What Keywords Distinguish Your Person?

Internet and digital newspaper searches for individuals with common names can be difficult. John Smiths and Mary Jones are everywhere. Searches for individuals whose last name has another meaning, such as Lake, King, Noble, etc. can be just as challenging–if not more. Elizabeth Lake, William King, and John Noble create their own search problems.

For some searches, location keywords based on your ancestor’s life can facilitate finding the person of interest, such as: place of birth (town, county, etc.), place of death, other residences, etc. Names of states or territories may be too common and not effectively narrow your search. Or they might perfect–if just depends.

For other individuals, searches that include a specific part of a residence (particularly a street name for urban relatives), an occupation, or names of other family members may be helpful.

Looking for specific events can be helpful if searching for just the name results in too many results to manually search through. Consider:

  • obituary,
  • funeral,
  • death,
  • wedding,
  • married,
  • birth,
  • child,
  • etc.

Think about what words likely appear next to your relative’s name in the type of article for which you are looking–if it’s newspapers for which you are looking. Think about what distinguishes your ancestor from others with similar names. Those distinguishing factors may also be effective search terms as well.

Keep a list of the words you use for an ancestor when searching the internet, digital papers, etc. Then you have a reference when you begin working on another relative.