Google Genealogy: Seven Steps to Searching Scotland/Scottish Ancestry Online

Google GenealogyBy Barry J. Ewell

Finding country of origin resources
Where do you find country of origin genealogy resources on the Internet? It is a seemingly simple question with a complex answer. You will find records in many places such as large databases to very small family related websites and blogs. Records for each generation are going to be different. The records that were created and available on the web for a specific place in 1940 are going to be different than those created for 1880, 1840, or earlier. Remember also, that only a small amount of records have been digitized and are available online; but digitized records are growing at an ever increasing rate. I have researched for records one month without success and found them six months later with the same Google search queries. Why? The records were put online during that six months or I just didn’t find them the first time I searched.

Providing a list of websites vs queries to find websites
Over the years, I have provided genealogists with a list of websites to research their ancestry and/or I have provided them with search queries to use to find internet resources they can explore.

Overwhelmingly the best success has come from providing search queries. Why? When search queries were used, the genealogists said their search returns included the websites that were specific to the time period, type of record and/or place they were searching. It was much easier to go from one site to the next to search for the same type of information.

When I just gave them a list of websites, genealogists felt that it was cumbersome because they didn’t know which websites included the information they wanted and/or which websites were related with the type of content they were seeking.

Understanding search query organization
As you use a variety of search queries, you will see the following elements routinely used:

  • Use of location. With each search string, I have included the name of the country or related location reference that will help Google have a greater chance of returning country of origin resources. For example, if my country of choice was Netherlands, I would use one or more of the following variations in my search query: “Netherlands” or “Dutch” or “Netherlands OR Dutch”
  • Use of (site:). The “site:” operator will allow you to confine/restrict your search to a specific domain.
  • Use of quotes (” “). The use of quotes around two or more words (e.g., “Australian”) tells Google that you search for these words/phase exactly as they are written and in the same order.
  • Use of OR. I have used OR Boolean operator (e.g., ” database OR index OR records”). Google will search for both options and will return either “database,” “index, “records” or any combination of the three words.
  • Use of genealogy. I have used the word “genealogy” in almost every query. I have found this word to be necessary to get to the records or databases that I can use for genealogy or family history research. Feel free to try and use other description words.

Seven steps to searching Scotland/Scottish ancestry online
The following search queries are designed to provide search results that will get you off to a good start by finding the information that matters most when researching your ancestral roots. I would encourage you to experiment with the queries by modifying them with what you have learned in earlier chapters. For ease of presentation, I am going to present the search queries as follows:

  • Step 1: General search queries
  • Step 2: Search for records
  • Step 3: Free database search queries
  • Step 4: Subscription database search queries
  • Step 5: “In country” website search queries
  • Step 6: Locations within country search queries
  • Step 7: Major in country databases

Step 1: General search queries
These are general search queries that can be used to uncover the more frequently used websites and databases to get you off to a good start in your research. If I were searching for genealogy libraries or archive websites, my query string would be as follows:

  • “Scotland” genealogy “library OR archive”

Instructions. Choose the general search you would like to conduct and replace the “place text here” with the corresponding query element.

  • “Scotland” place text here”

Note: Use variations of the location for different results. Variations include “Scotland” or “Scottish” or “Scotland OR Scottish.”

(Searching general term) = (Use query element). If you searching for a general genealogy search term, use the associated query element.

  • Education = genealogy “guide OR tutorial OR how-to”
  • Beginning = “beginning”
  • Catalog = “catalog”
  • Classes or Workshops = “classes OR workshops”
  • Dictionary = “dictionary”
  • Family history = “family history”
  • Forums = “forums”
  • Genealogy websites = “genealogy OR ancestors OR roots”
  • Language = “language”
  • Library and archives = genealogy “library OR archive”
  • Message Board = “message board”
  • Records and databases = genealogy “records OR database”
  • Research links = genealogy “links OR sources”
  • Societies = genealogy OR history “society OR group”
  • Wiki’s = genealogy “wiki”

Step 2: Search for records
This search query is designed to help you find websites and databases that include specific types of records. If I were searching for census records, my search string would be as follows:

  • “Scotland” genealogy “census” “database OR records”

Instructions. Choose the record type you would like to search for and replace the “place text here” with the corresponding query element.

  • “Scotland” genealogy “place text here” “database OR records”

Note: Use variations of the location for different results. Variations include “”Scotland” or “Scottish” or “Scotland OR Scottish.”

(Search for record type) = (Use query element). If you searching for a specific record, use the associated query element.

  • Adoption / guardianship = “adoption OR guardianship”
  • Bible = “bible”
  • Biography = “biography”
  • Birth / christening = “birth OR christening”
  • Business = “business”
  • Cemetery = “cemetery”
  • Census = “census”
  • Church = “church OR parish”
  • Civil registration = “civil registration”
  • Court = “court”
  • Culture / history = “culture OR history”
  • Death = “death”
  • Directories = “directories”
  • Divorce = “divorce”
  • Immigrant / settlers = “immigrant OR settlers”
  • Immigration / emigration = “immigration OR emigration”
  • Land / property = “land OR property”
  • Maps = “maps”
  • Marriage = “marriage”
  • Military = “military”
  • Naturalization = “naturalization”
  • Newspapers = “newspaper”
  • Obituary = “obituary”
  • Passport = “passport”
  • Pensions = “pensions”
  • Poor houses / orphanages = “poor houses OR orphanages”
  • Obituary = “obituary”
  • Periodicals = “periodicals”
  • Royal / nobility = “royal OR nobility”
  • Probate / will = “probate or will”
  • School = “school”
  • Ship passenger lists = “passenger”
  • Tax = “tax”
  • Vital = “vital”
  • Voting = “voting”

Step 3: Free database search queries
There are large websites/databases that include thousands of free records and resources related to almost every research topic. In order to have Google search only a specific website, you will be using the (site:<URL>) operator. If I were looking for death records in the website FamilySearch.org, my search string would be as follows:

  • site:familysearch.org “Scotland” genealogy “death” “database OR records”

Instructions. Choose the web property you would like to search for and replace the (site:<URL>) with the corresponding query element to the search string you used in Step 1 or Step 2 or of your choice.

  • (site:<URL>) (search string from part 1 and part 2)

Notes: 1.) Use variations of the location for different results. Variations include “Scotland” or “Scottish” or “Scotland OR Scottish.” 2.) I prefer to use the (site:) operator at the beginning of the search query. 3.) You can use the (site:) operator with any URL you want to search. 4.) Many genealogy/family history organizations will use .org non-profit websites to host their information. 5. When governments create websites to share records that genealogists can search they will most often end with .gov or variations.

(Searching website) = (Use query element). If you searching for a free database website, use the associated query element.

  • FamilySearch = site:familysearch.org
  • USGenWeb = site:usgenweb.org
  • RootsWeb = site:rootsweb.ancestry.com
  • .org (Non-profit websites) = site:org
  • GENUKI = genuki.org.uk
  • RootsWeb UK = rootsweb.ancestry.com
  • site:gov.uk (United Kingdom government websites) = site:gov.uk
  • site:gov.scot (Scotland government websites) = site: gov.scot

Step 4: Subscription database search queries
There are a variety of subscription websites/databases that include many records and resources. You can either use the websites’ search engine or have Google locate the resources of the specific website. You will be using the (site:<URL>) operator. If I were looking for birth records in the website Ancestry.com, my search string would be as follows:

  • site:ancestry.com “Scotland” genealogy “birth” “database OR records”

Instructions. Choose the web property you would like to search for and replace the (site:<URL>) along with the corresponding query element to the search string you used in Step 1 or Step 2 or of your choice.

  • (site:<URL>) (Text goes here from Step 1 and Step 2)

Notes: 1.) Use variations of the location for different results. Variations include “Scotland” or “Scottish” or “Scotland OR Scottish.” 2.) I prefer to use the (site:) operator at the beginning of the search query. 3.) You can use the (site:) operator with any URL you want to search.

(Searching website) = (Use query element). If you searching for a subscription database website, use the associated query element.

  • Ancestry = site:ancestry.com
  • MyHeritage = site:myheritage.com
  • FindMyPast = site:findmypast.com

Step 5: “In country” website search queries
The following query element will focus your search to websites that are only located in Scotland. Use the Google country code (co.uk) in conjunction with the (site:) operator. If I were looking for marriage records located only in websites ending with the Scotland Google country code, my search string would be as follows:

  • site: co.uk “Scotland” genealogy “marriage” “database OR records”

Instructions. Replace the (Text goes here from Step 1 and Step 2) with the corresponding query element you used in Step 1 or Step 2 or of your choice.

  • site: co.uk (Text goes here from Part 1 and Part 2)

Notes: 1.) Use variations of the location for different results. Variations include “Scotland” or “Scottish” or “Scotland OR Scottish.” 2.) I prefer to use the (site:) operator at the beginning of the search query. 3.) You can use the (site:) operator with any Google country code.

Step 6: Locations within country search queries
The following query elements focus on geographic and administrative boundaries of states, provinces, cantons, cities, towns, and villages. Replace the current location terms with one of the following options, “Scotland” or “Scottish” or “Scotland OR Scottish.” If I were looking for death records in the location of “Selkirkshire” geographic area, my search string would be as follows:

  • “Selkirkshire” genealogy “death” “database OR records”

Instructions. Replace the (Location text goes here) with the location as well as the corresponding search string you used in Step 1 or Step 2 or of your choice.

  • (Location text goes here) (Text Part 1 and Part 2)

Notes: 1.) When you are using an in country location, you may need to add the country to the term if your search comes up as too general. For example: “Selkirkshire OR Scotland”

Scotland county boundaries. Use one of the following Scotland county boundaries in your search query.

  • “Aberdeenshire”
  • “Angus OR Forfarshire”
  • “Argyllshire”
  • “Ayrshire”
  • “Banffshire”
  • “Berwickshire”
  • “Buteshire”
  • “Cromartyshire”
  • “Caithness”
  • “Clackmannanshire”
  • “Dumfriesshire”
  • “Dunbartonshire OR Dumbartonshire”
  • “East Lothian OR Haddingtonshire”
  • “Fife”
  • “Inverness-shire”
  • “Kincardineshire”
  • “Kirkcudbrightshire”
  • “Lanarkshire”
  • “Midlothian OR Edinburghshire”
  • “Morayshire”
  • “Nairnshire”
  • “Orkney”
  • “Peeblesshire”
  • “Perthshire”
  • “Renfrewshire”
  • “Ross-shire”
  • “Selkirkshire”
  • “Shetland”
  • “Stirlingshire”
  • “Sutherland”
  • “West Lothian OR Linlithgowshire”
  • “Wigtownshire

Sample cities. The following are sample cities you can use in your search query.

  • “Dundee”
  • “Edinburgh”
  • “Glasgow”

Examples. The following are examples of adding Part 1 and Part 2 to the above query elements.

  • “Selkirkshire” genealogy “census” “database OR index OR records”
  • “Selkirkshire” genealogy “birth OR christening” “database OR index OR records”
  • “Edinburgh” genealogy “death” “database OR index OR records”

Step 7: Major in country databases
The following are major in country free, subscription and government databases that you will want to learn about and search. Google search on the name in bold and you will find the resource.

  • 1901 CensusOnline.com (Features census, birth, marriage, and death records and more.) (Subscription)
  • Ancestry.UK (Features census, birth, marriage, and death records and more.) (Subscription)
  • Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (Features list of professional researchers by region.)
  • BMD Registers (Features images of birth, baptism, marriage, and death records from non-parish sources 1534-1865) (Purchase credits)
  • British Origins (Includes Dorset marriage, wills, probate, apprenticeship, court, burial, militia and passenger list records/indexes.)
  • Federation of Family History Societies in the United Kingdom
  • FindMyPast.co.uk (Features census, birth, marriage, and death records and more.) (Subscription)
  • FreeBMD (Features birth, marriage, and death records) (Free)
  • General Register Office of Scotland (Features birth, marriage, divorce, adoption, and death records of Scotland from 1855.)
  • Genes Reunited (Features census, birth, marriage, and death records and more.) (Subscription)
  • GENUKI United Kingdom (Similar to US GenWeb and features guides, transcribed records and more.)
  • National Archives of Scotland (Features records from when Scotland was its own kingdom such as Church of Scotland parish records, estate papers, court papers and taxation lists.)
  • Scottish Archive Network (Joint project between National Archives of Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Genealogical Society of Utah).
  • Scottish Genealogy Society
  • Scottish Register of Tartans
  • Society of Genealogists in the United Kingdom
  • UK BMD (Provides links to free and subscription birth, marriage, and death resources.)

Google Genealogy: allintitle Operator

Google GenealogyBy Barry J. Ewell

Use the “allintitle:” operator to search for multiple words in the title of the search results. The title of the page is the text that appears in the page’s title bar. You will begin the query with “allintitle:.” The Google search query can be written as follows:

  • allintitle: (Text) (Text) (Text)

Make sure there is a space between “allintitle:” and the following word. When you use this search operator, Google will restrict the results to the pages that have the query words in the title of the document. For example, find help for researching the 1940 U.S. Census.

  • allintitle: 1940 census tutorial
  • allintitle: 150 questions family

Note: Do not use the “allintitle” with any other operator and make sure that you place the operator at the beginning of the query.