Making the Most of Your Search for that Elusive Piece

Shipman Blog II

By Brian Shipman

Finding that elusive piece can be frustrating. Below are tips and tricks on how to make the most of your live searches and your saved Wantlist searches to help you find exactly what you want.

Here is a challenging search I face: I want to know when anything related to my last name (Shipman) comes up for auction. But there are a few things I see over and over again that I don’t want to see. How do I craft a search that works for me?

I am a direct descendant of Moses Shipman. His brother was Daniel Shipman. Both were part of The Old Three Hundredmen who received land grants from Stephen F. Austin in Texas while the state was still in its infancy. Daniel Shipman wrote a book called Frontier Life: 58 Years in Texas. If this book, or anything related to either Moses or Daniel, or any other of my extended Shipman clan lands at Heritage – I want to know.

If I enter the keyword Shipman alone in my search, I get results from…

Shipman

How do I create one search that keeps those things that I want but eliminates those things that I don’t?

Like so…

shipman NOT “gary shipman” NOT “nell shipman” NOT tuthill

That gives me exactly what I want – for now. Easy enough, right?  How about something more sophisticated?

If I had unlimited funds, I would love to collect documents handwritten and/or signed by these presidential greats: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. The first idea would be to create four distinct searches. Just using a former President’s name is not going to work, because I am going to get all kinds of historical items, fine art, and other collectibles that fall outside the documents I seek.

Let’s start with George Washington.

“George Washington” (signed OR autographed OR signature)

Let’s talk about why this is a good start.

  • Using quotes is better than not using quotes, because a search without them may yield anything with “George” AND “Washington” in the title
  • The parenthesis are important because we are using OR. Without the parenthesis, anything with “autographed” or “signature” will appear

I say it’s a good start, because I still get more than I want. I see results about George Washington Hood and George Washington Carver. Great men, no doubt, but they don’t happen to fall into my quest at the moment. Here’s how to eliminate the extras…

(“george washington” NOT “George Washington Hood” NOT “George Washington Carver”)  (signed or autograph or signature)

Now most of my results seem to be what I want. There are a few items here and there that stray, but not so much that I’m unable to tolerate them. And, I’m afraid if I get more stringent I may lose something unintentionally.

Now that I’ve crafted a solid search for one of my four Presidents, I could run queries for all four using this same basic technique. That seems time consuming and repetitive. What I want to do as a power user is to craft a single search that does everything I want and save it as a Wantlist so it is always there. Here’s what I came up with.

((“george washington” NOT “George Washington Hood” NOT “George Washington Carver”)
OR “John Adams” OR “Thomas Jefferson” or “Abraham Lincoln”  )
((signed or autograph or signature) NOT “artist signed”)

This query may look a little scary, but don’t let it intimidate you. Your parenthesis make sure things are done in the proper order and the NOTs get rid of unwanted results. ANDs are implied (though you can still use them) and ORs help expand your search. And, in one query, I’ve captured multiple current items up for auction and 700+ more to research in the auction archives.

To save real time, I have saved this search in MyWantlist so that I get an email automatically whenever something new comes to the auction block. I love it when that email pops in my inbox unexpectedly, announcing that more of what I am seeking is available for bidding. And even when I am impatient and don’t want to wait for the email, MyWantlist has all my searches ready to go in one click so I can see them now, instead of having to recreate them from the beginning.

Interested in more about how to better find what you want? Watch this video tutorial.

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3 comments to Making the Most of Your Search for that Elusive Piece

  1. Joe says:

    Excellent post! This has shed new light on how best to search and not get hundreds of unwanted results. Bravo!

  2. Debbie says:

    Love this. I had a flashback (nightmare) of my Fortran punch card class when we had to spell out everything. Great post and I learned a few tricks now. Maybe I can go back and repeat that class since I didn’t do so well in 1980!

  3. Antoine says:

    There’s certainly a great deal to learn about
    this subject. I love all the points you made.

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