Highlights from Google and Its Tools for Genealogists

On Monday evening, March 6th Mary Kathryn Kozy gave a spectacular presentation on how to use Google Tools to Her handout is reproduced here, with their permission, from an article published in their April, 2017 newsletter by Jan Meisels Allen.

Several of the areas Mary Kathryn discussed for genealogical searches include photos, family trees, websites, records sets (not everything is on Ancestry or FamilySearch as States are placing their databases online), and historical data—which puts context into our ancestors’ lives such as why they immigrated.

For images, go to either images.google.com or just www.google.com and look for the “Images” link in the upper right-hand corner. By clicking on the word “Images” a search field appears where you can type in what you are searching for amongst the many images available to Google Search. On the search bar is a camera icon which permits the user to search by image (you can actually drag and drop an image file here!) Try typing in the name of your ancestral town or an individual or family surname and see what images appear. If you plan to use the photographs you find, be careful as some may still be under copyright.

One of the general Google searches Mary Kathryn performed live was “Jewish Family History”. Her search results included many more sites in addition to JewishGen.

Mary Kathryn Kozy Presenting

Mary Kathryn Kozy Presenting

In the example of searching for “Immigration of Jews from the Isle of Rhodes”, the results included the history of the Jews of Rhodes as well as the context of why they moved.

Google searches can also be performed on your smart phones. Choose your words carefully when verbally asking your question. On your Android phone, if you have the link to Google, you can ask Google a question — similar to the Siri assistant on an Apple phone. Say “OK Google” or select the microphone. You can also click the microphone icon on your desktop or laptop computer and ask Google a question as well, after allowing Google access to your microphone.

Helpful Hints 

  • Quotation marks will limit a search to only the words inside the quotes. For example, “Samuel Goldberg” in the search bar will show all Samuel Goldbergs where the two words are next to one another in that order. Not using the quotation marks, i.e. Samuel Goldberg, will result in all Samuels and all Goldbergs appearing in the results, not necessarily Samuel Goldberg together.
  • One can use an asterisk (*) to replace multiple letters in a search. Gold* would search Goldman, Goldberg, Goldstein, etc. If you only want to replace one letter in your word search, use a question mark (?). For example, the search Me?sels, will return results including Meisels, Measels, Messels etc.
  • To search a site, type in site: and then put in the name of the website address. The example Mary Kathryn provided was, site:rhodes.jewishmuseum.org alhadeff family which will return results about the Alhadeff family that exist only on the rhodes.jewishmuseum.org website and not all of the Internet.
  • If you want to exclude common words or famous people from the search, since these may dominate the results and are not whom you are searching for, put a hyphen in front of the word you want to omit. The example given was:
    Spielberg family –Steven. The –Steven should provide information on all but Steven.

The following Google attributes require the user to be logged into Google, which requires a free Gmail (email) account. If you go to Google.com on the upper right is a link to Gmail. The 9 dots to the right of the Gmail and Images links are Google Apps. These include 12 apps that are available from their icons: Google Maps, Google Play, Gmail, Calendar, Google Translate, Google Photos, YouTube and more. While you can access any of these applications directly, literally by Googling the name of the app, having them gathered in one place is a more convenient way for access. By clicking “more” under the 9 dots even more Google applications appear, such as Google Docs, Google Books, Google Blogger and Google Hangout. You can also access them on your smart phone with a Google app grouping. Mary Kathryn mentioned that while Google+ was intended to be Google’s answer to Facebook, it has basically been split up into Photos, Streams, and Hangout.

Google Photos (https://photos.google.com) is different than Google images. Google Photos is where one can store their own photos online. Google subscribers get 15GB of total storage (Google Drive – see below) in which to store photographs, email and documents in their original format. If you chose High Quality as your formatting option, there is unlimited storage. You can also purchase more storage than the 15 GB free storage. if needed. Photos up to 16 megapixels resolution may be stored for free. The photos placed on Google Photos remains in the cloud, even after they may have been deleted from your computer. You can share individual photos with others and create private and shared albums. The date placed on the photograph is not the date the photograph is taken, but the date the photograph is placed in Google Photos.

Google Streams is similar to Facebook, but appears to be more business and organization oriented. It does have some relevant genealogical content. One has to register for Google+ and that requires having a Google email (Gmail) address which is free.

Google Hangouts (https://hangouts.google.com) is an application that permits one to have face-to-face time with coworkers and customers. Calls can be made in either audio or video mode, and a built-in instant messaging (or chat) feature is also provided. The service allows for up to 10 computers to be connected via one “call,” and screen sharing of a single app or an entire desktop is also possible on video calls. This allows for great collaboration when working with other family members who want to be looking at the same documents, databases, or photos. It has built-in screen sharing.

Google Drive (https://www.google.com/drive/) is the 15GB server storage space allotted to each Google account holder which may also be used for collaborative file-sharing. Documents can be created in the Google native “Office”-type tools, such as Google Docs (word processor), Google Sheets (spreadsheet management) or Google Slides (presentation platform), to name a few. One of the advantages for using the native Google platforms is that simultaneous editing can be done in shared documents, eliminating the need for version control. Also, files created in the native Google formats will not count toward your 15GB storage total. Other files from other products can be stored here, such as Word docs, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, etc., but will be counted toward your allotted storage amount.

Google Maps/Google Earth 

Mary Kathryn reviewed the differences between Google Maps and Google Earth. Google Maps (www.google.com/maps) is a website available anywhere in the world where you have access to the Internet. Google Earth (www.google.com/earth) is a stand-alone desktop application that has two versions:

Google Earth, and Google Earth Pro which Mary Kathryn suggested we use.

Google Maps (https://maps.google.com) helps one with finding an address and directions. One can go to the website and access it directly, no download is required. By placing an address in the search bar you can get directions and view a map or satellite image of the address of interest. Some Google Earth functionality has been added to Google Maps, such as Street View. On the lower right-hand side of the map is a “gold man” icon. Dragging the gold man figure onto the map causes blue lines to appear where the Street View is enabled. Placing the figure on any blue line on the map allows you to virtually stand in front of the building you are searching for, as well as move along the street from that point with 360° visibility. If you are interested in when the photos were taken for Street View, the date appears at the very bottom of the Image.

Google Earth (https://maps.google.com) is an application that one must download and install on their computer. You need to be signed into your Google account (Gmail) to access the search. Once you have found your location, the same gold man icon appears and can be used to view Street View as noted above. Simply clicking and dragging the image will allow you to look around the location. Not every street in every town has blue lines, and it might take you near but not exactly to the place you are searching. With Google Earth you can view points of interest in addition to specific street addresses, from street views and 3-Dimensional buildings. Google Earth also includes a gallery with many choices to overlay various layers with things such as earthquakes, items from NASA, and other items of interest such as photos and panoramas that have been uploaded by users. One specific gallery-listing Mary Kathryn emphasized was the Rumsey Historical Maps. Click on that option and it will overlay one of many maps digitized and georeferenced by David Rumsey. You can then zoom in and see what the area looked like historically. An opacity adjustment is also provided so that you may move back and forth between the historical map and the satellite imagery. Stopping halfway allows you to view the satellite image through the historical map context.

Google Books (https://books.google.com/books) contains whole books if printed prior to 1923 that are out of copyright—unless the author or his/her family extended the copyright. One can put in subject matter and portions of a book may appear where that subject is mentioned. If the book is still under copyright, it will direct you to places where the book may be purchased. Another option is to check WorldCat for the book and see what nearby libraries carry a copy or request the book from a local library on interlibrary loan.

Google Translate (https://translate.google.com) is an essential tool when researching in different languages. This tool not only assists in writing to archives in different countries, it can also help translate into English articles, letters, and websites that may be of assistance in your genealogical research. The best translations occur when you take the translation and place that into the box to be translated back into English or whichever language is desired. Translating the text back into English allows you to correct improperly translated words and try it until the translation makes sense. A good practice would be to do this at least three times. Google Translate can translate text and websites into over 100 languages including Hebrew and Yiddish.

Google Blogger (https://www.blogger.com) is a free way to share your written stories. Blogs are a great way to keep the family updated on genealogical finds and can serve as “cousin bait” that is working 24/7 to help others who are researching your same families to find you.

YouTube (https://www.youtube.com) is great way to educate yourself. Type in a subject into the search bar and enjoy. You can also start your own channel to provide videos of what you want to share with others. It’s also free!

This program provided an excellent tutorial on many of Google’s many tools and many features that can assist you in your genealogy.

Mary Kathryn Kozy has been researching her family history for over 35 years and across many different localities. She has served in multiple positions in societies on the local and state level and is currently serving as an LDS Family History missionary. Mary also serves on the board of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State and speaks to many groups in the area. She holds bachelor’s degrees in both Zoology and Information Technology & Systems and has completed the ProGen online study program with an eye toward certification as a professional genealogist.

“Venturing Into Our Past” is the newsletter of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley (JGSCV). All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce any original content for non-profit use with prior notification to the editor and proper attribution.