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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Automate Your Genealogy

The other day I received an email that sadden me. Hazel Ritt Schwemm, the wife of one of my grandmother's cousins had passed away. The email was not from a relative or fellow researcher, it was from Google.

A few years ago I set up an alert on Google for the word 'Schwemm'. I now know when there is an event at the Schwemm Coffee House at Amherst College or when Diane Schwemm publishes a new book. And occasionally there will be a notice about another distant relative. This was the first time I found out about a death in the family.

Clifford and Hazel Ritt Schwemm's Wedding Portrait

Google Alerts

Setting up alerts allows Google to monitor the web without you having to lift a finger.

Start by going to Google Alerts. You will be presented with a variety of parameters, which may be changed once you begin receiving alerts.

Google Alerts lets you choose whether it searches blogs, news, videos or discussions. The email alerts can be sent to you once a day, week or as they happen. And you can choose to see only the best results or all results.

Test your search criteria with the 'Preview' feature to make sure the results are reasonable and useful. The goog thing is that even once the alert is activated you can always 'tweak' the results.

While these alerts will never take the place of 'boots on the ground' research, they can help monitor a family or town that you are researching. If you are planning a research trip you could set up an alert for a local genealogy or historical society you want to visit.

If you are currently using Google Alerts please let me know if you find them helpful. If you set up a Google Alert I would like to hear if it was helpful or not.

Take Care,

1 comment:

  1. I've got several Google alerts coming in to my RSS feed, including the obituaries from the local newspaper. It's been rather unnerving to receive news of the deaths of family members and friends via Google reader. But I might not have learned of their passing otherwise. I learned of the death of a shirt-tail cousin while I was blogging from a genealogy conference last summer. It's a lot different from the telephone party lines of 50 plus years ago.