Thursday, November 06, 2008

LiveRoots Search Engine

Getting Started with Live Roots

The home page states, "Live Roots is an information resource that assists you with locating genealogical resources, wherever they may be stored." Okay, so what does that really mean?

First, here are some quick hints:

1. Try searching for the surnames that you are researching. (You may enter multiple surnames in the keyword box at once)
2. Try searching for the place names of your ancestors. (Best results achieved by searching for one location at a time in the keyword box)
3. If the surname and/or place name is somewhat common, you'll need to add either a first name or try adding the county name.
4. Do NOT attempt to search for broad topics (e.g. census) as the search engine will respond by telling you there are too many results to present in a meaningful manner. Typically, you'll want to combine broad topics with something to clarify what you are looking for (e.g. federal census) or a place name or year.
5. You can initiate a search from any page on the Live Roots web site using the keyword search box on the left hand side of the page.
6. If you enter a phrase in double quotes it will perform a title search. You don't need to enter the entire title, just the first few words. It matches your phrase to the beginning of the titles.

There are two basic ways that genealogists search. They either search for the title of a resource (or its description), or the names that it contains. Live Roots helps with both types of searches. Let's start with title searching.

Live Roots lets you search the titles of resources by entering keywords. You may enter a surname, a place name, or any word that might relate to your research needs at the moment. If the keywords you chose are somewhat common (e.g. Smith), you should also add a keyword that more closely reflects what you are looking for (e.g. probate records).

Enter your keywords into the search box on any page on the site, and the Live Roots search engine will hunt through its catalog for matching resources. These resources may include transcribed or digitized records that are online, books that you may purchase from a variety of publishers, and individual web sites and pages.

The resource results will list the matching resources sorting them based on how accessible they are (e.g. online transcriptions listed first). Next to each result will be an icon that gives you a visual indication of what the resource is. Clicking on the result will bring you to a resource page detailing the resource and providing the means to access it.

Where does Live Roots get the resource information? We've partnered with genealogy companies and publishers to include their catalogs, and we've combine this with link databases we've been compiling for years.

So what about name searching? Currently, Live Roots offers a search of the names contained within SOME of the resources in the catalog. On a regular basis, additional resources are indexed.

To begin a name search, simply enter a surname as a keyword (or several surnames are once). The Live Roots search engine will provide results from three databases: (1) the Live Roots index, (2) the Transcribed Ephemera collection for, and (3) subscription data from Family Tree Connection.

The results will list each surname and the number of resources that contain matching results. Click on each surname to see a listing of the resources. The resource listing will show you each title and the number of matches for that surname. Click on the resource title to see the actual names. Options to narrow your search are offered once you have selected a surname and/or resource.

Included in the results from the Live Roots search engine (both title and name searches) will be resources that may not be available online, but are available offline to researchers that you can hire to access the information on your behalf.

Okay, so you understand how Live Roots works, and now your asking yourself "So what?" I know, on the surface none of this sounds all that new or different. But, what is unique about Live Roots is that it is allowing you to search a variety of catalogs IN ONE PLACE and highlighting where the same resource may exist in multiple locations.

For example, take some of the major genealogy sites:, and Combined they all publish images and/or transcribed information from thousands of different publications and sources. Yes, you could visit each site and figure out how to browse through their catalogs to find something, but Live Roots lets you do this with a single query.

And Live Roots doesn't just include the major sites; it includes catalogs from dozens of small and medium publishers as well. And, it is updated daily with any new resources made available (check out the Discover option for the most recent additions).

So, to summarize the two major points of distinction. First, there is the "roots" advantage: Live Roots lets you conduct a variety of searches across the catalogs from hundreds of different data providers and publishers all at once and with the most up-to-date versions of their catalog listings. And second, there is the "live" advantage: the same searches you conduct will include resources that you may obtain information from with the assistance of a live person that you commission for a nominal fee.

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