One of the names in my wife’s family tree, Orlinger, is a mystery, not to the family historian (me), but to those trying to transcribe it from barely legible writing. One effort came up with the name transcribed as Aslinger.

Searching on the Internet can be like that. It’s very difficult to find what you want and you have to use a lot of ingenuity to get answers, and sometimes, it's just as tough to know what you’ve found—realizing Aslinger meant Orlinger, for instance.

Things have improved. Typing the name Sage Software actually brings the company’s URL to the top of the Google hit list. But put in the term ”MAS 90,” for Sage’s best-known accounting package and three paid listings come up with the official Sage site is third. And the first unpaid listing yesterday was “Track status of Malaysia Airline flight 90” with Sage Software coming in second. I’m sure typing in another vendor name would yield similar results.

Of course, as you go down the list of hits; it’s hard to tell what’s turned up. Top Sage resellers were plentiful in the first two pages. But if you don’t live and breathe this topic like those of us in the trade journals do, it is not obvious these entities are resellers, important to know if want to buy software.

Search technology isn’t good enough and, if someone could fine tune search terms enough, the whole paid listing phenomena could become quickly obsolete.

Then, there are search tools within sites, which is often a dreary experience with sites whose tools don’t say that when multiple words are typed in, the search is for any of the words. Or they don’t offer enough options to search more precisely.

There are some amazingly good tools out there. One, by a gentleman named Stephen Morse, and two other companions, is designed to search genealogy sites and besides the normal exact search and “sounds like” type of search it enables family historian to search names by “Starts with,” “Contains” and “Ends with” which is great for those hard-to-spell-hard-to-read family history entries. There’s a lot more to this system and I suspect there are a lot of other hidden gems out there that would be useful if embedded in a Web site search utility.

The quandary with all searching, as with any kind of indexing, is how to keep the tool specific enough to help, but not provide so many levels you need to be a programmer to use them. And allowances have to be made for people who spell little better than some of those emigrants a 100 years ago.

I don’t have the answers. I just know I want something better to help find them.





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