Tech Tuesday – Finding Surname Variants

Searching ... This is a little trick I learned while listening to a Legacy Family Tree webinar on organizing your research — which is just one of the many bonuses of tuning in to these webinars.

A listener asked if there is a good way to find all of the surname variants. I was interested in this question as well, since I’m always adding to my own personal list, and I was curious as to whether or not my list was getting close to being complete (…is “complete” actually a word in the¬†geneaverse?).

Geoff Rasmussen was the person who came up with two brilliant tips. The first is at Just under “Find YOUR ancestors NOW!” and above the entry boxes for first name and last name is a link for “Name Variants.” A box will pop open and all you have to do is enter in the surname of interest. Easy peasy.

I typed in Cottrell and I was shocked to find how incomplete my own list is. If you really want to see a long list, try typing in Cole. I’m not sure how I’ll manage to incorporate all of these into my full-scale research efforts, but I’m going to try.

The second tool is at Family Search Labs. To get there you go to the main page, scroll down the page and click on Standard Finder. Click on the Name tab and enter the name of interest. There is even a drop down box in which you can choose locales of interest. I’d recommend checking all of those different locales, since in my case some provided more variants than others.

These are two great tools to add to the genealogy research toolbox!!

What surnames are you researching? Are you surprised by how many variants come up — or how few (you lucky dog, you)?

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  1. Dana

    Wow, these are great tips, Lisa! Thanks for sharing! I have the luck of having some surnames that are very uncommon, but that can also make it very hard to find them in all their variations. One example is my Hague surname. I’ve seen it spelled Haag, Haque, Haig, Hauge, Haege, Haeke, Hacke, Houge, Hogue, Hogg, Hoag…yeah. So thanks! I’ll use these for sure.

  2. 1ancestry2littletime

    Hi Dana – I’m glad you liked the tip — it’s one of those things that seemed so simple after I heard about it; if only I had known about it sooner!! Let us know if it helps you find any new leads. :-)

  3. Lisa

    These are two great tools! I can’t wait to try the name variant tool. Every time I think I have a “complete” list of various surname spellings, one more shows up. Thanks for the heads up!

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