The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.In 1854 self-educated English mathematician George Boole published a paper that eventually resulted in 21st century genealogists finding more information about their ancestors. Boole published The Laws of Thought that illustrated new ways of looking at mathematical data.
Boolean algebra emerged in the 1860s and went on to become a standard method of analyzing all sorts of data. In the last half of the twentieth century, computer scientists and programmers found many applications for Boolean logic. Now Google and many other search engines and quite a few genealogy sites also use Boolean logic extensively. If you understand a few of the simpler Boolean search methods, you can greatly increase the probability of finding the information you seek.
Note: This article will use Google for all examples, simply because it is the largest search engine today. However, almost all general-purpose search engines use Boolean logic although the exact syntax may vary from one service to the next. In addition, many of the larger genealogy web sites support at least a subset of the Boolean search logic. You will need to consult each web site’s help files to determine which Boolean terms work on that site, if any. The www.eogn.com web site for this newsletter uses Boolean logic for its searches at “you can search this newsletter's past articles.”Boolean logic has many uses. Genealogists may consider Boolean logic to be a method of specifying the relationship of words on a web page to other, nearby words on the same page.
For this example, I will conduct a search on Google for an ancestor of mine named Washington Harvey Eastman. I would invite you to substitute the name of one of your ancestors and then follow along with your own search. Read this article in one window, and simultaneously open a web browser in another window on your computer. You will want to start your browser at http://www.google.com and then later experiment with other sites.
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