or need further assistance, please contact us.

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  • Genealogy: Goggle Specialty Searches

    The following article is a sample from Barry J. Ewell's book "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History." He is the founder of, an online educational website for genealogy and family history. 

    Learn to use Google to conduct special searches in Google Image, Google Book, Google Scholar and much more.

    Let Google find (and translate) foreign language websites. In the Google search page, change your preferences (under the gear menu in the upper right corner) to include non-English language sites among your results and click save preferences. Then go to the Google Translation Tool web site to download a button for your browser that translates thirty-four languages to English at the touch of a button.

    Search Google Books to find text from out-of-print books. Google is digitizing millions of books-many of which are no longer copyright protected and can be searched and read online for free at Use a surname and qualifier in the search box. For example, bennet "king county, Washington" or "anna larsen"

    Let Google know your most important search terms. Google often produces results that match some but not all of your search terms. Using a plus sign immediately before your most crucial terms or phrase requires its inclusion in results. For example, a search for +"benjamin rosenbaum" chicago OR "cook county"Illinois makes sure Benjamin is in each search result, even if he's in Toledo rather than Chicago.

    Don't let an imprecise location spoil a good search. When using a geographic search term, use all forms of the location, because the person who posted your information may have used abbrevia¬tions. Example: "mary norwood" hollywood, "los angeles co" OR "los angeles county" OR "los angeles"AND ca OR cal OR calif OR California. Remember: if you don't search them all, you don't get all the possible results.

    Use Google blog search to meet other researchers. Online blogs can be viewed for free at Use a surname, location limiter, and genealogy synonyms in the search box. Example: Ewell Charlottesville ~genealogy.

    Use Google Image search to find photos, postcards, and maps. A Google search of images indexed from websites can find research gold. Online images can be searched at Use a surname, location, or qualifier like postcard in the search box. Example: "albemarle county, virginia" lithograph.

    Try a Google Scholar search. Search historical society papers, journal articles, and college theses for ancestors. Scholarly searches are free at Use a name and location in the search box. Example: "ann mullins"golden Colorado.

    Try a Google News archives search. Search historical newspa¬pers for ancestors' announcements, ships, companies, crimes, and events. Limited searches of OCR (computer aided transcriptions) are free at Try a name, location, and date restriction in the search box. Example: larsen, atlanta, geor¬gia 1860.. 1890.

    Use Google to define antiquated occupations, diseases, or terminology. Google allows Define (define:) to identify the mean¬ings of words and phrases. Example: search define: ague to discover that Uncle Cyrus died of an illness with fever and shaking chills, or define: lapidary to learn that Cyrus worked as a cutter and polisher of stones into gems.

    Use Google's residential phonebook to find possible cousins. Use Google's Residential Phonebook (rphonebook) to locate phone numbers, addresses, maps, and even aerial and street-level photos of homes of the people who share your surname in a geographic area. Example: rphonebook: walter, ames, iowa, or rphonebook: morrison 89121.

    Use Google's business phonebook to find non-residential contact info. Use Google's Business Phonebook (bphonebook) to locate phone numbers, addresses, maps, and even aerial and street- level photos of businesses that relate to your ancestors in a geo-graphic area. Example: bphonebook: baptist, boise, idaho.

    Use Google Maps' address location and driving directions. Enter a complete address (like 3760 n central st miami fl) into www. to get a detailed map (including a high resolution satellite option). Then, in the search terms field, add the phrase "to 3413 nevada ave madison wi" to get detailed driving directions. This type of search is great for locating cemeteries.

    Use Google Street View to get snapshots of ancestral homes. As you may know, Google's camera-equipped cars are circling the United States and western Europe, taking continuous 360-degree photos of neighborhoods. Use to locate an address, then click Street View to call up the photo image of the home.

    Let Google Alerts search while you sleep. Alerts are a neat service. Google Alerts ( is an automated, online tool that lets you build complex Google searches and run them continuously to look for new additions to the Internet. You are periodically alerted by email of new web info about your favorite sports team or your great-aunt.

    Try Google video search to find tutorials, travelogues, and family stories. Use to search for short videos of interest.

    Read more great genealogy tips in Barry Ewell's book "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History.

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  • Famous Ancestor Of The Week: Kirk Douglas

    Kirk Douglas

    The famed actor of Paths of Glory and Spartacus fame was born Issur Herschelovich Danielovitch on 9 December 1916 in Amsterdam, Montgomery, New York. His parents, Herschel and Bryna Danielovitch, were Russian Jewish immigrants who adopted the names Harry and Bertha Demsky upon coming to the United States; they had come from the Belarusian city of Gomel. Douglas grew up being called "Izzy Demsky," and was one of seven children (he had six sisters).

    He attended St. Lawrence University on student loans before getting into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City on scholarship. It was during this time that he began using the stage name Kirk Douglas.

    In 1941 he enlisted in the Navy. In 1943, he married former AADA classmate Diana Dill. (They would have two sons, including future Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, before divorcing in 1954.) After the war another AADA classmate, Lauren Bacall, would help launch Douglas' acting career.

    He married Anne Buydens in 1954, and they had two sons. In 1991 Douglas was in a nearly-fatal helicopter crash and subsequently returned to his Russian Jewish roots, embracing the Judaism of his childhood.

    You can see whether or not you are related to Kirk Douglas by going to the Relationship Calculator on the Family Dashboard Page when you login to OneGreatFamily.

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