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World Vital Records – how to get better search results

World Vital Records Australasia has about 50 million names for Australia and New Zealand in a variety of databases. These include directories, government and police gazettes, some electoral rolls, death records, war records, regional and general histories and more. Some of these, especially for Queensland, are in structured databases. However 90% of the current Australasian content is scanned images of books and periodicals.

Structured databases
These have records in tabular form, with specific fields for first name, last name, place and date etc – as applicable. They can be searched successfully by entering information directly into the First Name / Last Name / Place or Keyword fields in either the Basic or Advanced searches. It may still better though to use a single name or place in the Keyword field of the Advanced Search initially, even if you know you are searching a structured database. In either case you can use the “Narrow to” options to refine your search if you get too many results to examine.

Books, newspapers, gazettes
These are usually images of pages with underlying searchable text. As with the excellent Australian Newspaper Digitisation Program, these unstructured databases cannot identify a word as a name or place – it is just search text. Using the Place and Year fields to search these databases will generally miss most instances of matches that are actually present in the data. Keyword searches are definitely the best option for this data (click on the SEARCH button in the blue navigation bar at the top of the screen or the Advanced Search option in the Begin Your Search box on the Home page to locate the Keyword search). Entering multiple words in the Keyword search may help better identify entries relevant to you – be careful not to have too many.

A general rule
Usually you will want to do a search across all databases available – both structured and unstructured. You will get best results if you always start with just a single name (or place or other word) in the Name or Keyword field – or try both as they may give different results. Focus your search by selecting the State/Country or Category of interest in the “Narrow to” section of the search box – rather than using Place in the main Search box.

A tip
As most of your searching will be in a specific country or state, start with the red “Search by Region” button just below the WVR logo. If you know the kind of record you want to search (e.g. directories, military records, government records, electoral rolls) you can elect to search just those records from this menu as well.

I am interested in questions, comments or tips of your own to help identify issues people have and ways to deal with them. You feedback will be useful.

Added 24 October URL – http://www.worldvitalrecords.com.au/