Build an Internet Search

One common activity in genealogical research, is searching for ancestors on the Internet. There are many websites which contain information which could help us to learn what we don’t know or to document what we do know. Separating one individual from among all the individuals in a database is done by specifying information about that person which will make him/her unique, or at least one of a much smaller group of individuals.

This is often accomplished by entering information about that person into a Search Form. Below is a search form from

Some of the information you would enter into this form is found in your .aq or .paf file.  Ancestral Quest can take this information from your file, pass it to a website, and instruct that website to do a search for the person you want to find. This is done by appending a Search String to the URL (Universal Resource Locator, or address) of the website’s Search Function. This is what the program within the Search Form will do when you click on the Search button.

Ancestral Quest can build a Search String to look just like the one which would be built by the Search Form, and pass that to the Search Function of a website. Let’s take a look at how this is done.  We’ll start by looking at the Ancestral Quest side of this process. Here is a Name List view of my file, showing that the highlighted person is my grandfather, George Albert Beattie Crombie McIntyre.

If I try to enter this information into the Search Form, I will find that Grandpa’s Given Name field from my file, will not fit into the form.

If I try to search with this information, this is my result:

Grandpa’s name will not fit into the form, so they can’t find his record.  I’ll follow the advice they gave me, and shorten his given name to George.

Now, when I search I get this result:

Now I want to have Ancestral Quest perform that same search, almost. Notice that on the Search Form there is a check box for ‘Include maiden name(s) in my search.‘ Birth certificates list a female under her maiden name, and that is how we store their records in Ancestral Quest, but they are usually buried under their married name. This check box will tell Find A Grave to search both their Surname and their Maiden Name fields of the FindAGrave database. Grandpa isn’t female, but about half of the people in my file are. I want to be able to search for them too.

Now let’s look at how we get Ancestral Quest to build this Search String, and instruct Find A Grave to do this search. Click on the Internet tab of the Menu bar, and select Favorite Sites….

Find A Grave isn’t listed as one of my Favorite Sites, so I will click on Add.

From the screen above, I learn that there are two types of websites that I can access through this function, Page websites and Search websites. I will want to access a Search website.

I entered the Title: Find That Grave, and I clicked the check box to indicate that this will be a Search website. Now I need to enter a URL and build the Search String. To see what the URL and Search String should look like, I will go back to my search for George McIntyre. One other thing I need to do, is to add a space to his name.  Ancestral Quest needs to know what character this website uses to represent a space, so I will change the way I spell McIntyre to Mc Intyre. With the spelling changed, I will again click on the Search button. This will cause the website to rebuild the URL and Search String.

I can see that the spelling in Mc Intyre was changed to Mc+Intyre. I will right Right Click on the new URL and select Copy. Now that I have this in my clipboard, I will return to Ancestral Quest.

I enter  + to show how spaces are represented, and I paste the URL into the URL field. I press the Home key, and use the Right Arrow key to start searching for the information I entered into the Search Form.

I find the characters fn=George. I interpret this to mean that the first name = George. I could leave this here, but that would mean that the only people I could search for are those whose first name is George. What I really want is for Ancestral Quest to take the first name from the Given Names field in my .aq file, and place it in the blue highlighted space above.

From the above list of possible codes, I see two that will give me the first name. %%FN%% will give me the entire First Name field. For Grandpa, this would be George Albert Beattie Crombie. We already know that this will not find any results at this website. We need to remember that when it comes to searches, sometimes Less is More. %%FO%% will shorten the given name to George, so I replace the blue highlighted name George with %%FO%%.

I have replaced the given name with the %%FO%% code. As Ancestral Quest searches through this Search String, it finds this code and replaces it with the first only given name from the .aq/.paf file. I find the next field in the Search String that I recognize. This is the Surname, so I replace it with %%LN%%.

I continue parsing through the Search String, and I find the years of my grandfather’s birth and death. I replace them with %%BY%% and %%DY%% respectively.

I click on OK to save my changes.

My Favorite Site, Find That Grave, is now listed as a searchable website and my modified URL will be saved as soon as I click on Close.

With Grandpa’s name highlighted, I click on Internet on the Menu bar, and select Search Favorite Sites….

I highlight Find That Grave, and click on Perform Internet Search.

I click on ‘McIntyre, George A B’ and returns the following page:

I can highlight other records in my file, and I find them, if they have been entered into the Find A Grave database.

You may want to search some other Internet database. The process is the same:

Create a Search String using the search form from that database.

Copy the Search String into the URL field.

Replace your recognized search values with the replacement codes which cause AQ to insert those values.

Save the results.

perform the search.

Suggestions/Questions about AQ Will Do or Subjects discussed here? Leave a Comment.


  1. Annette Christensen

    Thanks, I was able to do it. Still can’t find the person I’m looking for. Thanks again

    • Keep up the good work!

  2. Annette Christensen

    Oops, found a form.

  3. Annette Christensen

    I got lost right in the beginning. Where do I find a search form?

I would like to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: