Using Saved and Repeated Searches
(Finding Your Stories)

It can help to revisit previous searches and sources. In this episode, we'll focus on How to Find Estelle by using four related techniques to identify new hits for old searches.

There's a transcript available below.

Links from this episode

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Using Saved and Repeated Searches (Transcript)

[00:00:04] Narrator: Estelle True-Nell was a remarkable woman. Our modern era has forgotten her, and I think that's too bad. I'd like to introduce you to her amazing life, one career at a time. Along the way, we might pick up a tip or two for ourselves, as we learn How to Be Estelle.

[00:00:25] Narrator: In this episode, we're focusing on How to Find Estelle (and your stories). I'd like to share with you some ways to revisit helpful resources when there's new insight or new information.

Getting Started

[00:00:37] Narrator: It's important to collect and organize our key words, time periods, geographic areas, and other clues so we can look at the right resources with the right strategies. I talked a bit about that in the Name Game episode.

[00:00:50] Narrator: It's also important to make a plan to use those clues well and to learn search options for the resources we consult. Hopefully, those bring us helpful search results. I have episodes on planning your newspaper search and on using news and city directory sources, and you'll find a lot more in the tutorial and help sections of your favorite research sites.

Revisiting Previous Sources and Searches

[00:01:10] Narrator: The next strategy that really helps me is to document my searches and revisit them from time to time. We know that not everything is online, and we know that many organizations are digitizing and putting new resources online all the time. As search tools improve, and as we grow our own knowledge about the people and places we're researching, it's worth taking another look in places we've searched before.

[00:01:32] Narrator: Today, I'm going to share four techniques that are currently helping me:

Search Alerts

[00:01:36] Narrator: First, take advantage of search alerts built into the tools themselves. I do a little cheer every time I open my inbox and find that my search alert has arrived. As they add new newspapers and new issues, the search alerts I've saved for Estelle, Charles, and the rest of the family let me know that new possibilities have arrived, and I'll get a link to any new “hits” in an email.

[00:01:59] Narrator: I've seen a capability for saved searches and search alerts in the big newspaper databases like, GenealogyBank, and NewspaperArchive. I'll put links in the show notes to the help pages for those.

[00:02:12] Narrator: I'll encourage you to look for a feature like saved searches in all your favorite databases. You may see a button or link at the end of a set of search results, or it might be a menu option, depending on the tool. It's a great way to catch new content as it comes online.

Follow the Sources

[00:02:28] Narrator: The second trick is to follow the sources themselves, and to follow the people who follow the sources. So, for example, I've talked in other episodes about The Ancestor Hunt blog, which often posts updates on new online historical newspaper collections, as well as other genealogy sources. Many of the big name databases, libraries, and organizations have newsletters, blogs, or social media channels they use to announce updates. For example, you can subscribe to a newsletter from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America project. So, as you're using those sources, watch for their newsletters or ways to subscribe to their updates.

Google Alerts

[00:03:02] Narrator: The third strategy is Google Alerts. You'll need a Google account, but you can sign up for one for free, and once you're signed in, you can go to to build a search alert for your terms. You'll get an email when Google picks up new links related to your search. I have several alerts based on my research subjects' names. I'll suggest doing a basic Google search for your topic, first, and then creating your alert once you think you have the right combination of terms. That could be even more helpful if you haven't done a basic web search lately for some of your terms - you never know what you might find.

Schedule an Appointment with Your Searches

[00:03:36] Narrator: The last strategy for today is to set up a regular search appointment with yourself. If you're keeping a log of your search terms and the tools you've tried, you can set up an hour once a month or every couple of months, put on some good music, and revisit any of the online sites for which you don't currently have search alerts. Honestly, you might save your search alerts and newsletters for that review session, too, and enjoy a short family-history-fest on your schedule.

[00:04:01] Narrator: Some databases allow you to filter search results by the date the sources were added. So, I can visit a resource and ask it to limit my search to anything that was added in the past month, or it might let me sort so that newly-added results show up first.

[00:04:15] Narrator: You might also use your research update time to visit your favorite genealogy and local history societies' websites and make sure you've checked out their latest updates. If you have access to databases through your local library, you might add those to your monthly "search fest,"" too.

[00:04:31] Narrator: If you are tracking your keywords and research strategies, just reviewing those might spark some new progress. I might look at Estelle and realize that I now have proof that she was in St. Joseph in late 1890 as Mrs. Dr. De San. That means I might want to go back to newspaper databases and other resources from that area and that time period and search again. With a fresh perspective, I might realize that there are new keywords and maybe additional sources that are worth a look.


[00:04:56] Narrator: When we use alerts, and when we track and return to our previous sources, we may find that a search that was not yielding much last time now brings us new results and new insights.

[00:05:07] Narrator: Estelle was persistent, and she was innovative. If I'm going to find and tell her story, I need to follow her example, and I suspect you'll find that true for yourself and the stories you're looking for, too.

[00:05:18] Narrator: Good luck with your research and remember, revisit your search terms and strategies. I'll see you next time, on How to Be Estelle.