10 December 2008

Book: Google Your Family Tree

"Google Your Family Tree: Unlock the Hidden Power of Google," by Dan Lynch, made it to my desk two days ago. I wasn't disappointed in either the 14 chapters filled with screen shots and tables, or its five appendices. Its 352-pages are well-organized and easy to read.

My initial impression in one word, "Wow!" - in two words, "Wow! Wow!" This expertly-written manual can be considered the new bible of online research using Google features. Although written from the genealogy point of view, it isn't only for genealogists. I believe it will become the major resource for anyone researching anything on the Internet!

Everything you've ever wanted to know about how to use well-known and lesser-known Google tools is in this volume, explained completely and succinctly, step-by-step, with additional tips for genealogists. Google features - some I use regularly, some new new to me - are spotlighted completely and clearly.

Dan's experienced eye transforms possibly-confusing topics into searches easily understood by family history fans of all skill levels. At first glance, it's hard to tell what each only slightly different search will reveal. However, the more one utilizes his suggestions, the more logical it all seems.

The book's layout is made for researchers - we love to make notes on pages. Dan understands that, so he's provided generous page margins as well as worksheets at critical points. He intended it to become an active workbook and I believe it will, at least on my desk!

Every search uses the example of Dan's great-grandfather Eugene Lynch and related facts. Using one person's facts enables easy, logical understanding of what different searches will produce. By the end of the book, we know a lot about Eugene, the town of Waterbury (Connecticut) and other Lynch history. With each search, I found myself mentally substituting TALALAY or DARDASHTI for LYNCH and wondering what would pop up.

In the introduction, Dan reminds readers to become familiar with the various kinds of searches by trying a new command or technique each day. He also encourages readers to submit new tips and techniques not covered in the book. I'm sure we're looking at a future second edition down the road. How will Dan keep up with the fast-changing Internet and Google itself? He's also planning an informative blog.

Researchers will appreciate the two "Quick Reference Cards for Genealogists," which detail basic and advanced searching, keywords and commands. Each lists various searches, descriptions and examples of what the search should actually look like (the syntax, in technical terms). I've already made copies of each for my computer bag and for the wall adjacent to my home computer.

One feature I use to great advantage is Google Alerts - these enable me to keep on top of what's happening in the international genealogy world, almost as it happens. I've always been curious as to why one alert set for "genealogy, geneology" provides different results than two separate alerts titled "genealogy" and "geneology." I still don't have the answer - I'll ask Dan - but I did learn more efficient ways of setting up these handy alerts.

I have numerous searches to do using Dan's suggestions. A just conducted Google Book search turned up a Talalai reference in a book of stories by Eduard Roditi, where he includes a character named Rabbi Theophilos ben Avakum Talalai. Now I need to do more research on Roditi and determine why he used this name. Do any Tracing the Tribe readers have any information on why he might have done this? Yes, I know - I can always Google for the answer!

I wonder what other surprises lurk for me.

For more information on the book, or to order your own copy, click here. Also try out his site's Genealogy PowerSearch which offers a quick search for general names, images, GEDCOM, databases, maps and blogs.

Read what others are saying at these links:

Family Tree Magazine: Six searching tips, written by Dan Lynch

Dick Eastman: Google your family

Randy Seaver: Book review

Geneanet: Google your family tree

RootsTelevision: Google your family tree video

Happy - and easier - hunting! Thanks, Dan.

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