Online Family Trees: What are your search results?

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings wrote an interesting post last week about Google results when searching for names from your own trees.  He searched one one of his names combined with a location, using various search types and reported out the top results. 

I decided to give it a try with my own search results.

I have an Ancestry Member Tree that includes all my names (although I’ve recently taken it private), and a couple of versions of my family tree at WorldConnect (at least one that I can no longer access).  Then, of course, there is this site.  The Family Tree tab has all my research, excluding living people, plus my blog posts are here.  In addition, I have an old Blogger blog that I used before adding the blog to this site.  

I started by searching for this string:

Thomas Hemphill genealogy North Carolina (no quotes)

I chose Thomas Hemphill, because there are several people by that name in my database, many of whom are from North Carolina.  Captain Thomas Hemphill fought in the American Revolution, so he’s found a lot of places.  This seemed like a good, all-inclusive, name to search on.

46,000 results came back.  The top 10 include:

#1. – a personal website (which also uses TNG! – I need to drop them a note).

#2 & 3.  A user page at Family Tree

#4.  A Linkpendium site for the Hemphill surname

#5.  A personal gedcom published at Angelfire

#6.  My old blog at Blogger

#7.  This site – the blog portion, to be specific

#8.   The Burke County, NC message board at

#9.  A personal gedcom published at

#10.  A personal website:

All these results, by the way, were for various Thomas Hemphills that I have in my database – so it wasn’t just returning pages that contained both the word Thomas and the word Hemphill.  Just to test it, though, I add quotes around Thomas Hemphill, making my search string:

“Thomas Hemphill” genealogy North Carolina 

This returned 1,110 results, quite a bit less than the 46,000 I got on the first search; however, the top 10 results were exactly the same.  Looking at the next page, which included results #11 through #20, my old Blogger blog appeared again at #17.

I decided to try one more search string, excluding the word “genealogy”:

“Thomas Hemphill” north carolina (with quotes)

Oh, this is interesting. 

#1.  A Footnote page that I created for Captain Thomas Hemphill

#2.  The Angelfire site that was #5 above

#3.  The Flack Genealogy site that was #1 above

#4.  A profile page for a Thomas Hemphill who is a professor at the University of Michigan-Flint.

#5.  The Carolina site that was #9 above.

#6.  This site – specifically the database portion.

#7.  A profile for a Thomas Hemphill on LinkedIn.

#8.  My old Blogger blog

#9.  A personal website:

#10.  The site at Family Tree that was in the #2 and #3 positions above

I find it somewhat disheartening that my old Blogger blog is showing up better in the results than my current site.  I haven’t posted anything there in about two years, maybe three.  I decided to try another branch of the family, which doesn’t seem to be as popular in online research, and searched on:

“Thomas Kendrick” genealogy Georgia (with quotes)

This site showed up in the #6 position.  I guess it’s good that I’m getting first page results, even if they are not close to the top of the page.  I see some World Connect results and a GenForum board in these results, also, which I didn’t see in the Hemphill searches.

So, what did I learn from this?

  • As always, I need to write more blog posts about my ancestors.  Those seem to return good results. 
  • I need to place more queries on message boards – not only do I have a chance of a response, but I know from looking at my stats that people are coming to my website from those boards where I’ve posted.
  • I noticed, and you may have too, that none of the newer online family tree services showed up.  No WeRelate, no My Heritage, no, etc.
  • When searching, be sure to use quotes around the name, but also search both with and without the word “genealogy.”  The results are different.  Also do a reverse name search; i.e. “Hemphill Thomas.”  I tried this and got different results than I did on “Thomas Hemphill.”

Where does your blog or website or other online family tree stack up in search results?

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  1. says

    This was an interesting exercise. I know you would like this blog to show up #1, however, the fact that it returns on the first page of results is still good. You will work your way to the top in no time!

  2. Tonia Kendrick says

    Thanks Jenna! The hope is always that some of the visitors will have information to share, so the better the search results, the more visitors. We’ve seen lots of examples lately of the value of putting our information online. The connections are out there; we just have to be patient.

  3. Tonia Kendrick says

    Thanks Dan! No, I haven’t made profiles yet. I’ll add that to my growing to-do list. : )

  4. mitzs says

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article in detail. I had found a partial will on a friends gg grandfather. I used your advice for putting the quotes around just the name and I found not only the full will to his son, but also where the said son has passed everything down to her grandfather!! I would give you the biggest hug ever if you were within arms reach right now! So again thank you so much for all the articles that you have written here. I am going though them one by one and it is a wonderful help in my research.

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