Friday, August 26, 2011

Tracing Mormon Pioneer Ancestors: Using Google

It's probably a rare person who has not used an internet search engine. Even my four-year-old will type his favorite web site into the search box (supervised, of course).

When I type "Richard Litson" into Google, it starts by showing two people of that name, one in England, one in the United States. It also shows records for several different men of that name in, including our Richard Litson. The next entry is for this blog. After that, Google lists Richard's Mormon Migration and Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel entries, which I'll get to in a future post.

There are also a number of entries which I am skipping over since they are not relevant: a soldier in the Civil War named Richard Litson, for example. But at this point, we come to an interesting result. Richard Litson and his family show up on a website called "Welsh Mormon History." 

This website includes entries for everyone in the Litson family (the mother is listed under the name "Mathews") and includes a copy of "The Emigration of Richard Litson," which is, however, not usable due to the text format.

After looking through several pages of Google results, I found a wonderful resource listed in the Family History Library Catalog, but I will also get to that in a future post.

Refining Your Google Search Results

If your ancestor has a common name, add another search term. For example, I could type in "Richard Litson Frances Mathews." That search term finds Frances Litson's obituary in the Millennial Star, the publication of the British Mission.

That search term also finds histories of daughter Joan Jenette Litson Turpin, her husband, and son Joseph Young Litson. So now we have biographies of three of the four Litson children.

The search term "Richard Litson Salt Lake City" comes up with pretty much the same selection of information. It also includes a note about a "Litson Circle" in Murray, Utah. Nice to know that the family name is still found in that area. I wonder if it is on the land homesteaded by Frances Litson. (More about that later.)

Other recommended search terms:
  • Richard Litson Mormon pioneer
  • Richard Litson Devon
  • Richard Litson St Andrews
  • Etc.

Google Books

While you're doing a Google search, make sure you click over to Google Books (click on the "more" selection on the top menu bar in Google and scroll down to "Books") and see if there is anything there.

I see a number of results that I should examine later including the following history of part of Devon which mentions a number of Litsons.

Google Search Terms

Here is a Google primer for searching the web in a more intelligent manner.
The tutorial mentions such useful features as how to search a specific website:
site: Richard Litson
how to exclude search terms:
Richard Litson -Indiana - "Civil War"
how to search for phrases:
"Richard Litson"
and other useful ways to increase your efficiency.

Assignment #4

Google your ancestors. Or Google yourself. What can you find online?


  1. What DID we do before all these wonderful internet things.

  2. One of the things I forgot to mention is Googling place names before entering them in a genealogical database to make sure that they're correctly spelled. That's one of the things "we" did before the internet -- misspell lots of place names while doing genealogy.