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Is the Internet Organized?

Just like a library is a collection of books produced by independent authors, the Internet is a collection of web sites produced by independent authors. Libraries are organized by librarians following accepted standards. Although the internet is not organized like a library, there are a numerous indexes for the parts of the Internet. Yahoo.com  is a good example of a directory of the Internet. Yahoo.com has organized the internet into a hierarchy of categories organizing everything.  Under the categories Arts > Humanities > History they have Genealogy. Here there are dozens of categories organizing hundreds of links to genealogy web sites.

Search Engines

Although Internet categorization is useful, search engines are ideal for finding keywords such as surnames and place names. Search engines like Google.com, store and index the entire content of the Internet. This amazing achievement allows you to search for content of web pages rather than depend on someone to categorize web pages appropriately. Although search engines are amazing, they do have limitations. All search engines index regular web pages but they require that the sites be either registered or linked from another indexed site. In reality, this is not much of a limitation and most of the important information is indexed by search engines.

How can Google help in family history?

Search engines like Google are very good at finding obscure or hidden web pages. Family tradition says that my ancestors came from Mountshannon Ireland.  I have read that the town of Mountshannon was founded by George Tandy. A Google search with keywords Mountshannon Tandy lists 12 pages of interest. The first two pages have interesting historical descriptions of Mountshannon, but there is another that is even better. There is a page that describes a book published by the East Clare Heritage Company which is rather obscure but of great interest to me. How else could I discover and acquire an obscure book like this? The Google search provided an immediate way to find this treasure.

In another example, I discovered a relative who was a Mayor. A Google search of his name provided a web site at http://www.myhamilton.ca/people/benjamin-ernest-charlton-1867 that provides a biography and a picture.

There are a number of articles written about Google tricks, but all of the tricks can be achieved by simply going to the Google Advanced Search option. Google also has the ability to search through newsgroups from its Groups page and search for pictures from its Images page. The one trick that you can't do from the Advanced Search, is to bring a web page back from the dead. When you do a normal Google search, you will notice that the resulting links include another link called Cached. If you click on this link, you get a copy of the web page that is stored on the Google server instead of the real web page. If the real web page is dead, i.e. removed or lost, you may be able to retrieve it from the Google cache. To do this, type the web page URL address in the Google query box and preceed it with "cache:". For example, if you want the cached version of www.rootsweb.com then type in cache:www.rootsweb.com.

Why did they come to America?

A common question for many American families is "Why did our ancestors leave their ancestral home to come to America?" Tradition in my wife's family said that the family worked for an Irish Bishop before they came to Canada. Eventually, I found a relative who had a letter of introduction written by their Irish Church on June 22, 1850 which indicated that they had worked for the Bishop of Clogher. Who was this Bishop of Clogher? A Google search for '"Bishop of Clogher" 1850' found the following.

  • Obituaries - Limerick Chronicle - January 2nd. 1850 - At Upper Albany-street, London, Ponsonby Tottenham, Esq., fourth son of Lord Robert Ponsonby Tottenham, Lord Bishop of Clogher.

Not only have I learned that the Bishop's son died that same year, but now I also know that the Bishop's name is Robert Ponsonby Tottenham. A Google search of his name finds that the Bishop died 26 April 1850. I now know the sequence of events were that the Bishop died and his workers from his estate came to Canada. Their employer died so the family left Ireland.

Surprisingly the Bishop's estate was in the Diocese of Ferns in the south but Clogher was far away in the north. Why would the Bishop of Clogher has an estate in the Diocese of Ferns? Further probing into the Bishop's history on the Internet showed that prior to Clogher, he was the Bishop of Ferns. Question Answered!


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