Google has become the primary tool for all sorts of online searches. I use Google every day for genealogy and other searches. I perform searches for several ancestors, searches for any information about a small town where my ancestors lived, searches for any information about the small town where I grew up, any mentions of my newsletter, any mention of my cousins with the unusual surname, and a number of other topics. I perform these searches daily, always looking for any new information that appears online.
Of course, logging onto Google every day and manually performing such searches is tedious. Besides, I am forgetful. I don't always remember to perform the searches as often as I should.
Luckily, Google provides a solution for me and for millions of others who wish to perform repetitive searches of Google's billions of links, looking for new information.
Google Alerts will monitor almost anything on Google that you specify. You choose the search terms in exactly the same manner as a normal search on Google. You specify if you want to search only Google News, only blogs, only videos, only discussions, or the option that I use most of the time: search everything. You can also specify to search once a day, once a week, or "as it happens." However, if you search for popular topics, the "as it happens" option can generate a lot of email messages! I'd suggest starting with the DAILY option at first, then experiment later.
You can enter your search terms and then click on PREVIEW to see an example of the results you'll receive. If you are overwhelmed with too many results, you can change the search terms and click on PREVIEW again to see the modified search. Once you are satisfied with the results, click on CREATE ALERT. From then on, you simply check your email messages occasionally to see the results.
Should you later change your mind, you can modify the search terms at any time or even stop the email messages completely. You remain in control.
Google Alerts are great for many purposes, including:
monitoring a developing news story
keeping current on a competitor or industry
keeping current on a company in which you have made an investment
getting the latest updates on a celebrity or event
keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams
searching for newly-posted ancestral information
and probably a few thousand other uses.
The best feature of Google Alerts? It is available FREE of charge.
Google Alerts is still listed as being available in beta. In fact, it has been in beta for years. It seems to work well, so I'd suggest you pay no attention to the beta label.
Here are some typical Google Alert search terms I use:
"Washington Harvey Eastman"
"National Genealogical Society"
"Family Tree Maker"
I'd suggest you use your imagination to create the search terms that interest you. Of course, you can specify all the usual Google search terms, including the minus sign, quotation marks, tildes (meaning "similar to"), wild cards and more. A full explanation of all the Google search terms is beyond the scope of this article but you can find dozens of articles on the web that explain those search terms in detail. I suggest you start at http://goo.gl/9a9Nj to find those articles.
To create your own Google Alerts, go to http://www.google.com/alerts.
Comment: I always enjoy reading the engagement announcements and birth announcements of those cousins with the unusual surname. I also appreciate reading their obituaries, although I guess "enjoy" is not the appropriate word for obits. I often know about family news before the other family members do, thanks to Google Alerts. That even includes arrest records. (You'd have to know my relatives to appreciate that comment.)
Unfortunately, the search for relatives works best for unusual surnames. Don't try it for John Smith!
However, I have had some success by combining common names with towns or occupations, such as:"John Williams" "Fountain Hills" Floridaor"Peter Johnson" electrician
I then receive occasional email messages from Google with alerts containing those words. However, many of them are "false hits" about articles containing all of those words but referring to someone other than my relative. Even though I have to throw away some of the references by "eyeball," I still often find mentions of my relatives in the alerts. You can experiment with such searches yourself easily. If it doesn't work out, you can always delete the search.
With a few carefully created search phrases, you should be able to save a lot of time and keystrokes by regularly using Google Alerts for genealogy and other topics of interest.
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