Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday's Tip - Google Alerts for family finds

I have written about using Google Alerts to monitor the unauthorized distribution of your blog content. Today, I'll share how Google Alerts work to find new family information.
Google Alerts is a tool that allows you to set up automatic searches for new web content that interests you. Google scans the web for your entries and sends you an email when something new related to your search is posted on the web. I have set up a Google Alert for the name of my blog and some of my more interesting posts just to monitor if someone uses the content without my approval. But another great use of Google Alerts is to search for content about family names.

A couple of years ago I set up a Google Alert to search for the name: Roelker. Just last week I received a hit on the alert, sending me to a news article from Cortez, Colorado. Amazingly, the article was posted about a German community that the Roelkers helped to form in southwest Colorado. It gave details as to exactly where the family lived and now I have someone to reach out to for more information. I would have probably never come across this great article if it weren't for my Google Alert. In fact, I did a regular Google search for "Roelker" and the same article did not show up. I even helped the search by adding the city "Cortez" and still did not find the article.

Google is a powerful tool for searching for your ancestors and Google Alerts makes the work easy. You can set up as many alerts as you like and manage how many times a day Google alerts you with links relevant for your search. In order to not have your inbox explode with information I suggest narrowing down your alerts to more unique family names or locations.

Do you use Google Alerts? How have they helped (or hindered) your research?

8 comments:

Jacqi Stevens said...

Heather, Google Alerts has been a household name around here, ever since my daughter was in debate during her high school years. It is an indispensable tool for those doing any kind of online research. I've used it in family history research for basically the same uses you've mentioned--although I don't think I need to worry about anyone stealing my content ;)

It was interesting seeing your comparison between the Google Alerts results and doing a search on Google yourself, using the same terms. The only difference, I suppose, is that the Alerts mechanism uses a web crawler, so possibly exposes you to a lot more material than a quick Google search might do.

And to think (I read this somewhere) that the Google crawlers have only grazed about one percent of all the online material out there...mind blowing...like deep space...

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Jacqi, I also read that Google Alerts sends "new" results. To me, that meant newly published content. Perhaps that accounts for some of the disparity. Either way they are nice to have. I hadn't thought about using them for school work...what a great tool for debate! I really should create some more.

Caroline Cox said...

Thank you for posting this. I'd heard mention of Google Alerts before, but hadn't really looked into it.
I've now set up a few alerts & it looks like it may be a very useful tool.
Thank you!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

I hope it brings you some great leads, Caroline!

Nancy said...

Sadly, I've never used Google Alerts. My daughter mentioned using them a few years ago but I didn't pursue her suggestion that I give them a try. Now I will, especially because I'm having so much trouble finding some pesky ancestors. Thanks for the reminder and explanation of your experiences.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

I think you'll like Google Alerts, Nancy. I'm kicking myself for not having set up more. You'll have to let me know if you have any success.

Verla said...

This is cool!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Thanks, Verla! I've had some great luck with this tip.