Peeling the Onion 3

Research is so many ways like unraveling a ball of wool, or peeling an onion. You start to investigate then all of a sudden you are completely overwhelmed with the sources, available data that is there for the researcher.

That feeling of being overwhelmed needs to be controlled or your research will start to resemble a bird’s nest, which is what my husband, calls the tangled mess of his fishing line.

Perhaps rather than randomly searching, you let the data come to you.

Here are just a few suggestions, that I have had some great success & discoveries with:


  • eBay
    • Even if you choose never to use the auction site, at least register and explore this as a research option. Under the “My eBay” section at the top right of the page (once you have logged in) is the facility to add specific words to a saved search. This can be the name of a place or a surname. Then every time some lists for sale an item with the specific word an email is sent to you and sometimes you can strike it lucky. As my credit card will confirm I have had some real success!


  • Google Alerts
    • Using the facility of Google Alerts you have a quick and fairly painless method of being made aware of when something using your search criteria is published on the internet. You can use this again to keep track of surnames and places that are connected to your ancestry. Indeed, you can utilise it for anything you have an interest in. As with eBay, I have been made of some really good pages published online which have given me and opportunity to pursue a line of enquiry.


  • Abe Book Search
    • Using this facility can be rather useful and I have had varying degrees of success. Visit the website, I have chosen the UK site because at the bottom of the page you can set Country preferences. From here you can create an account and then each time a book is listed with your search preferences it is emailed to you. The rarer the book the wider the net will need to be cast. I suggest that to receive listings for a particular name as both an author and within the subject search under keyword.


  • UK
    • The same can happen at this site, although this is predominately within the UK. You will need to create an account and then set up search options and again, an email will plop into your inbox with hopefully some fascinating details


My suggestion is to utilise a free email address, such Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo and then you can keep the various emails until you want to search through them. I would not leave it too long, as you may miss out on a real gem!


Of course you do not have to buy all the options you see, use the searches to identify sources and then tap into your library or the free e-books. Or utilise the search facility to perhaps tap into another organisation.


This is all about not reinventing the wheel, use whatever is available to you and adjust it for your own research and discovery purposes.


Disclaimer – Neither the author or The In-Depth Genealogist have received any monies for the content on this post. It has been written purely as a research opportunity.


Do you have any more tips that you can share with other readers?


Until next time,



About Julie Goucher

Genealogist Julie Goucher sets to explore all aspects of researching ancestry and the lives of our ancestors in the United Kingdom in her monthly column for IDG, “Across the Pond.” Each month we will explore the lives of our forebears and seek to understand the Society they lived in through the obvious and not so obvious research opportunities. You can find Julie blogging at Anglers Rest:

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3 thoughts on “Peeling the Onion

  • Christine M.

    A week or so ago, I remember seeing some tweets about Google Alerts being down or at least inactive. Do you know if that situation is resolved? (And thanks for the reminder about eBay!)

    • Julie @ Anglers Rest

      Hi Christine,

      Likewise I saw tweets saying that Google Alerts were down, but I have continued to receive mine. So it was perhaps a issue that has been fixed or intermitten across a selection of users. Give it a go anyway, you might strike lucky!

  • Mariann Regan

    Thank you for this list of ways to “let the data come to you.” You are completely right about the feeling of being overwhelmed. Other paths lure us away.

    I’ve been trying to stay on track lately by completing a huge family tree & archive task at the request of my 3rd cousin. We share lines, so it’s also my task. That, too, is overwhelming — staying on the same past.

    I’m copying the link for your post for later use!

    Thanks again.