Sunday, March 06, 2016

Women's History Month 2016: Tip #5 Keyword List

Keywords should include all variations of the  name of the places your ancestor lived.

It's time to add a technique to your search. As genealogists we are taught to fill in those search engine boxes with our ancestor's name, birth/marriage/death dates, and places. That's great. We should do that because that information we are searching for on genealogy websites is indexed or transcribed and the search engine is programmed to find those things.

But when we search for content in library/archive catalogs we need to go beyond the individual ancestor's name and dates.

We need to have a keyword list.

So what's on a keyword list? Think about a word or words that describe her life. Such as:

  • Her religion
  • Organizations she belonged to (religious, benevolent, political, auxiliaries to husband's membership group)
  • Various names of places she lived (might be several for the same place. Example: Independence, California; Owens Valley; Inyo County; Eastern Sierra)
  • Schools she attended
Use these keywords when searching in library or archival catalogs to find materials for groups and activities she participated in. Materials in these repositories are not cataloged by the name of everyone mentioned in the record. You are much better off searching by a place. Remember, in searching for documents for her we may need to cast a wider net beyond genealogy favorites like censuses and vital records. 

Can you use keywords on genealogy websites? Yes. has a field in their search engine for a keyword. Digitized newspaper and book websites use keyword searching. To help you craft better searches for digitized newspapers check out this GenealogyBank blog article I wrote entitled Genealogy Search Engine Types & Tips: OCR vs. Indexed Databases

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