Saturday, March 31, 2007

Search Engines on Cyndi's List

I have 4 search engine options on Cyndi's List. You can find them here:
What's the difference between each of the search engines? Why do I need more than one? Why don't I want you to use the search engines?
  1. They are each free. OK, that isn't a difference, that is a similarity. Since they are free I thought it wouldn't hurt to offer all of them for you to choose from.
  2. All search engines work differently from one another. So, having more than one option seems like a good idea. You might get different search results using the same keyword(s).
  3. Everyone's favorite tends to be Google. So, the Google search engine box is the default and can be found at the top right corner of every page on Cyndi's List.
  4. The Google index of Cyndi's List is updated frequently.
  5. The FreeFind & WebSideStory indexes of Cyndi's List are updated once a week.
  6. The PicoSearch index of Cyndi's List is updated whenever Cyndi remembers to do it.

For years I fought the idea of having a search engine on Cyndi's List. The whole purpose of a categorized index of links is to...uh...browse the links found in the categories. From the very beginning I found that people who browse the categories end up tripping across a new topic or idea they hadn't thought of before in their research. I also found that many people were learning more and more about how to do their research by discovering specific topics or record types. So, browsing the categories is preferable.

Further, most people who solely use searching by keywords in their research are most likely only surname hunting. which means they are missing all the other possibilities out there. Or they are searching for something so incredibly specific that they miss the other important things they may help them. For example, I have heard from people who are looking for, but can't find, a ship that their ancestor immigrated on. They try looking for the name of the ship using a search engine on my site. Then they complain to me when they can't find it. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the information for that ship might not actually be online. Or might not yet be indexed by me. Or that they might have the wrong name for the ship. By limiting themselves to the search engine and just searching by keyword they miss browsing more than 700 other links I have for ship passenger lists, including numerous links to helpful articles or libraries or archives that will actually LEAD them to the ship of their ancestor.

That is why I don't want you to rely solely on search engines. And that is why I still categorize links every day. Browse the categories. Please! After years of getting requests I finally gave in and put the search engines on the site. You people just wore me down. Give each of them a try, but don't forget about the categories. . .browse, browse, browse!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

News: Canadian Records Online

I received two press releases today about Canadian records now available online. Following are excerpts. News Release:

", the world's largest online resource for family history, today announced the addition of the first and only online collection of more than 4 million names of individuals who crossed the U.S.-Canadian border between 1895 and 1956. These historical records are the latest addition to’s Immigration Records Collection, which also includes more than 100 million names from the largest online collection of U.S. passenger lists, spanning 1820 to 1960."

FamilySearch News Release:

"Early vital records of Nova Scotia, Canada, are viewable over the Internet for the first time and for free, thanks to a joint project by the Genealogical Society of Utah, FamilySearch, and the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM). The records include one million names found in birth records from 1864 to 1877, marriages from 1864 to 1930, and death records from 1864 to 1877 and 1908 to 1955. Users can search the database at Anyone can now search names in the index and view a high quality digital copy of the original image online for free at NSARM's Web site, In the near future, the index and images will also be available on"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Time for a New Home, Then Back to Work

Well, I'll be a bit distracted for the next week or so. I have to move Cyndi's List to a new web host server in the next week. I'm really nervous about it. In fact, I'm kinda freaking out. I've been extremely fortunate to have had the same host since 1998. So, I've fallen into a comfortable routine and know what to expect or not expect. The unknown future is scaring me a bit. And change is bad, right?

I'm investigating local services and national services. Basically I need someone who will hold my hand 24/7, charge me next to nothing, and send me chocolates on a weekly basis. If anyone knows of such a web site hosting service please be sure to let me know. BTW, that would be dark chocolate.

This has preoccupied me for over a week now. And prior to that I had been on quite a roll working on backlogs of links. I have a backlog of link requests that goes back to September 2003 (all are available through the search engines on my site, but just aren't in categories yet). Also, after moving my office downstairs, I'm cleaning up old file folders, boxes, etc. and I'm finding all sorts of fliers, business cards, scraps of paper, and to-do lists that I've saved for years----all with URLs for sites or ideas for links and categories. It has been like stepping into a time machine and finding little bits of my brain from several years ago. After the site is safely moved I'll be back to work on the backlog.

The backlog of links bothers me. It first started about 6 months after the site was born in 1996. I started off working on the site about 2 hours every day. As the new link requests came in I started working more and more hours each day, but was still getting further and further behind. By 1998 I had a huge backlog sitting in my IN box. So, I had a programmer create a script for me to automatically submit the links and put them on the "What's New" pages and in the mailing list posts each day. That way the links weren't out of sight on my computer's hard drive doing no one any good. Now all the newly submitted links are available to everyone, but they still need to be put into categories. And not getting to them to be categorized quicker bothers me. I'm thinking of challenging myself. If I did a month every week I could get them done in 43 weeks. Oh, that doesn't sound very good. Maybe I should stop thinking about it and just work on them. After I get done freaking out and get the site moved to its new home. Where's my chocolate...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why I Shouldn't Have Started a Blog!!!

Yep. Now I know why I was so slow in getting around to doing a blog. Because it gives people one more way to not read what I write. Sigh. I'm afraid this blog might start to show my snarly side. That would be the side I show when I growl at my son, my niece, or my nephew---after which they promptly laugh at me. No one takes me seriously.

I've received a couple of messages here with requests for me to add links or fix links on Cyndi's List. That isn't what this blog is about. That isn't what any of my previous messages on this blog have been about. This blog is a place for me to talk to all of you. Share my thoughts. Share my ideas. Rant.

The web site has everything you all need to submit new links. There is a "Submit a New Link" link on EVERY page of my web site. In fact, there is a "Submit a New Link" link in the right column of this blog. -------------->LOOK!! LOOK over there! See it?!! grrrrrr

OK, Drew. Stop laughing at me.

And, every page on my site has a "How to Update an Existing Link on Cyndi's List" link in the left column under FAQ. And at the bottom of every category page there is a link to "Update a Link" on that page.

So, why do people still attempt to write to me about new links or updates for links at the read-only newsletter mailing list address? Or through this blog? Stop it. Please!

I'll tell you why I think this happens. The Internet, computers, and our instant-gratification lifestyle these days, have all made us into click, click, click, SEND people. We pretend we know how to speed-read by skipping half the words in a message, then promptly reply and hit the SEND button without really stopping to digest what we just read or what we just wrote. No one reads instructions. No one reads "about this web site." People just half-skippity-dippity read part of what is on the screen and then form an instant opinion or put something into action immediately. Then they toddle off to fix dinner or watch their favorite show. And what do I do? I spend several hours every day or evening reading, dealing with, fixing, or replying to the more than 200 half-skippity-dippity e-mails, mailing list posts, and now blog posts. As I am doing right now. And I should be fixing dinner.

I'm starting a campaign right now. Pass this on to all your genealogy buddies. This is the "I Promise to Carefully Read and Carefully Write Everything I Do Online" Campaign. Oh sure. That will work.

Really, Drew. Stop laughing at me. Get off the floor.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Top 10 Don’ts for a Genealogy Web Site Title

  1. Don’t neglect to use one consistent title throughout the web page or the rest of the web site. People tend to fluctuate between titles, phrases, or keywords, which can create confusion as visitors navigate from one page to another. Choose one title and stick with it.
  2. Don’t use redundant, useless words or phrases such as:
    ---“Welcome to the home page of….”
    ---“Home Page of…”
    ---“Personal Genealogy Web Site for….”
  3. Don’t choose a title that isn’t descriptive enough, such as:
    ---“My Family History”
    ---“Smith Family History”
    ---“Our Family Tree”
  4. Don’t choose a title that isn’t completely honest or truthful, such as:
    ---“The Only Site You Ever Need to Use”
    ---“Every Smith Birth Record Ever Made”
    ---“The Complete Genealogy for the Johnson Surname”
  5. Don’t forget to include important items in the title, such as:
    ---Place names
    ---Anything that is topic-specific to the content of the site
  6. Don’t include the title only on a custom-made graphic, and not in actual text on the web page. Search engines can’t read graphics. You must include plain text on the page as well.
  7. Don’t load up the TITLE bar with a list of keywords in the hope that this will improve search engine hits and indexing. Wrong. That is an Internet old-wives’ tale. It doesn't help improve your search engine hits, but it does make for a very messy looking title bar, bookmark, favorite, or search engine hit.
  8. Don’t forget to include the actual title of the web site in the TITLE bar. Some people remember to put everything else but the title in that spot.
  9. Don’t leave the TITLE bar blank or empty so that the web browser default of “home” or “index” or “Insert Title Here” or the URL appears there instead.
  10. Don’t use the site’s domain name in the TITLE bar unless that is the actual name and title of the site as well.

Examples of concise, descriptive, and useful titles:

  • Descendants of David H. Ingle, Towner County, North Dakota
  • The Story of George & Kesiah Smith, Exira, Audubon County, Iowa
  • Smith, Johnson, Knox, Nash, & Frederick Families: Iowa to South Dakota
  • Greengrass Cemetery, Anywhereville, Ohio - Complete Transcription, 1998

Good luck!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not Using Titles Properly

Indexing links every day makes this topic one I frequently grumble about. Why don't people properly title their web site/pages?

If you publish a book you put your book's title on the front cover, on the spine, and on the title page. And most publishers would tend to insist that you should use the same consistent title on each of these spots. So, why don't people do the same on their web sites?

The majority of web sites I visit put at least two different titles on their web site: one in the body (the cover and/or title page) and a different one in the TITLE tag or bar at the top of the browser window (the spine). And if they submit their site as a new link to Cyndi's List many times they will use a third, different title when they do so.

As an indexer, which title should I choose to use in the link? Which one is more important to the author? Generally, I assume it is the one in the body. However, which one is more important to technology on the Internet? The TITLE tag. Search engines, web browsers, bookmarks, and favorites all use what they find in the TITLE tag to index web sites. Because of that I have always used the TITLE tag for indexing the links on Cyndi's List.

If you have a genealogy web site take a minute today to look at the title of your site. Do you have one title? Or several? Does your preferred title appear in the TITLE bar at the top of your browser window? If not, it is time to update your web site.

And if you have a genealogy web site linked on Cyndi's List don't complain to me about how I indexed the link. First look at the title that you chose and think about possible corrections that might improve your site's indexing future.


NEW: Cyndi's List Blog

Cynd's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet ( is a free, categorized & cross-referenced index to genealogical resources on the Internet. Cyndi's List is almost 11 years old. Does everyone know about the site? Does everyone use the site to get the most out of it?

Every day I think of things that I wish I could say to the people who use my site. I reply to many e-mails with some of the things I want to say, but I rarely hear back from people. I wonder if visitors ever read my messages. I wonder if they ever read the instructions, or the hints, or the bits of advice I put throughout my web pages on how to best use the site.

I doubt it. So, I started this blog. I'm going to use this spot to post my random thoughts, wishes, and periodic rants. I hope you all find this useful. If nothing else I get things off my chest and won't have to mutter to myself as often.