From the office: Three online tips for tracking down your family history

By Editor, 28 July 2016 - 4:46pm

Returning to the office after a long break, Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine editor Sarah Williams has been inspired by some tips for getting more out of the internet

Sarah Williams is editor at Who Do You Think You Are? MagazineThursday 28 July 2016
Sarah Williams, Editor
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August and Summer issue 2016 Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

The Summer 2016 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine has arrived in the office!

I love opening the box when the new issue arrives in the office. The smell of new magazines, the smooth touch of a glossy cover and the physical proof that all those hours of labour in front of a computer have resulted in something that thousands of you will be flicking through at home.

Today was no different – although we chose the cover image of children paddling in the Thames during a heat wave and now it’s raining outside. Hey ho, that’s British weather for you.

But whenever I pull out a new issue from the box it’s time to say goodbye to the previous one and I felt a bit sad about that because the August issue feels special to me (the Summer issue goes on sale on Tuesday, so if you haven’t got the August issue yet, buy it now!).

I’m not sure if anyone noticed (do people read the Welcome page in a magazine?) but I have been off for over a year and during that time the magazine has been looked after by Claire Vaughan. It all began the week after WDYTYA? Live 2015 when I discovered a lump in my right breast. That discovery was the start of a difficult year but I have dipped in and out of the magazine between treatments and now, fully recovered, the August issue was the first one for over a year where I was in the office from beginning to end.

I mentioned last week how much I enjoyed the feature on sporting ancestors but I also enjoyed Jonathan Scott’s article on getting more from the internet. We have got so used to Google doing all the work for us, it’s easy for us to think that if it’s not in the first page of search results, it’s not worth looking at. But, as Jonathan points out, Google’s algorithm penalises obscure pages that are no longer updated. If only Google knew how much we sometimes love those pages!

Jonathan shares 10 tips for getting more from the internet in our August issue, but I’ll share three with you that have really helped me recently with my Norfolk research.

1) Check the links page of the relevant family or local history society page. These links can sometimes be to old web pages set up by members many years ago that would rarely make it onto the first few pages of a Google search. They can be an Aladdin's cave of hidden gems!

2) Go in the other direction and check the sites that link to a relevant site by prefacing your search with 'link:'. So I searched for link:

3) Use the minus (-) sign to weed out unwanted results. If you are researching someone who shares a surname with someone famous, just put a ‘-‘ in front of the celebrity’s first name to exclude websites about them. For example, if you are researching the surname Churchill and you don’t want sites about the war-time prime minister, then type in: -Winston Churchill.

It’s been wonderful getting back into the magazine and my family history research. I’m looking forward to giving a talk at the AGRA Conference in Cambridge (16 September) and I hope to see many of you there. For those who can’t make it, please do share with me the hidden gems that you have found online so we can share them with others.

You can pick up a copy of the August 2016 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine from newsagents or supermarkets until Monday 1 August, or download a digital version here


From the office: The lives of my sporting ancestors
previous blog Article
From the office: Don't neglect the FamilySearch website
next blog Article
From the office: The lives of my sporting ancestors
previous blog Article
From the office: Don't neglect the FamilySearch website
next blog Article
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