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About Family Finder

Frequently Asked Questions

Family Finder is a single, comprehensive search tool for locating ancestors among all of the genealogy data on the World Wide Web.

Q. What is it really doing?
A. Family Finder searches the entire Internet and remembers all of the names it finds on genealogically-relevant pages. It also has a record of all the individuals in's archives, such as World Family Tree, Social Security Death Index, and the 1900 Census. When you enter a name, Family Finder gives you a ranked list of all of the mentions of that name in all of the sources it knows about.
Q. Does Family Finder really know about "all" of the genealogical information on the Internet?
A. Most of it. It searches by looking through links from known sites, and it knows about hundreds of thousands of sites. However, it will never be able to ferret out data that is hidden away, for example in password-protected sites or in pages with no links to them.
Q. Why is Family Finder better for genealogy than other Internet search engines?
A. There are several other Internet search engines available: AltaVista, Infoseek, HotBot, WebCrawler, and Google, to name a few. Family Finder is better than these for genealogy research for these reasons:
  • Family Finder understands names. Other search engines do not know about names. If you search for John Smith in another search engine, you will get pages that have John's and Smith's, but it might be John Jones and Mary Smith. Family Finder also handles name variants — for example, if you enter Jim Smith, it will find James Smith as well.
  • Family Finder knows about genealogy. Other search engines don't stick to genealogy, they index all kinds of pages. If you search for John Smith in another search engine, you may get the John Smith who runs the insurance office down the street. Family Finder carefully selects only genealogically-relevant pages for indexing, so the relevance of the matches it returns are much higher.
  • Family Finder collects all the information from a Web site. Most other search engines only look at a few pages from each Web site, just enough to get the main subject of the site. Family Finder looks at all the genealogically-relevant pages, so a name buried on a list deep in the site will still be found.
  • Family Finder shows the words around each match. Other search engines just show you a summary of the top of the page. Family Finder shows you the text around the actual match, which often contains dates, locations, or a relative, and lets you immediately pinpoint which matches are relevant to your genealogy search.
  • Family Finder looks at other kinds of information besides Web pages. Other search engines only look at Web pages. Family Finder also looks at GEDCOM files and text files that contain genealogy data, as well as archives containing millions of historical records, and books stored at Genealogy Library. Other search engines will not find information from these sources.
Q. What if I find information in the actual data that is wrong?
A. The person or organization that originally typed in the information should be contacted and notified.
Q. Where is the actual data and who owns it?
A. Family Finder scans the Internet and remembers all the names it has found. The actual data does not reside in Family Finder. It's scattered around the Internet — we are only providing a single, unified way of searching it. The actual Web pages with the information still live on the Web site of the person or organization that created and entered them (and their usage rules and copyrights apply).
Q. What if I can't find a particular person or surname?
A. Family Finder is constantly growing. It continually searches the Internet for new information to add to the index, so trying again in a few days may help.
Q. What if it's not finding a page I know about?
A. Family Finder is constantly searching the Internet for new names. It is possible that it has not found your page yet, so please tell us about your page and we will add it.
Q. I have a surname that could also be a place name. Why do I get matches that refer to the place name?
A. Family Finder uses an automatic approach to identify names on the pages it finds. Unfortunately, as with many things, the computer is not as smart as a human, and Family Finder sometimes misidentifies place names as people's names. For example, "Richmond, Virginia" is most likely the city, but it could also be a person named "Virginia Richmond," so what's a poor computer to do? We are constantly evolving our processes to address of these cases.
Q. How do I contact the person who typed in the information?
A. We can't keep contact information on the pages we find, but generally the Web page with the information will lead you to a way to make contact.
Q. What about foreign names and Web sites?
A. Family Finder scans all genealogy pages on the Internet without regard for where they might be, but it is generally strongest on finding names that appear in American genealogy records. Since many of these names are from Europe originally, Family Finder knows a lot about European names too. Other parts of the world will have less thorough coverage.
Q. What about foreign characters?
A. In many cases, information on the Internet may have been entered without the proper accents. To allow you to find the name however it may have been typed, Family Finder takes the approach of remembering all names without accents. To search for a name with accented characters, do not type the accents in your query.

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