Other Advanced Strategies Searching Genealogy Databases Indexesby Brenna Corbit, Technical Services Libarian
If, after trying some of the advanced tips in the previous articles and you are still coming up short, try some of the following tips:
1-Transposed names: Some names are transposed in indexing. Try switching surnames and given names in the search fields. Ships’ manifests often change from a pattern of last name-first name to first name-last name, which wreaks havoc with manual and OCR indexing.
2-Given names that sound like surnames: These names often become confused as surnames: e.g. Jefferson Davis or Patterson Collins. Try switching the names as in number one. I once was searching for a Roland Carl. Both these names can be used as first or last names; therefore, they were often switched when I was searching for the individual.
3-Surname names that sound like given names: e.g. William James or Olivia Charles. Follow the same rules as in number 2.
4-Search by last name, only: Sometimes an indexed given name may be an interpretation of an illegible record, which has no semblance to what was originally written. In some cases, the first name on a record may be missing due to a fold in a page during microfilming, or it may be smudged or faded. Other times the record has initials for a given name. Either, way it will be impossible to search by a first name. Therefore, try searching only the last name in a given area and time. Using other criteria in advanced search functions, such as age and gender will be helpful. And don’t forget variations of names, truncation and wild cards discussed in previous articles.
5-Search by first name, only: This method will often yield a large recall of information, but depending upon which database you are searching, there may be advanced search features to narrow down the search. This method is especially helpful when searching the 1880 to 1940 U.S. Census records because the relationships of household members are given, and advance search fields have options for including a spouse and children. This method was very helpful searching for a Polish family in Philadelphia.
I was helping someone find a Polish family in the 1910 Philadelphia, U.S. Census. The names were Francis and Weronika Czspiga. Since variations of the spelling and using truncation and wildcards yielded nothing, I searched by first name only. I searched for a Fran* (for Frank or Francis) in Philadelphia born in 1882 (plus and minus five years), and I added a spouse to the search, ?eroni?a (for Weronika or Veronica).
And voila, I found a Francis and Veronica Yasecara with the correct address, birth place and children I was expecting to find. An inspection of the original image revealed that the name was, indeed, Yasecara. There can be any number of reasons for the name difference—a language barrier, a neighbor gave the information, a hearing impaired census-taker, loud background noise, etc.
In the next installment of this series, I will expand upon this example by addressing the importance of siblings, other household members, neighbors, occupations and other valuable clues in records.