What is your favorite family recipe?

What a great way to tell others about your family than food. Telling your family stories through recipes is a great way to honor your loved ones and share a bit of them with others.  Can you tell your story here with a recipe you love?

Come on, let's spread some love.

Advanced Google Tips

Google is one of the most important power tools in your genealogy toolbox and almost become “second nature” when we want to find anything from a great recipe to where can I buy something. 

Google search results have also become the go-to search engine for most genealogists.  Google is much more than just a tool for finding Web sites and most people merely scratch the surface of its full potential. Given the right commands, Google can return searches from within Web sites, unearth photos of your ancestors, bring back dead websites, and track down those hard to find relatives.

Start with some basic searches

·         Get it all – With Google is assumes that you are asking for results that include all of the words in your search term.  So, it is implied there is an “and” between each term. So whatever you ask Google in a search, it will try to reply only with pages that include all of your search terms.

·         Case insensitive – Just to keep it simple, type your searches in lower case.  With the exception of the search operators AND and OR, your request will be returned with the same results regardless of the case.  Example: John Doe Chicago, Illinois will return the same results as john doe chicago illinois. Google also ignores common punctuation such as commas and periods. 

·         Order of terms matters - Google gives higher priority to terms placed earlier in your search. Example: These two searches will return different results.  Thus, a search for randolph county illinois cemeteries records will return pages in a different ranked order than Cemeteries records randolph county illinois. Make sure you have your most important term first and group your search terms in a way that makes sense.

Structure searches with a focus

·         Using quotation marks - Use quotation marks if a group of words is important for your search.  Example: "randolph county illinois" cemeteries records cuts the number of results from over 2 million results down to 109 thousand more targeted results. This is especially useful when searching for proper names.  For example, the search for john doe will bring up pages with john smith and bill doe, while searching for "john doe" will only return pages with john doe included as a phrase.

·         Remove unwanted results – The use of a minus sign (-) before words that you do not want results will eliminate them from your results.  This is especially useful when searching for a surname with a common usage such as "jones" or one which is shared with a famous celebrity such as Tom Jones Search for jones -tom to exclude results with the word 'tom'. It is really helpful when your search includes popular city names such as jones paris Illinois or il -texas -idaho -france.

·         Looking for either OR – With the use of OR you can get between search terms to retrieve search results that match any one of a number of words. Google’s default is to return ALL results matching your request.  With the term OR (ALL CAPS) you increase your flexibility Example: jones cemetery OR gravestone will return results for jones cemetery and jones gravestone.

·         Tell me what you want, what you really really want – There are powerful algorithms running in the background to ensure accurate search results, including automatically considering searches for words that are common synonyms and offering alternate spellings. Stemming returns not only results with your keyword but also with terms based on the keyword stem — such as "powers," "power" and "powered." Google can be a little too helpful at times returning results for you may not want. In these cases, use "quotation marks" around your search term to ensure that it is used exactly as you typed it.  Example: "jones" surname genealogy.

·         Request additional synonyms - Although Google search automatically displays results for certain synonyms, the tilde symbol (~) will force Google to show additional synonyms (and related words) for your query. For example, a search for hugh easdale ~vital records leads Google to return results including "vital records," "birth records," "marriage records," and more. Similarly, ~obituaries will also include "obits," "death notices," "newspaper obituaries," "funeral," etc. Even a search for hugh easdale ~genealogy will yield different search results than hugh easdale genealogy. Search terms (including synonyms) are bolded in Google search results, so you can easily see what terms were found on each page.

·         Wildcards - Including an *, or wildcard, in your search query tells Google to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches. Use the wildcard (*) operator to end a question or phrase such as ​hugh easdale was born in * or as a proximity search to find terms located within two words of each other such as samuel * martindale (good for middle names and initials). Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words. You can't, for example, search for owen* in Google to return results for Owen and Owens.

·         Use Google's Advanced Search Form - If the search options above are more than you want to know, try using Google's Advanced Search Form which simplifies most of the search options previously mentioned, such as using search phrases, as well as removing words you don't want to be included in your search results.



I’m completing a 40-course certificate program in Irish Research through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I’m taking these courses to learn about specific Irish records but also to learn more about correct research methodology. I went to art school; we didn’t do research.

So, while it can be fun to go online, type in a surname and see what happens, it’s probably not the most productive way to go about things. It makes it too easy to lose track of both time and what you were looking for in the first place. And, more often than not, accomplish very little.

So as much as part of my brain rebels at the discipline of it, I have to admit that having a plan makes the research sessions more productive. In the past, I’d download whatever I found so I didn’t forget about it, put it in a folder, but then kind of forget about it. I didn’t really know what I did and didn’t have. I’ve looked for something months later only to realize I already had that record saved. I was collecting but not appreciating the collection.

So, what’s involved in setting up a research plan? You need a starting point which is a basic outline of the person you want to research with date and place of birth, marriage, death, and burial, places of residence, name of parents, spouse, children. What do you already know what separates them from others?

The next step is to have an objective/goal/question. The objective should focus on identifying an individual, proving a relationship or discovering actions (such as military service). Make it specific but allow some flexibility based on what you find. In other words, your objective could be to find a birth record for Mary Hamilton, born in Montreal, Canada, 1920. But be willing to look a few years before and after that date and other areas in Canada if you don’t find her.

Before you start clicking, think about the location and what records might be available for the area and time period. What’s online? Are there only indexes available or record images? What is locally held? Family Search WIKI has country and state guides that are really helpful. You can usually find out what records are available and where, plus lots of other information.

Make a list of the websites, archives, etc. you want to search. And now you can start clicking. You can ignore other records at this point; just focus on birth records. If something jumps out at you make a note or take a screenshot so you can go back but try to ignore it for now. You have a question that needs an answer.

The last step is to summarize what you’ve found, making note of any new questions or conclusions reached. Move on with the next question. Next month’s article will focus on using a Research Log to keep track of what, when and where you’ve searched.

Lynda Roddy Ozzauto President, NWSGS

The following are some websites that might be helpful: (Amy has a podcast called “Generations Café” and a book titled “ 31 Days to Better Genealogy”) (Lisa has a blog called “Are You My Cousin?” with a video about research plans and a downloadable template) (website of Diana Elder and Nicole Dyer, they have podcasts, forms and a book available titled “Research Like a Pro”)

But what if I don't want to back up to the cloud?

In our September meeting, we had a great explanation from Thomas MacEntee of what cloud storage is and how to use it.  Many people are still a bit afraid of storing their research and photos in the cloud.  What are your options?

No External Storage

If you just have your information on your laptop of a desktop computer, there is a very good chance you will have a catastrophic failure and lose your data.  Mechanical storage devices fail.  Hard drives by design are mechanical devices with spinning disks, a drive motor, and moving arms.  Mechanical devices all have a high possibility of failing.  

How long will a hard drive last?  There is a lot of hype about hard drives and how long will they last before they fail.  I can tell you in my own experience, I have purchased new drives, which failed right out of the box.  I have also had some of my hard drives spinning 24/7 for the last 7 years without a hiccup.  So should you worry?  YES.

If you do not have any external back up of your computer data, you are taking a big risk.

Storage Options –

DVD - Many older computers have a DVD/CD writer.  DVD has a low failure rate and can be a very affordable storage device.


Thumb Drives – if you have a USB port on your computer, a thumb drive can be a great option to back up your data.


External Hard Drive - This is another way to store large amounts of data and have the peace of mind that you have your data in more than just one failure point.

download (1)

If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave a comment here and we can start a community discussion.



As part of our new website design (which I hope you’ve taken a look at), it was suggested that we do a “Presidents Corner” article.

2019 is the 42nd year for NWSGS. Starting in 1976 with a genealogical research class taught in the Continuing Education Program in District 214 to its incorporation in 1977, we’ve come a long way. We now have over 100 members with an average of 65 attending our monthly meetings.

Our volunteer Board members are dedicated and a joy to work with.  We meet eight times a year and much of the discussion is about what we can do to make the group better; and how to get more information to you at the meetings and in between.

We go over the feedback sheets and talk about the interest surveys you fill out to plan for the following year.  I think Ken Siefert does a great job with the pre-meeting, which is something no other group that I know of does. They all have a business meeting before their program, but Ken always wants to add just a little more and allow time for members to get involved and share.

Jacquie Schattner has done a great job with our newsletter and will be taking a much-deserved break for now. And, we’re very happy that a new member, Debby Volpe has volunteered to take it over. She’s working with Jacquie and I’m sure will also do a great job.

Terri Blasi has been doing an amazing job managing the membership list, payments, badges and check-in, which gets really hectic sometimes but she takes it all in stride.

Sherryl Dunning, our Treasurer proposes and manages our budget, keeps track of tax payments, our bank accounts and helps Terri at check-in.

Nancy Reese could be the best editor ever; she goes over each newsletter before it’s sent to you and she also makes trips to our P.O. Box to collect and distribute the mail.

Susan Champagne, our Secretary takes notes at our Board meetings and always manages to

present it to us the following month in a clear, detailed way; she doesn’t miss a thing.

JoAnn Flynn is new to the Board as our Auditor and will doing her first audit for us this month.

Howard has gone above and beyond to give us a new website. He basically started from scratch and has added so many features that are up to date, varied and fun to look at. He and Sherryl worked to set up PayPal so that members have another way to pay their dues. Our Home page now shows the latest information including a “menu” of upcoming free webinars from LegacyFamilyTree webinars, the Illinois State Genealogical Society,

the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History and others.

There’s a list of area resources including what genealogy software the local libraries have and which are Family Search Family History affiliates.

After logging in there’s a lot more information for members. The Members Only section is where you can find the newsletters, handouts (current and archived), photos, a Full Events Calendar and more. This is wonderful; the Full Events Calendar is just that; not just our monthly meetings but presentations in the area at libraries or other societies. 

Our Social Media page is filled with information. Twitter and Pinterest have an amazing amount of posts that are genealogy related, and you don’t need to have an account to see them. They’re right there in the Members Only Section. Please log on and see what Howard has put together for us.


So now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you how fabulous we all are, we could still use a couple of people to help out on the Board. We need a Publicity person and an Archivist.  The Publicity Chair sends fliers to the libraries for posting each month and to the Arlington Heights Sr. Center so they can include it in their newsletters. They will start posting on Facebook before and after our meetings. The Archivist is responsible for taking the handouts, newsletters, meeting minutes, etc. and adding them to Dropbox.  And, we’re happy to include articles from members; did you just make a breakthrough you’d like to share? Have you been to an archive or courthouse or taken a research trip? Attended a conference, watched a webinar or gone to another society presentation that you want to tell us about? We’d like to hear about what you’re doing.

My plan for future articles is still a little vague, but I’d like to share what I’ve been learning in an online certificate program I’m in the middle of. Topics like developing a research plan, research logs, etc. And, I’m open to suggestions on what you’d like this section to include. Please click on the "comments" link at the top of the blog and give me your thoughts.


Lynda Roddy Ozzauto

President, NWSGS