Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Do You Use Google Alerts?

I've been thinking a lot about Google Alerts lately.  I think Google Alerts are great. It's a great way to have information pushed to you without you having to go and search for it. Google Alerts pull information from news sites, blogs, videos, discussions and something called Realtime.  Basically, if anything new on your topic hits the web, you'll hear about it.

I read an interesting post on using Google Alerts by Lisa Swanson Ellam over at The Faces of My Family blog called "Another Google Alert Makes My Jaw Drop - Part 1". Then I wrote my own post on how to set up Google Alerts for finding gravestones online at my Symbolic Past blog.

But I still can't get Google Alerts out of my head.  I guess it's because I don't want to leave people short.  You can do so much more with Google Alerts than just find gravestones.

How I Use Google Alerts

My main use of Google Alerts is to track myself on the web.  If you are a speaker you will want to know when your speaking venues are publicizing your talks.  If you are a writer or photographer you will want to know if someone has mentioned your writing or photos on the web.  Of course, the ugly side is that the Google Alerts will also alert you to who is stealing your content.

Me, Myself and I

I have an alert set up for my name "Marian Pierre-Louis".  I put it in quotation marks so that it will give me exact hits.  I don't want to see all the other people with a first name Marian (and some other last name) or folks who share the Pierre-Louis last name but have a different first name.  Now that I think of it, I should really have alerts for mispellings of my name too.  People seem to mis-spell my name a lot. I also have an alert for "Fieldstone Historic Research" which is my company name.

Don't forget about your blogs.  I have an alert set up for "Roots & Rambles" and for "Roots and Rambles" because you just don't know how people are going to write things.

Beyond Me

There are a few organizations that I follow closely and like to keep up with.  Instead of having to remember to search the web regularly I have Google Alerts set up to alert me whenever there is something new about them.  This is particularly useful for smaller organizations that are not in the press a lot or only make the local papers.


There are some journalists that I follow because I like their content.  I've set up alerts for them as well.  For instance, if you wanted to follow Sharon Tate Moody's genealogy articles in the Tampa Tribune you could do an alert for "Sharon Tate Moody" +"Tampa Tribune".  You won't ever miss an article again!


As Lisa described in her blog post, you can also use Google Alerts to find your ancestors.  This works best of course with unusual family names.  Names like Smith, Johnson and Murphy will return too many hits to be useful.

How Do You Use Google Alerts?

There must be a million different creative ways to use Google Alerts.  What are some of the ways you use them?  Do you use them to keep up with topics on a regular basis or to help find that needle in the haystack?  I want to hear from you because there are probably lots of ways that I haven't thought of yet that could be really helpful.


  1. I use it to track mentions of my paternal grandfather (a WWI era Chicago White Sox pitcher.) With baseball players, it's important to "Google-alert" for nicknames as well, so I include all his known nickname variants, like "Red" and "Mellie".

    I also "G-alert" for obscure places, esp. small towns and villages where there are family clusters I;m researching. If "Earlehurst" or "Sweet Chalybeate" Virginia get a mention, I want to know about it!

  2. I use Google Alerts to monitor all mentions of the surname CRUWYS which I am researching for my one-name study. It wouldn't work for more common surnames! I find the easiest way to monitor Google Alerts is to set them up as an RSS feed. I can then scan the alerts easily in Google Reader rather than having to read lots of e-mails.

  3. I track the words "genealogy" "family history" etc together with "New Hampshire" to find out what is going on in my state. I also track the name of my town or towns where my ancestors lived, and I get many interesting hits, too. I'm experimenting with for Spanish surnames and village names, with some success but I wish I knew more Spanish to weed through the hits!

  4. Thank you for reminding me to track my own name!

  5. I know I'm a bit late to the party :) I use Google Alerts to let me know when certain out of print genealogy books come up for sale.