Are You Reading the Help Section?

references & resources tools & technology Nov 09, 2022

Your favorite genealogy or genealogy-related website may have some secrets…

Wait, what secrets?

Each website has its own search algorithms, so the way you search on one site, may not be effective on another. Case in point: For many websites, a question mark represents one character (e.g., Sm?th), but at WorldCat, it’s the pound symbol (a.k.a. hashtag) that represents one character (e.g., Sm#th).

That’s just one example, but just know that each site's search works differently, from the operators and wildcards you can use to what you can enter into the search field(s).

Oftentimes we head to our favorite site and just start searching, without really understanding how to construct a search properly in order to get the best results.

So how do you unlock the secrets that will enable you to get the most out of your searches?

Check out the Help section! Most websites (even non-genealogy sites) have a help section that informs users how to use, navigate, and search the site. Here are direct links to the help sections related to searching for some popular websites used by genealogists:

The next time you head over to a website to conduct a search…stop! Don’t do a search quite yet. Head over to the help section and take a few minutes to learn about searching that particular website. Then, try out the new-found tips!

© Julie Tarr. This article was first published at Genealogy In Action; appearance of this article elsewhere, without my permission, violates copyright.