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I'm researching family history and whenever I'm try to search for the surname SPEAK, I always get results with the verb speak included, particularly from newspaper articles, conferences etc. So how do I write the search parameters just to come back with the surname only? I'm drowning...

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    You may get some help if you ask on WebApps.SE as they have questions regarding search engine tips and tricks. – Chenmunka Nov 9 '17 at 11:24
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    In short, you can't completely achieve this, as Google can't easily distinguish words by context. But you can exclude similar terms with a minus sign: '-speaks -speaker -speaking' etc which may help. If you are looking for a particular name then search for it in quotes: "William Speak" to find only results with that word pair. Also "Speak, William" and so on. Google also has an "AROUND" operator that aims to find specific words near each other. So 'William AROUND(2) Speak' should find 'William' and 'Speak' within two words of each other, in any order. And follow Chenmunka's advice! – AndyW Nov 9 '17 at 11:35
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Although somewhat limited, there is a tool called Case Sensitive Search that allows you to perform case-sensitive web searches on Google.

It can be downloaded from their site at http://www.casesensitivesearch.com/.

Basically, the tool is a web-application that scans through the case-insensitive results returned by a Google search and filters out just the results that match the case of your query.


Cautionary note: Now, I haven't used this tool for a few years, and I don't know anything about the people behind it (which is one reason that I was cautious about using it). The security software on my PC didn't flag any warnings though, so it is probably OK in that regard. Even so, I installed it when I was searching for a family named Garden, and removed it when I was done.


I mentioned that the tool had some significant limitations. The biggest of these was that it would only filter the first 1024 entries. However, that was a few years ago, and they may have improved it since then.

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  • That website no longer exists. However I will try this from a WebApps.SE answer. Here's help from Google itself. You can do this with Chrome too. The Find bar (Ctrl + F) in Firefox offers a “Match Case” option to help you perform case-sensitive searches on a web page. If you type “RAM” in the find box, the browser will only highlight the phrase “RAM” on that page and not Ram or ram. – Maggie Speak Nov 9 '17 at 23:31
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In this case, it helps to to a specialized search by limiting the types of results you are going to get or by adding other relevant keywords. In search engines you could try putting quotes around, such as "Speak Family" and limit the types of results. It may suite you more to search for specific names with other key words added, " 'Robert Speak' born in New York".

The most helpful I advice I can give you, however, is not to do search engine searches for the name "speak", but do search engine searches for specific resources, and then search for your name within those resources.

For example, you could do a search for "genealogy resources in New York" or "colonial families of rhode island" for example, and then from that list, FamilySearch might come up or a find-a-grave index. Go into those resource and then perform your search.

Another valuable option is to find a library in a bigger city and check out their genealogy department. You can do searches that will only include people's names, as they aren't going to bother indexing verbs. I hope this helps.

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  • That's great advice when searching databases and I do adopt this process. I was looking for some way to narrow the search from newspaper archives or online books, where the verb speak is common. – Maggie Speak Nov 10 '17 at 9:09
  • I have used the Firefox finder window as suggested above by @Chenmunka and clicked on the "Case sensitive" button - which I've never noticed before. Doh!! It works very well indeed. – Maggie Speak Nov 10 '17 at 9:12

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