Searching the web
The web is a vast resource of material for the family tree developer. There are some sites that are dedicated to recording family tree information and making them available sometimes at the cost of a subscription or on a search by search basis. See the Web links for some of these.
On the same Web Links page you will notice there there are also sites dedicated to family names and family name discussions - sort of like a blog. Many of these are free but you may need to register, particularly if you want to contribute to the site/discussion.
When it comes to searching the web itself - using search engines like Google, Yahoo search, etc. - you need to be aware of a number of issues.
- Search engines recognise a collection of letters - they don't know whether they are names, items or topics. Thus searching for the surname "miller" will produce 17 million pages with a mix of items like Miller Brewing Co, Miller Welding Equipment, Miller property group, etc. as well as people whose name is Miller.
- Search engines cannot distinguish first names from surnames. Makes searching for Roy problematic!
- You need to be aware of all the permutations and combinations for searching for a name. Searching for just william smith will find any web apge with william or smith. You need to use "inverted commas" and asterisks. You also need to think about pages that will list people by surname first - Smith, William. You need to use "OR" in between each search phrase. Fortunately there is a web site that will help you set up such a search - Free Genealogy Search Help for Google. Searching for William Smith becomes "william smith" OR "william * smith" OR "smith, william" ~genealogy OR ~ancestry".
- Most surnames can be spelt different ways - Hougham has 21 variations. See spelling names for different ways of searching for versions of names. (TNG's search options for this site provide for both Soundex and Metaphone - select "Search" from the Find drop-down menu and click on the button beside Last Name and note that you can choose Soundex or Metaphone in your search on this site.)
- When looking at records transcribed from originally hand-written documents, be aware of possible errors. I once found "Rogers" for what should have been "Royes" and "Math" for "Smith".
- And of course be aware of people having different surnames: women using their husbands' surnames; children adopting a step-father's surname; changes by deed-poll because a person did not like their name! If you are looking for Mary Smith who married Bill Brown, you will need to search for Mary Brown as well as Mary Smith.