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logoProformat News                  ISSN 1833-9514
No 22
December 2007


December/January seminars
No seminars are planned for this period.

Who Do You Think You Are?
The popular BBC genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? is coming to SBS this month and will be followed by an Australian series based on a number of well-known personalities in January 2008. While hugely entertaining, the series gives a rather simplfied view of family history research and needs to be treated as entertainment rather than a serious attempt at teaching beginners how to do their genealogy. This is not helped by the production of the television show which is just like any other show in that the scenes are often contrived. The outcome is known beforehand and so much has to be dramatised with actors and willing extras.
The season will commence on Sun, 2 Dec with six UK episodes before the premiere of the six Australian episodes beginning on Sun, 13 Jan 2008.


Adelaide Proformat will be closed from Fri 21 Dec 2007 to reopen on 28 Jan 2008. As a result the January newsletter will be sent towards the end of December.

In this issue:

• December/January seminars
Who do you think you are?

Using web search engines effectively


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Using web search engines effectively
Search engines, such as Google, create their listings automatically by crawling through the web seeking out sites and indexing the pages they find. Page titles, body text, META tags (used by page designers to encourage listings in search engines) and other elements all play a role in what gets indexed. You can then locate the results via keywords entered into the search engine.
The three major elements of a search engines are: the spider, also called the crawler; the index or catalogue; and the search engine which displays the results of your query in your browser.
The spider visits a web page, indexes it, and then follows links to other pages within the site. The spider returns to the site every so often looking for changes. The index is a giant database that contains a copy of every web page that the spider finds. Search engine software sifts through the millions of pages recorded in the index to find matches to a query and ranks them in the order of what it believes is most relevant. Different search engines often produce very different results.
Because of this process it is unwise to restrict your searches to just one search engine. Select out several for your search.
If you have a general subject in mind type the word or words in the search box and click the search button. Results are usually listed in order of relevancy based on keywords and other factors. Unfortunately the search may result in an overwhelming number of results and therefore to make sense of the searching a user needs to use more advanced techniques to get a manageable result.
If you know exactly what you want, you can get better results by entering very specific information into the search box. Despite differences in each search engine's tools, there are tools that most search engines have in common.
To require that an entire phrase be found in a search, enter quotes (" ") around the terms. For example, "HMS Buffalo" returns listings where these words appear together and in that order, either in the title, the address of the web site (URL), the description, the keywords, or the document itself. If you omit the quote marks then you would find every page containing hms and every page containing buffalo!
You can type the plus sign (+) before a word to require that it be found in all of the search results. For example, endeavour +cook returns all listings that contain endeavour and cook but not necessarily together. Note that the search is not case specific.
Using the minus sign (-) before a word requires that this word is not to be included in the search results. For example, jaunay -graham lists sites containing jaunay but not graham.
Major search engines include:
1. General
- has very comprehensive coverage and a wide range of power searching commands, which make it a particular favourite among researchers. It gets its listings from Yahoo! Search.
All The Web - uses results from Yahoo! Search plus an index of tens of millions of pdf and doc files. - (formerly Ask Jeeves) attempts to direct you to the exact page that answers your question. If it fails to find a match within its own database, then it will provide web pages from their search engine.
Google - is currently the most popular search engine that makes heavy use of link popularity as a primary way to rank web sites. This can be especially helpful in finding good sites in response to general searches such as genealogy because users across the web have in essence voted for good sites by linking to them. Google is also known for a wide range of features including: cached pages, excellent spell checking, access to dictionary definitions, stock quotes, street maps, telephone numbers and more. The Google Toolbar is also very popular.
HotBot - has advanced search features and presents listings from either or MSN Search.
MSN Search - Microsoft's MSN web portal also offers free email, instant messenger, and a directory. It provides access to Yahoo's listings.
Netscape Search - results come primarily from Google.
Yahoo! Search - was once the web's most popular search service and is still a good alternative to Google.

Search engine
Test search results
Advanced search features
jaunay +graham
jaunay -graham
yes: file type, date, web address, language
All the Web
yes: file type, date, web address, language
yes: web address, country, modified, language
yes: Aus only, file type, date, web address, language
HotBot as for or MSN Search
MSN Search
Netscape Search
yes: file type, date, web address, language
Yahoo! Search

2. Metasearch
Metasearch engines search a number of general search engines and collect the best results.
DogPile - searches Google, Yahoo, Live, and Ask.
Excite - searches Google, Yahoo and listings. - searches Google,, LookSmart and dozens of other leading search engines to bring you the best results.
WebCrawler - combines results from Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN Search and
3. Subject searches
Specialised search engines search in a specific subject area or type of file. There is a specialised search engine on the web for almost every subject imaginable, including genealogy. The quality of search engines varies and Search Engine Guide is a good place to find specialised search engines. A word of caution about the genealogy search engines on the Search Engine Guide site. Most of those listed are not true search engines but are subject directories.
I Found It! is a simple directory that specialises in genealogy pages. You can search using wildcards, keywords, and phrases. You can specify a category to search (cemeteries, censuses, family pages, books, magazines, online archives, etc.) or search all categories.
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