Thursday, January 24, 2008

Genealogy Hack: Firefox Smart Keywords

Firefox has a neat feature called Smart Keywords that allows you to quickly search databases from your address bar. Let's say I want quick access to RootsWeb Town Search. I right-click in the "Town Name" search field, and select Add a Keyword for this Search from the menu that appears.

I'll give the bookmark the name "Town Search," and use "town" as my keyword.
I can now type, say, town paducah in my address bar and immediately be taken to my search results at RootsWeb.

One drawback for genealogists is that Smart Keywords accepts only one search term. Most of our searches require two or more fields with distinct values (e.g. first and last name). But there are many sites I use regularly where this method does come in handy, including Google Book Search and News Archive Search.


Seperate multiple words with an underscore: turn "my search" into my_search.


I should have mentioned that you can search for multiple words or a phrase in quotation marks, but only one field will be queried. You can also fiddle with the properties of the bookmark to query two or more fields, but the same keyword(s) will be applied to every field.


You can query multiple fields if one or more of those multiple fields always has the same term. For example, once a month I query the rootsweb listserv archives for the surnames I research and I have a query created where I modified the search string to always have the same last names in it and just change the date range (e.g. Jan 2008). But doing that may be a little more advanced than what you are presenting here.

You could also create a query box manually and stick it on a web page that manipulates the rootsweb search string in more detail than their web site gives you the ability to do. I've asked them several times over the past couple of years to "open up" their search parameters, but they keep telling me "it's in the works".

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