™ – Don’t Search Without It

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

Mocavo is an interesting word. It rolls comfortably around the tongue, evoking images somehow dark and mysterious. In actuality, it represents a breath of fresh air in the world of search engines and genealogical research. If you are tired of Google searches which yield thousands of hits, most of which are extraneous to your research needs, look no further than Mocavo. This powerful search engine searches only family history resources – no more hits on Facebook sites, etc.

Mocavo is a new company, with its site launched just over a year ago (16 March 2011), but has strong genealogical leadership. Its CEO, Cliff Shaw, founded GenForum in the late 1990s, and went on to found Pearl Street Software and BackUpMyTree, as well as Smart Matching™, an ancestor-matching algorithm technology. Other members of the team include, most notably, Michael J. Leclerc, Chief Genealogist, who joined Mocavo after many years with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, as well as individuals with experience with Facebook, Adobe, and various other publication and social media sites.

The site’s strength lies in its search capabilities. The company’s blog announcing the March 2011 launch1 stated “Starting today, the general public can use for free. Visitors to are simply required to type in the names of interest and click on Search. All related results from industry sources such as genealogy message boards, family trees, state and local historical societies, the Library of Congress, National Archives, Ellis Island, Find A Grave, the Internet Archive, various U. S. state archives, and many tens of thousands of genealogy sites built by individuals will be displayed. Similar to other search engines, honors site owners by linking directly to their content.” Cliff Shaw was also quoted2: “Genealogy has always had the problem of information and potential clues being spread across thousands of disparate web sites and sources. Imagine a world where you have all of the Web’s free genealogy content at your fingertips within seconds. That is” By the end of 2011, Mocavo had debuted Mocavo Plus, a subscription-based search engine ($79.95 per year) with enhanced features.

Here’s an example:

I am interested in an ancestor named Royal Buffington, born in Windham, Connecticut, on 17 July 1791, who married Eunice Morse in 1810; they had nine children. During his lifetime, Royal lived in Palmer, Massachusetts. Having completed little research on this branch of the family, I do not, at this time, know when or where he died. If I do a Google search for “Royal Buffington,” I am presented with a list of 367,000 results. However, the top four results relate to a Buffington Design LLC in Royal Oak, Michigan. It is only when I get to the fifth and sixth results that I find genealogically-related information. Out of the first ten results, only three are related to my search.

With Mocavo, a basic, or keyword, search for “Royal Buffington” provides 10,899 results. Many of these, however, do not pertain to my Royal Buffington. With Mocavo Plus, however, I can search using the Advanced Search Feature to limit my search more specifically to the desired individual. This feature allows me to enter first name alternates, select “sounds like” for a surname, enter a birth, marriage, death or “any” event date (year, month, date) and location. I can also indicate that I want an entire county searched. In addition, I can indicate exclusions (words or websites), so that if I don’t want to look at individual family trees that have been posted on a family tree site, these results will be excluded.

Turning to Macavo Plus, I entered all the information I knew (and yes, I know that less information is probably the better search, but I wanted to know what would happen). I entered given name, surname, birth date, birth location, and general death location (Massachusetts). There were no results. However, a very useful service is the ability to enter your email address in order to be contacted if information matching your search is found on the site at a later date. I then tried the search removing the birth place –  still no results. Once I removed all birth information (date and place), I received a list of nine results. Among this list was a list of selectmen from the town of Palmer, Massachusetts, which included Royal Buffington in 1839 and 1840.3 Also included was information from a compiled Upham genealogy,and several family trees. Most useful, with new information, was a link to a Find a Grave memorial4 which stated that Royal Buffington died on 23 December 1877 and was buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Belchertown, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. While the entry stated that his birth date was unknown, the rest of the information seems to coincide with what I knew about the family, as his daughter and my third great-grandmother, Cynthia Jane Buffington, lived in Belchertown by at least 1836, and died there in 1899. The family tree links provided as a result of this search have not provided specific information on Royal, himself; they include him, but do not trace him further. Nevertheless, there is useful sibling information included for several generations, plus references to Swansea, in Bristol County, Massachusetts, which open up further avenues for research.

The real message here is that I did not need to narrow a Google search with 367,000 results, nor a basic Mocavo search with almost 11,000. I could narrow my results to just nine, and for each entry I could (1) mark that I had read it before; (2) indicate if it was the person about whom I was interested; and/or specify (3) perhaps a good match; (4) not the person I was looking for; (5) or a broken link. This search has piqued my interest in further analysis of these Royal Buffington results in order to document information more exactly. In addition, my next trip to Massachusetts will include a trip to Hillcrest Cemetery. As many of the known individuals connected to this family are buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Belchertown, I am curious who else of interest might be in Hillcrest.

I also searched for Royal’s wife, Eunice Morse, in a search that included only her name, her birth year (1794), and birth place (Uxbridge, Massachusetts). I received a list of forty results. As many of these did not seem to pertain to my Eunice Morse, I edited the search to include her death date (1864). This revision narrowed the results to thirty-three. I then redid the search excluding results dealing with Framingham, Massachusetts. This reduced the number to three, but none seemed pertinent. I made one last search – this time for Eunice’s father, Joseph, born in Uxbridge, in 1761. Two hundred twenty results were listed, so clearly I am going to have to continue to refine this search. By adding a marriage date, I narrowed the results to 176, some of which, at a cursory glance, look applicable.

I hope that these sample searches provide you with an idea of the usefulness and power of the Mocavo search engine. Be sure to investigate some of the other functionality on the site, “like” Mocavo on Facebook (or your favorite social media site), and read Michael LeClerc’s blog articles regularly. Finally, if you subscribe to Mocavo Plus, you may want to upload your tree and receive email updates containing new possible matches to your ancestors. I will definitely use Mocavo on a regular basis to quickly locate family history information quickly without the irritation of non-genealogical results.



1 “ Launches as World’s Largest Free Genealogy Search Engine,” Mocavo Genealogy Blog, 16 March 2011 ( : accessed 20 June 2012).

2 Ibid.

3 Temple, J. H., History of the Town of Palmer, Massachusetts, Early Known as the Elbow Tract… (Palmer, Mass: Town of Palmer, 1889), 330, Digital images. Mocavo ( : accessed 20 June 2012).

4 Memorial Page for Royal Buffington, d. 23 December 1877, buried in Hillcrest Cemetery, Belchertown, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Find A Grave 10 January 2011 ( : accessed 20 June 2012).


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