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A Bit of Background


Google runs many different search engines. Most of the search engines are organized by country for the following reasons:

The first point (on the fact most Google search is local) is worth highlighting because it introduces a significant bias into ancestral search results. It works as follows: even though we live in a global world, most traffic across the internet still remains within the boundaries of a single country. For example, most emails are sent to people who live in the same country and most website visits are to websites in the same country.

A total of 41 new Google search engines have appeared since we last revised this article. Many island groups now have their own search engine. This includes such places as Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Micronesia, Norfolk, Pitcairn, St. Helena and several Caribbean countries. Many African countries now also have their own search engine. In addition, some regions (such as Catalan) have search engines. All the updates are all listed on page 3.

It is possible to actually see the localization of global internet traffic in the diagram below. It visually shows traffic from Facebook, the most popular social networking website. A single line in the diagram represents the social link between thousands of people. The diagram is the cumulation of many of these lines showing the social interaction of hundreds of millions of people.

Facebook global traffic
Global traffic on the Facebook network. Notice that for almost every country in the world, the vast majority of linkage is within the same country.

The localization effect is also evident in the genealogy world. For example, the popular genealogy service Ancestry runs separate websites for the US (Ancestry.com), Canada (Ancestry.ca), United Kingdom (Ancestry.co.uk) and Australia (Ancestry.com.au).

Another important consideration when searching for ancestral records is to recognize that Google is a general search engine designed to handle a variety of search requests. It is not optimized for specific genealogy searches. For that, use the free Genealogy Search Engine.

Before Google checks a search request, it fundamentally does not know whether the request is a record search for an ancestor, a search for a local restaurant, or a place to get the automobile fixed. Google does know, however, that a significant portion of search requests are for local results. This knowledge can be used to a genealogist’s advantage.

Genealogy records of ancestors are by definition archived records. Archived records have two important attributes:

This is a map of the internet. Archived records of ancestors tend to cluster on the far outer regions of the internet.

Thus, you should always use the Google search engine for the country where you expect to find your ancestral record. This is probably the single most important factor in determining your success in finding your ancestors with a Google search.

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