Updated: AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search, version 1.1

This is an update to my original post, "Does this Google Custom Search help find records about your ancestors?"

You may recall that I built the AncestorSearch form as a timesaver for my own genealogical web searches, and I decided to share it on my website in case others find it useful too.  (As a reminder, the AncestorSearch form performs a Google search that is optimized for finding web pages mentioning ancestors by making use of  Google search techniques including quoted phrases, checking both firstname lastname, and lastname firstname order, placing the "OR" statements and parenthesis in the right places, and so on.)
I appreciate all the feedback I've received on the usefulness of my search form from many users!  (And in fact, in the last few weeks, I've extended two more branches of my family tree back into the 1700s using my search form.  I found web pages with historical references to my ancestors that evidently had been hidden in heaps of irrelevant standard Google search results).

Anyway, based on feedback from users, I've made a couple of enhancements

Does this Google Custom Search help find records about your ancestors?

[I've added an update to this original post here:]

I hesitate posting this prematurely, but I welcome some initial feedback from the genealogy community on a search form that I've built.

I've built an "AncestorSearch" Google Custom Search form on my blog that I've been using to find records on my own ancestors, and it's worked pretty well for me so far over the last several weeks.  I'm choosing to share it now in case others find it useful as well.  Basically, this AncestorSearch search form attempts to filter through much of the irrelevant noise on the web and return a much more focused set of results which are more likely to be about the ancestors you are looking for.

For example, I was searching for my 3rd great grandparents’ marriage using Google, and entered the search term as follows:
Mary Diamond OR Dimond Peter Connor OR Conner New Orleans 1850 marriage
The search returned 21,300 results, none of which were relevant to my ancestors in page after page of search results.

I then entered the same search terms into the boxes in my AncestorSearch search form, and the search returned 4 results, with the 1st result being the marriage record I was looking for!  (Now it returns 5 results, as the AncestorSearch page itself has been indexed by Google)

Now, to be clear, there's no magic here.  All I've done with the search form is use some Google operators and search techniques such as "OR"/"|", quoted phrases, checking both orders of first name and last name, etc.  You can do the same thing yourself by entering the following into the standard Google search box, but it's a bit more cumbersome:
(("Mary Diamond"|"Diamond, Mary")|("Mary Dimond"|"Dimond, Mary")) (("Peter Connor"|"Connor, Peter")|("Peter Conner"|"Conner, Peter")) "New Orleans" (marriage|married|marriages) (1849|1850|1851)

If you're interested, give it a shot and see if this AncestorSearch Google Custom Search form is useful for you for finding a more focused set of results for some of your ancestors:

I welcome any feedback.

[I've added an update to this original post here:]

First day of 23andMe test results, and already a breakthrough!

I've been a FamilyTreeDNA customer for a couple of years, and I've had great success with using DNA testing combined with traditional genealogical research to break through one brick wall so far (see here

I recently became a 23andMe customer as well...their holiday special was just too good to pass up!

Well, I started receiving my test results a couple of days ago for the Health Edition, and yesterday for the Ancestry Edition of 23andMe.  I'm excited to say that I already have lots of matches to explore, and have already received about a half dozen requests to make contact, and I've sent about a similar amount to other people!  A quick summary of the 23andMe Relative Finder shows that I have the following matches with other 23andMe customers:

  • 4 second cousins (all with no name or personal details in their profiles though...bummer.  Hopefully some of them will respond to my contact requests)
  • 1 third cousin
  • 68 fourth cousins
  • 386 fifth cousins

Here's what's most exciting:  The very first person that tried contacting me through 23andMe is already a match and a bit of a breakthrough!  (And she was in the "fifth cousins" list)

Out of respect for her privacy, I'll not mention her name, but here's how the process has gone thus far.  Again, this was all in just the first day after receiving my test results!

  1. I received a notification e-mail from 23andMe that a potential 5th Cousin would like to make contact
  2. I clicked on the link in the email and viewed her 23andMe profile, in which she listed her family surnames 
  3. Her profile mentioned a few names that I thought were worth exploring since they match names in my tree:  Fuller, Pierce, Pugh, and Warren, and "possible names" (her words) Hart and Shofner.  So I accepted her invitation to connect and asked her what else she could tell me about those particular family lines.
  4. She replied in an e-mail that included high-level details on these matching family surnames, including names, locations, and dates.  Out of all the names, only one was worth exploring ...but it appears to be a breakthrough and solve a mystery for her in her tree!  Here's what she said in the latest e-mail:

"Henry Shofner 1755-1847 & Chloe Hart b.abt 1765 from Green CO KY may be my 4th gr-grandparents.  My gr-gr-grandfather Wm. Pringle appears to be their daughter's child.  Is this the same family as yours?  [She then goes on to list details about the 5 other matching surnames]  Anything ring a bell?  Of course, I'm hoping that the Hart/Shofner does.  That could answer one mystery in my tree."

Well, we found a match in a speculative branch of her tree, since Henry Shofner and Chloe Hart are my 6th great grandparents!  I've shared this information with her, and have offered to give her access to my private family tree on so we can compare more details, confirm facts, share photos and more!

All in all, a very productive first day of results on 23andMe!

President Lincoln writes a letter of thanks for "a pair of socks so fine"

On 4 Dec 1861, President Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to my 5th great grandmother, Susannah Crume Weathers, thanking her for a letter and gift she had recently sent him:  "a pair of socks so fine".  It seems quite funny and odd on the surface of it, and yet how quaint, charming, and even noble it is.  The letter is inspirational to me, as it exemplifies President Lincoln's unpretentious and accessible character.

Below is the letter as reproduced in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5 (Wildside Press, 2008).  How I'd love to see the original letter Abraham Lincoln had received from Susannah on 26 Nov 1861, and to see this original handwritten letter from Abraham Lincoln back to her.

It's even more astonishing that Abraham Lincoln wrote such a letter considering that this was in the middle of the Civil War, and knowing that he had untold pressing issues to attend to.  According to The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5, Abraham Lincoln wrote six other correspondences on the same day (4 Dec 1861):  two to Simon Cameron, two to the House of Representatives, one to George B. McClellan, and one to William H. Seward.

[As an aside, on my Crume/Weathers family line, Abraham Lincoln does not appear to be a direct blood relation to me.  Instead, he is the nephew of the wife of my 6th great grandfather.]