4 GenealogyBank Search Tips from 2014 SCGS Jamboree Conference

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena—who gave two genealogy presentations on behalf of GenealogyBank at the recent Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree—describes some of the search tips she discussed at the Jamboree.

We are back from the recent Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. It’s always great to meet with GenealogyBank members and hear about their newspaper discoveries. If you weren’t able to attend 2014 SCGS genealogy Jamboree, that’s ok—many of the presentations are available online. For example, I made two presentations on behalf of GenealogyBank, “Using America’s Ethnic Newspapers to Find and Document Your Family” and “GenealogyBank Inside and Out,” and these were recorded and are now available from Conference Resource.

photo of Gena Philibert-Ortega and Duncan Kuehn staffing the GenealogyBank booth at the Jamboree genealogy conference

Photo: Gena Philibert-Ortega and Duncan Kuehn staffing the GenealogyBank booth at the Jamboree conference. Credit: from the author’s collection.

One of the benefits of a genealogy conference is the opportunity to learn new tips to search and make family history discoveries. I thought it would be helpful to share some of the genealogy tips we provided at Jamboree for you to try at home.

Also, remember that you don’t have to attend a conference to have us help you with your GenealogyBank searches. The GenealogyBank Blog constantly provides genealogy tips, and you can always give us a call (1-866-641-3297) and we will work with you to help you trace your family tree.

1) Locations: Location, Location, Location—or Not

Family history researchers are accustomed to searching through a genealogy database by entering an ancestor’s name, date, and location. In a previous blog article, Genealogy Search Engine Types & Tips: OCR vs. Indexed Databases, I discussed how searching indexed content is different than content that is being searched using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), like newspapers. While narrowing down a location is essential in researching other types of information, such as a census return, in newspaper research a specific location may be less important because a newspaper article can appear in multiple newspapers and locations—sometimes on the other side of the country from where your ancestor lived.

As you prepare your search on GenealogyBank, take some time to plan out different types of searches.

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For example, if I’m searching for John C. McNeil who lived from 1823 to 1909 and spent time in Arizona, I would want to conduct searches that would include his name, date range, and place. But then I may want to a search with just his name (with or without the middle initial) and a date range. Because he lived in several different states, I don’t want to always limit the place because I will miss mentions of him in other localities. Even if your ancestor didn’t move around a lot, they can still be mentioned in other newspapers outside of their immediate area. In the case of ethnic newspapers, the newspaper can be aimed at a group from a larger geographic region. Remember that some newspapers may serve a county area, and not just a city. And in the case of a tragedy or even a human interest story, the article can be picked up and printed in newspapers across the United States.

So the bottom line is: don’t include the name of the place or the newspaper location in every search you conduct.

2) Keywords: What Words Do You Include in Your Search?

One of the great features of the GenealogyBank search engine is that you can include or exclude words. So let’s say the surname you are researching is also a noun or a verb, like Miller or Walk. Use the exclude keywords box to exclude certain words. If I’m researching on the surname Baker, I may exclude the word “bread” or “bakery” because I do not want results about bakers, I want results about people with that surname.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page

Have multiple words you want to exclude or include? Just place a comma in between each word. But don’t try to include or exclude too many keywords or you may unnecessarily narrow your results.

3) Hacking Genealogy Searches: Type outside the Search Box

The GenealogyBank search engine has a place for a last and first name, but that doesn’t mean you have to enter those names in those boxes. The search engine is looking for whatever characters you have typed—it doesn’t know what words are names and what words are other keywords, so you could enter all of those characters (keywords) in the “Include Keywords” box.

However, it might help you organize your searches if you enter your ancestor’s last and first names in those boxes, then keep changing terms in the “Include Keywords” and “Exclude Keywords” boxes as you continue trying to find as many articles as you can about your target ancestor.

The search engine also allows you to use wildcards (such as the characters ? or * ) to substitute for letters. Say your ancestor’s first name is Alexander. You could try a search on Alex?. This way you would find results that list him as Alexander or Alex.

One additional genealogy search tip: conduct an “exact phrase” search. Try searching on “John C McNeil” (quotation marks around the words indicate it’s an exact phrase) instead of just John C McNeil (and remember this entire phrase can be typed into one search box). By putting the phrase in quotation marks, you are telling the search engine to search for that exact phrase, and not articles that contain a John, a C, and a McNeil somewhere in the text.

But remember; don’t limit your search to only exact phrase searches, or you will miss results where the name is slightly different than what you have entered.

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4) Major Life Events & Gatherings

One of the biggest “aha!” moments I had during the Jamboree was talking to the staff at the GenealogyBank booth and learning this search tip: try searching on an event your ancestor was involved in without adding their name. When an event is reported in the newspaper (think car crash, natural disaster, or other tragedy), names associated with that event (such as survivors, victims, witnesses, and rescue personnel) are not always mentioned in the initial reports. The event will most likely be reported in articles over a period of time, and as those articles unfold, names may be added.

Say for example you know that your ancestor was involved in a ship accident. Don’t search on their name initially; instead search on the name of the ship or the date the disaster happened. Gather all the newspaper articles you can find about that event to learn more about this incident that affected your ancestor’s life—but don’t limit your initial searches to your ancestor’s name because you will miss important information, especially in some of the first reports about the event. You can later do a search using your ancestor’s name to see if there was a report specifically focusing on your ancestor.

Those are some of the genealogy search tips I explained during my Jamboree presentations, as well as some lessons I learned by attending the Jamboree, listening to other presentations, talking to the audience, and discussing genealogy with the staff at the GenealogyBank booth. I hope they help you with your own family history research.

See You at the Jamboree Next Year!

Going to a genealogy conference? Good chance GenealogyBank will be there. Make sure to stop by the GenealogyBank booth and let us help you search for your ancestors. Not able to visit us at a particular conference? No problem—give us a call (1-866-641-3297) and GenealogyBank’s helpful support staff will assist you with your family search questions. You can also find genealogy search tips on our site’s Genealogist Q&A section.

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Preview to Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena previews the upcoming Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree, including the genealogy talks she will be presenting there on behalf of GenealogyBank.

Do you have an event you look forward to every year? There are certain genealogy conferences that family history researchers look forward to year after year, and one of those is the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree being held at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel June 5th-8th. After all, what’s not to like? Four days of genealogical education in the beautiful Southern California sunshine.

Not familiar with the SCGS Jamboree conference? Each year over 1,000 genealogists from California, other states—and yes, even other countries—converge upon Burbank to take in lectures, historical tours, special events, and displays in an exhibit hall to learn more about genealogy and genealogical services.

photo of a  lecture from last year’s Jamboree genealogy conference

Photo: lecture from last year’s Jamboree. Credit: Used with permission, Southern California Genealogical Society <http://www.scgsgenealogy.com/>.

45th Annual Jamboree

This year will be no exception at “the 45th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, featuring over 50 speakers, nearly 150 sessions and about 70 exhibitors, software and data providers, and societies.” National speakers at Jamboree this year include: John Philip Colletta, Ph.D.; George G. Morgan; Dick Eastman; Lisa Louise Cooke; Judy G. Russell; and yours truly, just to name a few.

photo of a discussion group from last year’s Jamboree genealogy conference

Photo: discussion group from last year’s Jamboree. Credit: Used with permission, Southern California Genealogical Society <http://www.scgsgenealogy.com/>.

For the second year in a row, a special DNA conference will be held in conjunction with Jamboree on Thursday, June 5th. Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2014 brings experts from the field of genetic genealogy, presenting on such topics as autosomal DNA, DNA studies, and DNA testing.

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To learn more about attending the upcoming 2014 Jamboree conference, see the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree website. Special events can be added to your registration and offer additional experiences. I’m especially looking forward to the Sunday morning Scholarship Award Breakfast where I will be presenting on Of Elephants, Gold, and Dashed Dreams: Researching the California Gold Rush. Join me as we honor the 2014 winner of the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant.

GenealogyBank at the Jamboree

Do you love GenealogyBank and want to know how to make the most of your subscription? Come visit us in the exhibit hall where we will be answering your questions and helping researchers search our archival collections. Take advantage of this opportunity to talk to us and learn how to master GenealogyBank and find your ancestors.

photo of blog authhor Gena Philibert-Ortega (left) with Judy G. Russell (The Legal Genealogist), from last year’s Jamboree genealogy conference

Photo: Gena Philibert-Ortega (left) with Judy G. Russell (The Legal Genealogist), from last year’s Jamboree. Credit: from the author’s collection.

To learn even more about GenealogyBank, plan on attending my presentation “Using America’s Ethnic Newspapers to Find and Document Your Family,” Saturday morning at 8:30. On Sunday afternoon at 1:00 I’ll discuss “GenealogyBank—Inside and Out,” where we will discuss how to search on GenealogyBank’s collection of 6,500 newspaper titles and one billion family history records.

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Can’t Make It to California?

Not able to attend Jamboree in person? That’s ok, you can attend virtually! Jamboree will be providing free streaming sessions.

In addition to the streaming sessions, social media provides the opportunity to attend a conference from home. Follow Jamboree on Twitter by monitoring the hashtag #SCGS2014 or the Southern California Genealogical Society account @scgsgenealogy. Don’t forget to also follow the GenealogyBank Twitter account at @GenealogyBank.

Start Thinking about the 2015 Jamboree

If you can’t join us in person at the Jamboree genealogy event this year, start making plans now to attend in 2015. Besides the conference, there’s so much to do for those non-family historians in your family. (Disneyland, anyone?)

For the family historian, plan on spending a few extra days in the area to research at area libraries and archives such as the:

I hope to see you at Jamboree next week!

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Southern California Genealogical Society’s Successful 2012 Jamboree

The Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS) just completed another very successful Jamboree in Burbank, California, this month.

Over 1,700 genealogists jammed the genealogy classes, presentations and the exhibit hall for the past four days.

Our own in-house genealogist, Tom Kemp, spoke at three sessions during the SCGS Jamboree. His Friday Genealogy Jamboree talk (“Newspapers: Finding the Details about Your Family”) was so popular that a large crowd wanting to get into the two-room lecture hall had to be turned away. Seeing this large interest in Tom’s talk, the SCGS conference organizers then arranged for an additional session and he repeated the program on Sunday afternoon.

On Saturday he gave an early morning pep talk: “GenealogyBank Quick Tips.”

GenealogyBank Is Coming to the SCGS Genealogy Jamboree 2012!

Are you coming to the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree in Burbank, California, this week? GenealogyBank will be there.

I hope that you will join us at our conference session on Friday, June 8th at 3 p.m. at the Los Angeles Marriot hotel. The topic of my genealogy presentation will be Newspapers: Finding the Details about Your Family. You can view the entire Genealogy Jamboree schedule for Friday on the SCGS website.

collage of handout material for Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree 2012

"Newspapers: Finding the Details about Your Family" handout for SCGS Jamboree 2012

If you can’t be at this year’s SCGS Genealogy Jamboree in person but you have a family history question you’d like to ask, leave your question in the comments section and I’ll respond to you here on the blog and incorporate your question into our session.

For those of you who will be attending the genealogy conference this year, we look forward to seeing you there!