Weekly Planner: Create a Master List of Surnames and Variations

When we’re searching databases for those hard to find ancestors, we often find ourselves rotating in any number of variations for that surname. It’s easy to lose track. Create a list of variants and keep it handy by your computer. Then just go down the list to get a more complete search than just entering names at random. It serves as a reminder so you don’t miss anything and also makes it easier to log what names and variations you’ve searched for.

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7 thoughts on “Weekly Planner: Create a Master List of Surnames and Variations

  1. I’ve been looking for Elizabeth Carver on 1851 England Census for two years now. I found her under Carrer!!
    List will be very helpful.

  2. I started a surname list a few years ago, adding a given name list. It has proved to be very helpful.

  3. I’ve kept a surname list for quite awhile now, and add to it when I find a new variation. It’s been a great memory jogger, also. When all else fails, I use Soundex.

  4. When searching for my great-grandfather’s ancestors and siblings in Clay Co., IL. I thought I had used every variation of Robertson. When I finally found my g-g grandfather he was listed in the 1850 census as Robison. Now another variation of spelling to add to my list.

  5. Another tip in your searching on Ancestry is to use wild cards and to sometimes not even use last names or any names. For example I have found quite a few people by just putting in the approximate age and a first name or an age and place of birth or first name of subject and first name of parent or spouse. In addition to enumerators just flat out spell the name wrong there are the indexers who cannot read the handwriting of the enumerator. But the idea to write down all the variations of spelling is very good, because you may be searching other data bases that are not as flexible as Ancestry.


  7. About 5-10 years ago, we used to get our photos with plastic sleeves to put the photos in [mine went into the photo book or a box, later on that disaster] anyway, I protect my surname lists in this sleeves, easy to view, change to different surnames, compare, etc. Each sleeve is labled on front and back with the surnames of the husband, wives, etc., facing pages show the husband and wife. Started with handwritten and stickys, then to computer generated file cards. I also keep a “back up” on a 3.5 floppy of each set of sleeves [after fomatting and labeling]. All fit into a small easy to carry cardboard box]. Easy to update at a location with my “old travelin’puter, then update when I am home.

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