Sunday, August 26, 2007

Genea-Google-ology and the Search for a Detroit Sailor's Family

Discover Navy Widows' Certificates.

Google has wonderful bells and whistles that are of immense value to us "geneahistorians." I like to call them Genea-Google-ology Tools! Have you tried Google Alerts? You can be alerted with a message sent to your e-mail inbox every time your surname of interest (or other keyword or phrase) shows up on the Internet!

For instance, every time any of the words midkiff, sweers, tuinstra, valk, or westaby show up online, I get a handy-dandy e-mail letting me know, along with a link to that site. The above surnames are some of the more unusual ones in my husband's and my ancestries. You can also choose a phrase (put your search terms within quotation marks) or a combination of words (use the plus [+] key). I have genealogy+michigan as another alert, which searches for both words (not necessarily together) on a website or blog. You can control where your results come from, too: news, blogs, web, groups, or comprehensive (all).

You can also tweak your alerts a bit, by narrowing your results using the minus ( - ) key. Using only tuinstra as a search term, I was getting links to dozens of articles written by well-known journalist Fons Tuinstra, stationed in China. I changed my alert to tuinstra -fons to get better hits. I was also getting a lot of hits for a Joost Valk that did not apply to my genealogy, so again, I made a change to valk -joost. I still get some unconnected hits, but they have decreased in volume considerably.

"So how do I set up Google Alerts for myself?" you may be asking. Go here to begin. As far as I can tell, you do not need a Google account or Gmail address to set up an alert. The process is fairly simple, and once you sign up, you should start receiving alerts soon. As a matter of fact, you can control how frequently you receive these alerts, too: once a day, as it happens, or once a week. And you can edit your alerts at any time!

This morning, I received an alert on my genealogy+michigan search terms, and was linked to a blog, which in turn linked to an article from the Detroit Free Press, which told of the search for the family of a Detroit sailor who went down in a submarine with 70 others, off the Aleutian Islands of Alaska during World War II. Seems like the submarine, the USS Grunion, has possibly been found (it was located, but then was "lost" again); but the family of Navy Seaman Second Class Byron A. Traviss has not. Searchers are hoping to discover his family's whereabouts before the sub's location is found again.

Readers are encouraged to make contact if they know of the whereabouts of the Traviss family.
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