Tips on searching Message Boards & Forums

Compliments of

1a. Click on MESSAGE BOARDS tab at the top of any of the Family or Locations Forums or go to:

You can search all of the message boards, only a particular category, or only one specific board by selecting the appropriate button, but it depends upon your location within the Message Board hierarchy. As your teachers use to tell you: Pay attention!

To perform a simple search, type in a surname (last name), a keyword, or a phrase, and click GO!

In all searches, keywords or phrases will be searched for the closest to the least exact match–in that order. For a more specific search click on the ADVANCED SEARCH link. A search of all boards is the default. Complete any or all of the items on the ADVANCED SEARCH form:

–FIND MESSAGES CONTAINING: (list a keyword or phrase)
–WITH SUBJECT CONTAINING: (searches only message subjects)
–BY AUTHOR: (the posters’ names will be searched)
–POSTED IN THE LAST ____: (select a time period from drop-down menu)
–WITH SURNAME: (searches only the Surname Box entries) also offers a check box to use a Soundex search. (For information about Soundex, a special index, see:
–WITH MESSAGE TYPE: (Select from the drop-down menu: All, Query, Bible, Biography, Birth, Cemetery, Census, Death, Deed, Immigration, Lookup, Marriage, Military, Obituary, Pension, or Will).

Searches on the Message Boards support wildcards represented by an asterisk * or question mark ? following a minimum of the first three letters of the keyword (search term) or surname. You cannot begin a search request surname/keyword with an asterisk or question mark
(wildcard) — you can only use a wildcard after you have started with at least three letters prior to the asterisk or question mark. An asterisk is used to denote anywhere from zero to five missing or unknown characters while the question mark is used only when you are looking for exactly one unknown character.

For example: a search for joh* will find John, Johns, or Johnson. However, a search for johns?n will find Johnson or Johnsen but will not find Johnston (because there is more than one missing or unknown letters). Searching for johns*n will, however, locate Johnston in addition to Johnson and Johnsen.

You can show more than one question mark to represent more than one missing letter, with each question mark shown representing an additional missing letter. For instance: rob??son  will pick up Robinson or Roberson but not Robertson. Searching for rob?son will only pick up
Robeson or Robison, while a search for rob*son will find Robeson, Robson, Robinson, Roberson, as well as Robertson. You can extend your wildcard searches to include more than five missing or unknown letters by using a double asterisk **.

Search operators you may use are: the plus (+) sign which may be placed in front of any word to indicate that this word MUST appear in a message for it to be considered a match, and the minus sign (-) which may be placed in front of any term you wish to exclude from a search. Do not include a space between the plus or minus sign and the word or name to which it applies. A search for ‘+jones john -paul’ will return only those hits that contain the word ‘jones’ — provided the word ‘paul’ does not also appear in the message. The word “john” may or may not appear in the message. Messages that include both ‘john’ and ‘jones’ would rank higher in degree of match (relevancy) than those that only include ‘jones’.

If you search and get no matches, enter less information or search only by a surname or a keyword. Regardless of the case (upper or lower) found in the actual posts on the message boards, if you will type using all lowercase letters in the search box it will make your search case insensitive, and therefore yield the maximum number of matches.

Too many matches? Enter additional data on the ADVANCED SEARCH page to narrow down your results. If the surname for which you are looking is also a common word (such as HILL) use the ADVANCED SEARCH link and search on the surname by typing it into the SURNAME BOX. This enables
you to search only message board posts in which this “word” is used as a surname. Searching only on the surname field eliminates authors’ names from coming up in your search results.

Experiment with these various search options. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results, and start your new year off doing the “happy genie” dance.

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1b. Tips from Readers. Technology to the Rescue by John W. Grace   (

A couple of years ago I purchased a document scanner and CD-ROM writer for my PC. Like many people, we used our CD writer to record music, but I soon found the CDs to be very useful as digital archives for genealogical information.

The first things that I put on a CD were my descendancy charts. I maintain my charts in text files, and I found that it was easy to convert them into the HTML format that my Internet browser uses. I “write” the HTML-formatted charts onto a CD and whenever a relative with a PC asks for a copy of my chart, I give them a CD. The HTML format allows them to easily view the charts using their Web browser.

Like many genealogy “nuts,” I have hundreds of old photos, birth and death certificates and the like that I have collected through the years. Now I put scanned images of these onto CDs (usually in the .JPEG image format). I made some small changes in my HTML charts to allow the viewer to click on a link next to a person’s name and bring up a photo or other
image associated with that individual. I include a few lines of information describing the image, any date associated with it, the source, etc. It works great, and only needs to be done once.

I also have some recorded audio files that I have linked to my chart so that now we can not only see the family relationship on the chart and view their photo, but also hear their voice! It didn’t require a lot of technical knowledge either.

I am now in the process of creating my “ultimate” CD-ROM. My plan is to scan just about everything that I have that’s scannable, and put it all onto CDs. I will then worry much less that a fire, flood or some other disaster will destroy my genealogical treasures. I put copies of my CDs in safe places, so even if the original documents are lost, at least I will still have digital images of them. It’s much more economical to
create CDs (about 10 cents each) than it is to make photo copies. So my advice is: “scan everything!”

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