Footnote Friday: Searching with Quotes

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I’ve been working in the San Francisco Chronicle database at  One of my frustrations has been name searches.

Although I’m only searching one specific newspaper, trying to find a family is difficult.  The surname search is not very effective.  Since a newspaper is a collection of words strung together, the search engine doesn’t recognize the names from the other words.  You can use the keyword search, but wading through 50 pages of results will tire out even the most persistent of us.

By accident I found that you can use quotes around a search term at  So, I gave it a try.  I was trying to find some of my Jones’ relatives so you can understand my challenge.

I tried the search “Gerald Jones”.  He was the son of John Jones and Matilda “Maud” McCoullough.  The search engine turned up four entries.

The first item was this obituary for Anna Alleene Jones:

allenejonesobit1910San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Jan 1904, page 43

I was glad to have found this obituary.  There had been some confusion as to whether John and Matilda’s had a daughter.  Now I have proof of her existence!

Give the quotes a try.  Be sure to try several combinations such as “Gerald Jones”, “Jones, Gerald”, “Gerald F. Jones”.  You never can know how the name might be recorded in the records!


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