17 June 2011

NEW AncestorSearch version 1.5: See Google Search results in real-time as you type!

This article refers to the AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search found by clicking the link at the top-right of this blog.

Before I get to the exciting enhancements to the tool, I first want to say thank you to all of the people who have been using it (over 18,000 hits in the last couple of months), and the many compliments and write-ups from people who have extended their family trees as a result of the tool.  For example, Peter Calver, founder of LostCousins, stated in his 6 Jun 2011 newsletter "the first time I tried it, it led me to a new 'lost cousin'".

So, here are a few of the key new enhancements:
  • As you type, you will now see a real-time Partial Preview of Google Search Results at the bottom of the form.  Play around with this, as I think you'll find it very useful (I've already found a few new connections because of this feature).  For example, you can quickly type different spellings of names and in real-time see what difference it may make in your search results -- without ever leaving the search page.
  • Next, before clicking the Search button, you can edit the search string however you wish in the long box.  For example, you may want to add an exclude term to the end of your search:  if you're getting too many irrelevant search results that are coming from cnn.com, you could just add -cnn.com to the end of the search string (not to pick on cnn for any reason).  Or, if your ancestor shared the same name as someone associated with George Washington, but you were getting overwhelmed with search results on George Washington's associate, you could add -"George Washington" to the end of the search string to exclude pages mentioning that founding father. 
  • Then, when you're ready to run your full Google search, just click the "Run Full Google Search" button.  Your results will now appear in a new window (or new tab).  This was an often-requested enhancement so that it was easier for people to go back and make changes to their search without having to type in all the search terms again.
Give the tool a try and leave comments on if it helps you find more connections in your tree too!  And as always, I welcome any suggestions for future enhancements.

Here's the tool:  AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search

(I've tested the tool in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer, but I don't have access to every version of every browser.  In general, I've found Chrome works by far the fastest with this tool, and in general.)

Also, check out the enhanced Historical County Boundary Maps tool on this website to put your search in the correct historical geographic context. It uses Google Maps to display US County Boundaries from ANY HISTORICAL YEAR. You can then click any county on the map to see info on the county in that year, and you can click the < and > buttons next to the year to go backward and forward a decade at a time to instantly see how the boundaries shifted around your ancestor.

This is an update to my original post, "Does this Google Custom Search help find records about your ancestors?", and the follow-up, "Updated: AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search, version 1.1".