Friday, April 30, 2010

What do you do when the name's the same?

Probably one of my biggest frustrations (other than hitting those brick walls!) is having a family member with a name similar to that of a famous person. For example, one of the people I research frequently is man named John Fitzgerald, famous in his own right as one of the wealthiest men in Nebraska in the late 1880s. Whenever I do online searches about this man what do I get - millions of references to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Sure, there are ways to tell a search engine to eliminate those results that include the word "Kennedy" (just type "-Kennedy"). But what if I'm also looking for a business relationship between my John Fitzgerald and a man named Kennedy? Sometimes, I just think "oh, forget it!"

Another family member I'm researching is John Kelly. Whenever I research him online, I get thousands of results on the brother of Princess Grace (nee Kelly) of Monaco, whose name was John Kelly. This search also yields results on Gene Kelly, the actor/dancer/producer. As much as I loved his work on screen, he's not one of my Kellys!

There are also several current day authors with the same name as family members I am researching from the 19th century.

I'm curious how other researchers deal with situations when the name is the same. What are some successful techniques that have worked for you to weed out the hundreds of thousands search results when doing online research.

Please share your comments below.

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