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  • Searching for Surnames

    Click image for larger versionName:	surnames1.jpgViews:	2Size:	27.4 KBID:	1276756As a registered member you have access to the GEDCOM Database of surnames added by members. Although it is not possible to view your names in a tree diagram, it is a very useful tool for finding contacts on the site.

    Searches are possible using any combination of First Name, Surname, Place of Birth and Year of Birth. Members can also increase the effectiveness of the database by uploading their own GEDCOM files.

    Most genealogists spend hours and hours 'googling' for the surnames in their tree tracking down every link and some find their way to the Family Tree Forum by this route.

    As well as coming across questions asked on threads in the Research Boards, they may find themselves looking at a page from the Surname Directory or a member's User Page.

    Although most people will just search for surnames, an important feature is the ability to search by the name of a location.
    "I like the fact I can search for given villages - it's a neat way to find possible contacts!"

    "Once the initial urge to add name after name to a tree starts to fade, the local history and meat on the bones type of research starts to emerge, by searching our database, not only do name connections appear but so to do place connections.

    Whilst the Cook surname isn't hugely pivotal in my tree (it is a marriage into a direct line surname but not quite to a direct ancestor) there may be a time when something M or myself discover about the place opens up new avenues or common ground. Somewhere the families within the small towns and villages cross paths and what might not be important to M might be just what I need for a breakthrough.

    The database is different things to different people and it can be used in more than one way, it won't help everyone to a connection via a name but the search by place aspect could be just as important an opportunity in some cases."

    The upload process is designed to filter out the details of people who were born within the last 100 years, where no death date or burial date has been given, so if you have a standard GEDCOM file, you can upload it very easily without having to prune out any living people.

    As usual, there is a wealth of help and expertise on hand if you have any problems in using this feature of the site:
    The Surname Directory


    The Surname Directory is housed in The Reference Library. OrIginally created from the lists of 2600+ surnames posted willy nilly on the forum in the first few months of its existence, the surnames in the directory were collected together, indexed, coded and linked to the name of the researcher.

    This area is likely to come up on a search engine, although more unusual names will come nearer the top of the listings.

    For example, a search on Google for "Gamson+Worcestershire" takes you to Surname Directory - G.

    This section has recently developed into the creation of a One Name Study (ONS) page for each surname. On these ONS pages, you can see which members are also looking for the name and have the opportunity to add your own name as well as other background information. At the time of writing, there are 27 members listed as researching Smith.

    Selecting a surname from the Surname Directory will take you to the ONS page for that name. Clicking on the name of the researcher will enable you to send a private message to them through the forum.

    If you are not a registered member, you can register at the top of the page. Once registered, you can add your own name to the page and also add information about the surname.

    Members are able to add their own names to the directory pages. If you get stuck, there is guidance available on Surname Help, but there is always somebody around to help in this.

    User Pages


    All registered members are able to create their own User Page in The Reference Library. Access to these pages is not limited to registered members, so will be found by search engines. For example, a Google search for "de Fraine+Aylesbury" takes you to User:Caroline.

    Members are free to use these pages as they wish and the majority will either use them to give brief outlines of their research or to list the names which appear in their tree. The user can choose to have their page locked to prevent any unauthorised editing.

    Using your "User Page" space in The Reference Library

    Editing your User Page

    Examples of User Pages can be seen here: List of User Pages.


    Often a surname will change over the years, or be prone to being wrongly transcribed. Even in Victorian times many people could not read or write and therefore did not know how their name was spelt. Together with regional accents the vicar or registrar had no alternative but to record the name which they had heard spoken. If you are having difficulty finding a given surname, then think of an alternative spelling or how it would sound spoken in a local accent.

    Finding those names. This page will take you to advice on deciphering old handwriting, including a sympathetic look at the problems faced by transcribers, as well as giving links to pages which describe the orgins of surnames.

    One feature of The Reference Library, is the set of Visual Guides on a variety of subjects. These two pages are representative of these:
    The surname may have been written differently or it may have been mis-transcribed.

    Within the forums, in theSite Projects , there is a section called Reference Library Community Board . In this section there is a thread entitled One name research. Several members have posted their information here about specific surnames e.g. a database of names or a collection of their own research material.
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