Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Definition of Genealogy Content

A new genealogy search engine rolled in to town within the last 24 hours. says it "provides genealogists access to the best free genealogy content on the web."

I headed over to the site and entered in my usual test searches. Results returned were mostly hits from and other cemetery web sites as well as genealogy message boards.

While these are good details, they are but a small piece of the information pie. It made me realize how much Mocavo's definition of genealogy content differs from my own.

I view everything as possible genealogy content. Everything. Court records tell me my ancestor lived on Oklahoma in the early 1900's. Facebook tells me my second cousin once removed lives in Louisiana and makes it easy for me to contact him. The town of Velma, Oklahoma shares its history, and valuable information about my great-great grandfather, on it's own local government website.

All of these are real items I have found for free online, yet they--as far as I can tell--are not considered genealogy content at

One of the search strategies I entered in to was "John Robert Williamson" 1786 1861. While I did find something new in the 48 results that were returned, one big source was missing: significant historical information on the Williamson/Cloyd family line is available for free at from However, this website is not part of the genealogy content at Mocavo.

My Williamsons were extremely active in the Cumberland Presbyterian organization. Their website is a source of valuable information on my ancestors. I look to them for genealogy content. However, what about the other Williamson genealogists and hobbyists who may not know this fact about their line? A search on Mocavo will not lead them there. These users do not know what they do not know.

This piece is in no way a cut at Mocavo. Rather, I simply ask what is your definition of genealogy content? Mine is much wider than the sources I am seeing at Mocavo. I prefer to determine what genealogy content is or isn't instead of letting someone else do it for me.

Mocavo might be a search aid worthy of placement in your toolbox, but it is no Swiss Army Knife. Do not assume it alone, or any other single search engine for that matter, will meet 100% of your online research needs.



  1. Well said, Amy. I totally agree. I like to have all the info, and then I'll decide what's relevant or not. My first opinion about Mocavo on Twitter was, "Isn't this double the work if I already know I have to go search on Google as well?" Because they didn't include places that I would look for information.

    And their reply? Less than stellar, and I think a wee bit inaccurate:

    @FamilyStories It's probably still good to check Google but know that has hundreds of millions Google doesn't cover.

    Really? "Hundreds of millions that Google doesn't cover"? Huh. This may be true. However, are they results for *my* surnames? And are they *all* of them?

    Definitely would be misleading to a newbie genealogist. Or an amateur genealogist. Or even to a professional genealogist. They should be a little more conservative with their claims in my humble opinion. Obviously their goal is to be a hub for free genealogical resources. But it's just that, a goal. And I don't even think it's that obtainable. Perhaps concentrating on internet search methodologies would be best for new genealogists. Not a one-stop-get-all-your-free-genealogy-resources-here kind of website.


  2. Totally agree. I find it will be a tool but none are the one and only.

  3. Hi,

    Cliff Shaw from Mocavo here. Really appreciate your thoughts. A few thoughts come to mind. One, we definitely do not think Mocavo should be the only resource on the Internet for genealogists - quite the contrary. However, we want to help users find this great content using our search engine. On day 1, it doesn't have every single genealogy web site in existence. However, one day it hopefully will since we'll be growing it quickly. You mentioned - I'll make sure to add that site to Mocavo.

    Caroline, to address your question: Yes, there is a lot of content in Mocavo that you can't find in Google. It's a misconception that Google has everything. Google has indexed about 11 million pages on FindAGrave, we have more than 60 million in Mocavo. GenForum: 1,1 million messages in Google. Mocavo has over 18 million. The list goes on. Google for JewishGen - about 31,000. Mocavo, 250,000.

    It's not perfect on day one, but Mocavo will grow quickly based on great feedback from users like you. Thanks!


  4. In complete agreement, Amy! (from your fellow library/reference-nerd genealogy pal)

  5. Great read until I hit "Cloyd". Then all became sidetracked as I began hunting for a link. I'm feeling a little like a bloodhound...

    My David Cloyd died in Rockbridge County, VA in 1792. Not an unusual name in the area, to be sure.

  6. Great post! And thank you for sharing the info. I haven't had, or made, the time to check out that search engine, but like you, I want all the info that I can get to fill out the picdture!

  7. Cliff,

    I deeply appreciate your comments and that you took the time to make them on what should be a very busy day for you.

    I should clarify that I had no expectations of Mocavo to contain everything under the sun. What I am trying to state in this piece is that I find some of the best genealogy content on websites that don't qualify as genealogy websites. I want people to seek out unconventional genealogy resources as well.

    You and I know Mocavo isn't the only thing out there, but often beginner genealogists stick to one thing without exploring others. As I elude in the last sentence in my post, I feel the same way about how Google is perceived and cringe when it is used as a verb.

    I'm trying to ensure these folks have the best search experience possible and get all the results they can. Mocavo certainly is part of that process.

  8. Nolichucky Roots, Cloyd is a very popular name in Virginia. My John Robert Williamson married Margaret Scott Cloyd. Let me know if there is a connection.

  9. Point well made Amy. I am very excited about this new website, however, but do not see it as my main search tool rather it is one of many.

    My searches last night on Mocavo did bring up some new information I hadn't run across before and that is always a good thing. I plan on regularly checking Mocavo in my searches as I'm sure they will improve their content with time.

  10. I agree. It's always good to have another genealogy tool but I'm always skeptical of anything claiming to be the best especially on day one.

    They would have more credibility with me if they toned down their statement that Mocavo "provides genealogists access to the best free genealogy content on the web." That may be their goal but, from my limited testing, they aren't anywhere near there yet - unless they don't consider genealogy blogs to be in the "best free genealogy content on the web." I didn't find any hits to blogs that show up in Bing, Google and Yahoo using the same search criteria.

    I did determine that anyone using Mocavo and looking for any of my ancestors are going to find my website (not my blog, my family tree website) but then my site also comes up very high in the search results with those other 3 search engines along with other hits that Mocavo misses.

  11. This is an interesting new tool to put in my kit. I tried it out a bit with my very abnormal surname and got a few results I hadn't seen before. However, one of the links was to, which I'm not a member of. So now I have this little tidbit of information that I can't access without paying for it. I realize it's not a flaw with mocavo but it is frustrating.

    Also, I'm not skilled with google alerts - would love a a "alerts for dummies" class :-)


  12. Amy, I couldn't agree more. I'm very excited to see this new tool, but on my test searches I too noticed information that was lacking that would be caught in google searches. It did come up with some great content on some searches, but no magic bullet.

  13. Great post! I really appreciated your recommendation to keep this in perspective. The tag lines and hype that use all encompassing words might really deceive fledgling researchers. After playing with this myself, I used a hugely obscure surname to see how the results faired: marginal. Yes they pulled results from various Rootsweb sites and Findagrave, but I knew there were a lot more results even within these sites that they had not tapped made me worry that new researchers would not take the time to explore in depth the original free sites that are much larger and contain more gems than this free and simple search engine produces....but that's part of the key here: genealogy is great fun but regardless of the new fancy search engines, it still takes work - Even when searching among online resources! And I totally agree with Caroline, smart searching strategies is still a skill set that must be learned to obtain the best results as we use ALL the best tools out there – never just one.

  14. I got a lot of results in surname searches on [whateverstate]

    And none - zero - on blogs. There's a major downside for me.

    Within a couple of hours of blogging about one of my surnames and using a surname tag, Google has picked it up.

    I'm not sure how Moncavo would displace that treasure trove, since it seems they have to add websites into their virtual library.

  15. Dee - I had the same reaction - no blogs! Mocavo is fine for a few sites, but definitely needs to add some others.