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18 February 2013

Constructing Database Searches: A Short Course

Constructing Database Searches:
A Short Course
With Michael John Neill
February-March 2013
(scroll down for specific schedule)
Typing names into search boxes does not solve all your genealogical problems. We will see how to construct searches, organize searches, and problem-solve and troubleshoot when individuals are not located easily. Our discussion will concentrate on those instances when people are difficult to find. We will not be concerned with "easy" searches. We will use FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, and other databases. The only fee-based database that will be used will be Ancestry.com and attendees must have their own access to Ancestry.com as it is NOT provided in your course registration. The course will consist of three lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade—you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their work and ideas with other students.

If you were registered for a previous session and did not get to attend, please email me to be added to the course at no charge. Do not re-register.

Our lectures will be somewhat different--we will go through specific examples and situations and explain the different types of searches, wildcard, Boolean, string-based, etc. within the context of an example. That may seem like "diving in," but people tend to learn best by just doing. There will be reference information provided and time for discussion and commentary in the followup sessions and bulletin board interaction.

Citation of sources is important, but lectures will not focus on citation theory.

Students will need to choose someone they cannot find in a US Federal census and two other online databases (free ones).

Course registration is only $30. Class size is limited to 30 to encourage group interaction. Attendees will need to register by 8 PM Central Time on 20 February 2013. Class starts on 21 February 2013. Registration is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis only. Register here.

  • Assignment/Study 1Organizing Your Searches--The basics of any search strategy is search-tracking and organization. We'll see why when you are stuck most of your work is done away from the website. Students will then create search strategies based upon their own problems. 
  • Assignment/Study 2Troubleshooting & Determining Best Options--We will discuss ways to tweak your search based upon unsuccessful results, ways to get around incomplete or missing "help," pages, and determining what other databases contain the same information. We will also discuss when a manual search of the records may be necessary.
  • Assignment/Study 3Discussion and Analysis of Student Problems--We will look at all (or most) student problems that were submitted, concentrating on those that highlight problem areas or situations not already discussed in detail.

Lectures will be recorded for those who are unable to attend or have audio/video issues.

Lectures and discussions will be via GotoMeeting.

Want to register—Registration is only $30 and can be done using your PayPal account or a major credit card (just process your order as a PayPal “guest.”).Register here. Email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com with questions.

«February 2013»
LECTURE-2:30-3:30 PM CST
Short virtual discussion 2:30-3:00 PM CST 
LECTURE-2:30-3:30 PM CST

«March 2013»
Short virtual discussion 2:30-3:00 PM CST
LECTURE-2:30-3:30 PM CST
Short virtual discussion 2:30-3:00 PM CST
Wrap-up  2:30 PM CST


  1. And for those of us who never use the US Federal Census? What then?

    1. Attendees can substitute the US census assignment with another database search--or UK/Canadian census searches if that is from there area of interest.

  2. Replies
    1. I've updated the post--for some reason a partial draft from an earlier term went out. It's been corrected. My apologies for the error.