3.2 General search engines
An immediate temptation is to head straight for a search engine such as Google and enter your family name, but a moment's thought should warn you that the results will be disappointing. This is particularly so if your name is common or, like White or Snow, is also an English word. Even a relatively uncommon family name such as Rosewell turns out to be a place name in both Scotland and the USA and a misspelling of a UFO.
Jot down some sample queries that may be useful
You should focus on the other text on the pages you will be expecting to find – try adding magic words such as 'genealogy' or 'family history'. If you know other information such as a date or place, try adding that to your search.
Try a web search for web pages of other researchers interested in your family.
You may find other difficulties in using search engines such as Google which simply look for matching text. For example, the spelling of names was much less standardised in the past: is it possible that members of the Rowswell family recorded in 1760 are ancestors of the Rosewells recorded in the same area a hundred years later? The various ways in which dates can be written makes it difficult to search for an exact date, and in any case they may not be known; for example you may know someone's birth date but another researcher the christening date for the same person.
Think of some strategies to use to avoid these problems
You will need either to repeat your queries, trying alternative spellings and dates, or become familiar with the advanced queries of your search engine and construct more complex queries. It is a good idea to record the queries you have used so that you can repeat them in future.