Sunday, February 24, 2013

Don’t Neglect a Simple Google Search

I did a little research on my stepfather’s brother (both men deceased) back in 2009.  I knew that his brother had been involved in a maritime double murder and he was sent to prison in 1967.  The last time my stepfather saw or heard from his brother was well before this.  Before he died, my stepfather asked me to look for his brother.  He wanted to know if he was still living and he wanted to contact him.  At that time my stepfather was pretty ill and wanted to know what had happened to his brother before he died.  He didn’t know if his brother was alive, dead or still in prison.  It turns out that he was released from prison in 1989 after serving more than 20 years.  He died in 2008 before my stepfather could reconnect with him.  After my stepfather died in 2010, I decided to look at his family again (you always want to look at a branch of the tree after someone has fallen off of it).   I already had a family group sheet for the brother and I had  found the newspaper articles describing the event on Google News.

I did a plain old Google search using the man’s name but then I decided to put in the name of the boat he was on and the boat the victims were on and I got some hits that I wasn’t expecting.  I found an appellate court opinion!  The owner of the vessel the two victims were on (the dead captain of that boat was not the owner) sued his insurance company.  Apparently, my stepfather’s brother rammed the vessel several times with his own boat capsizing and sinking it after he has committed the murders.  The insurance company didn’t want to pay for the damages to the boat so the owner sued.  There was a clause in the insurance policy that excluded damages from acts of piracy and the insurance company refused to pay the claim based on this clause.  The insurance company won at the lower court level but then the case went up the chain to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court did not agree that this was an act of piracy as the insurance company claimed.  The appellate court overturned the lower court’s ruling and the plaintiff won his case.  This court ruling became case law and is now used in other cases (and that is why it is on the internet).

This was a fascinating read.  Not only did you have the drama of the appellate case but there were details of the actual crime that didn’t make the papers.  Your person of interest may have generated records that you hadn’t even considered and a simple Google search is one way to find them. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. This is quite interesting. I guess sometimes we don't look for the easy


  2. Most of the stuff I find on Google searches is actually in either Google Books or Google News Newspaper Archive. When I do a plain old Google search I usually find family trees posted on private sites and then I can hook up with other researchers and compare notes. Once in a while I will hit pay dirt like this one :)