I love FamilySearch. I love FamilySearch more every day. The records I have been able to find for my family just in the last week have included an 1854 church marriage record from County Durham in England, 1855 and 1857 baptismal records for that couple’s son and daughter, an 1885 Champaign County, Illinois marriage record, a 1931 Pierce County, Washington death certificate and more. I found all those images, for free, in just minutes, all from the comfort of my living room. Every day, FamilySearch adds more images to their vast collection of digitized records, which any researcher, anywhere in the world, can access to learn more about their family.
Many of these collections are not searchable by name on FamilySearch, but there are ways to browse the collections of images to find what you want. For example in addition to the volumes of death certificates for the City of Los Angeles, FamilySearch has also digitized the indexes to those volumes. Search for a name in the index volume to find the certificate number, and then look in the film of death certificates to find the actual certificate.
But I want to caution you a bit about the indexes. Sometimes FamilySearch puts the index books in the wrong place. What do I mean? Here’s an example.
FamilySearch has a wonderful collection, “California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994.” (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2001287). If you look on the page, you will see search boxes, but when you read the description, you’ll see some limitations – “The name index for death records covers Stockton, Lodi and Manteca cities and San Benito and San Joaquin counties.” If you want records for other counties, scroll to the bottom of this page to where it says “Browse through 2,915,415 images.”
When you click on that link, you’ll see a list of counties and towns. Here’s a small portion of that list.
“Los Angeles, Long Beach,” “Los Angeles, Los Angeles,” and “Los Angeles, Pasadena” will link you to records for those three cities, while plain old “Los Angeles” will give you records for the County of Los Angeles.
On FamilySearch when you drill down and click on the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” link. Over 700 links will appear, starting with links to Birth Certificates, then Death Certificates, then finally, at the bottom of the list are the Death Indexes.
Since these records appear under the title “Los Angeles, Los Angeles, they should be just for the City of Los Angeles. Should be. But this is where the researcher needs to beware.
Here’s just one selection from the titles of the indexes:
Look carefully and you will see some overlap. “Death index 1928-1929 vol 14, A-L” and the same for “…M-Z.” But the item immediately below that is “Death index 1928 vol 22, A-Z” and then “Death index 1929 vol 23, A-Z.” Same years. Why are they repeated, and why do they have different volume numbers?
Here’s what I see when I click on the 1928-1929 volume 14 item:
Image 1 of 308 shows the cover of the book, perhaps the most important image in that set. Because, although FamilySearch has placed this digitized item in the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” section of records, it is NOT for the City of Los Angeles, it’s for LA County.
Here is image 5 of the “Death index 1928 vol 22, A-Z”:
You can see it says “Los Angeles City” on the spine of the book.
If you find a certificate number in Volume 14, the book for Los Angeles County, and then try to look for it in the City of Los Angeles death records for 1928, it won’t be there. You’ll find whosoever's LA city death certificate has that number.
Be sure to look at the image of the spine of the book of records you're to see what it covers before you go diving into the index!
And the second issue is that when you look at plain old Los Angeles County, you won’t see an index to the LA county death certificates… because FamilySearch has incorrectly placed the index for the county under the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” title.
I have alerted FamilySearch to this issue and hopefully they will correct it soon. This is just one instance of digital images being put in an incorrect location on FamilySearch. I know that there are probably a few more. If you don’t see what you expect to see, dig a little deeper, look at the images of the book covers, and see if you can figure out where the image you’re looking for might be. With all the great documents FamilySearch give me, this researcher is OK with having to beware and dig a little deeper once in a while.
Counties across the country use different methods to index their deeds, probates, naturalizations and other records. They are generally based on some alphabetical combination. It may be as simple as using separate sections of the index book for each surname that begins with a particular letter. All the grantors whose surnames begin with “A” are listed in order of when they recorded the deed. Or it might be a more complicated arrangement using two or three letters in the surname, perhaps combined with the first letter of the given name.
FamilySearch continues to digitize more records, making available record images that are not searchable by name and can only be browsed. But if you know how to use these county level indexes, you should have no trouble locating your ancestor in these valuable records.
I’ve written before about the Graves Tabular Initial Index and a West Virginia will index. I’ve been working on a presentation on the ins and outs of indexes for the Lewis County Genealogical Society next month, so I thought I’d write about using another indexing scheme.
Most counties I have run across have a set of Grantor indexes listing people who sold (or otherwise transferred) property, along with a similar set of Grantee indexes for people who purchased property. But Belmont County, Ohio combines the two into one set of books. How does that work?
To start with, you need to know the surname and first name of the party you are interested in. You can access the deed indexes for Belmont at https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/247145. Across the top of each page in the Deed Index for Belmont is a chart. The first letter of the surnames are listed across the page, and beneath each of these letters are the 26 letters corresponding to the first letter of the given name. Next to each of these letters is a page number where you will find that Last Name/Given Name combination listed.
Here’s the chart shown at the top of all the left-hand pages in the books:
I should find any transactions for Peter Cilles on page 72.
And when I go to page 72, here’s what I see for Peter:
You can see that there are 2 columns with names. The index only applies to the first column. Between the two “Name” columns is a narrow strip with either “to” or “F” (for “From”) recorded. In the first entry, Peter Chilles et al are transferring property TO Jno. M. Korcher. In the third entry, P. R. Cook et al are acquiring property FROM Mary Smith et al. Looking to the right we can see the volumes and pages where we can find the actual deeds (and get some idea who theses “et al” others actually are.) The index also gives a very brief description of the property, showing the number of acres, the Section, Township and Range where the property is located and what the transfer price was.
In this case Peter Cilles is my person of interest, and I now have all the information I need to find his deed. If Jno Korcher was my guy, the letter table above would point me to find the corresponding entry in the same book on page 225.
The transaction with Peter Cilles is the third one down, but you can see that John Korcher acquired a number of pieces of property in Section 25 around that same time.
This kind of index is an efficient way to search. You can find all the transactions for your ancestor for a given time span, both buying and selling, all in the same book. Happy hunting!
Boy, wouldn’t you like to be able to find your great-grandparents marriage record? But you feel like you have no idea where to start. Just take it one step at a time, and wring every clue out of every document, even those clues that are hidden.
I’m searching for the marriage record of Joseph Lawson and his wife, Katherine Fay. They married in 1894, according to a history book about the maritime history of the Great Lakes. Though the 1890 US Federal census was destroyed, I’m fortunate that New York State took a census in 1892 and I’ve found likely candidates for both Joseph and Katherine in Buffalo.
But the big problem with that 1892 census is there are no addresses on it. If I knew what her address was in 1892, I’d have some idea where she likely went to church, which might give me a clue where she was married so I can get the parish register. But with no address on the census, and the young lady I’m looking at a servant girl who isn’t listed in a city directory, I’m kind of stuck.
Katie is listed Fourth Election District of the Sixth Ward. I could probably do some research to figure out what that is, but it may be a big area, and I still won’t know her address. But I can dig a little into Katie’s household.
The 1892 census in Buffalo doesn’t separate the households in any way. Katie is the third name down, then I see a different surname, and then a bunch of people named Dechert, which looks like a new household to me. So I just need to scroll up Katie’s household in the previous column to see if I can find someone who looks like the head of Katie’s household.
The household has clerks and laborers, a hostler and some others, but as I scroll up, I see Francis McSherry a hotel keeper. This looks like his household and the dozen or so names beneath his are boarders in his establishment.
And I know a man with a hotel is likely to be listed in a city directory.
393 Ellicott. I have an address for Francis, which give me an address for Katie. And using that same city directory I can see Joseph Lawson lived at 420 Fargo in Buffalo.
With that address it ought to be pretty easy to map the Catholic churches around their two addresses, and start looking for their marriage record.
Wring every clue out of your documents, even those hidden clues.
 Profile of Joseph Lawson from History of the Great Lakes,( http://www.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/GreatLakes/Documents/HGL2/default.asp?ID=s683 – accessed 25 July 2017)
I recently presented “Censational Census Strategies” for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. In it, I mentioned the second enumeration to the 1870 census.
The 1870 census is purported to be the worst US census ever taken. There were enough people missed and enough errors that a second enumeration was ordered for a few large cities, including New York City. This second enumeration was taken in January of 1871. How can you find this second enumeration?
If you have an Ancestry.com subscription, you can do a search for the 1870 census. Once you get there, on the right side of the screen you will see "Browse this collection" and you can specify your state (NY) county (NY) and then use the dropdown for the town and you will see something like: “New York Ward 1 District 1,” then ”New York Ward 1 District 1 (2nd Enum).” You can then browse through the pages. However, you may not know the Enumeration District (ED.)
If you don’t have an Ancestry.com subscription, you may have access to HeritageQuest databases from home using your library card. This is one of the databases many libraries provide to their patrons, for free, from home. Look on your library’s website for something like “Research“ or “Databases” and then for a Genealogy or History category. Again, if you don’t know your ancestor’s ED, this might not be so useful.
I would suggest you just do a straight up name search for your ancestor, and try to find them on both enumerations. If you can only find them on one, pick 3 or 4 neighbors on that enumeration, and then look for them on the other enumeration, and see if you can't find your ancestor. Hope that helps!
I wrote a blog post in February, “No Image Available? Maybe There is One!” In it, I described searching on FamilySearch and coming with a hit on an index record, complete with the dreaded “No image available” message. I outline a workaround where sometimes you can find the image on FamilySearch.
A similar situation sometimes happens with an Ancestry.com search. I recently found a result on Ancestry for an 1885 Iowa census record.
In my search for John Goodall, I got this screen on Ancestry. Note the “No Image – Text-only Collection” notation on the top left. But near to the bottom are two important notations – “Family History Film: 1021457” and a few lines above that “Page Number: 363.” Let’s see what I can find on FamilySearch!
On familysearch.org/catalog/search, I typed the film number in the box labeled “Film/Fiche Number” and clicked “Search.”
I got one result.
When I clicked on “State census, 1885” I got a couple of options.
Where it says “Records of Iowa State Census, 1885 are available online, click here” I clicked and entered John Goodall and Crawford in the name and residence boxes. My first hit looked like the one I was looking for:
When I clicked on the document icon, I get a transcription of the record, a source citation, and a link to the census image.
Here's the image
In this case, FamilySearch had the “Records of Iowa State Census, 1885 are available online, click here” button, which took me to a search page. If they hadn’t had that direct link, I could have scrolled further down the “State Census, 1885” page until I got to film number 1021457.
Again, with the magnifying glass image, I was able to search the film, but even without the search capability, the presence of the camera icon is a clue that I can browse the records. I’ll be linked to the correct film and will just need to poke around until I find page 363.
Note that sometimes when you click on the camera icon, you’ll get a message that the records are only available for viewing at a Family History center. It all depends on the agreement that FamilySearch has with the agency who owns the records. I like to save these searches up, and monthly or so make a trip to my local Family History Center and look at all the images I can’t get from home.
But remember, when you’re searching on Ancestry and they won’t show you the record image, if you see a reference to a “Family History Film” follow my steps and see if you can find the image on FamilySearch. For free, even! Score!!!
On Sunday I posted a transcription of a letter my uncle wrote to my grandparents on 8 July 1942 describing leaving his home in San Francisco and traveling to Navy boot camp in San Diego.
When you are reading and sharing your family letters, it will be a much richer experience if you take the time to understand the context in which the letter was written. Here are some ideas to get you started in researching the context.
Look for images. Warren mentioned several places in his letter, among them the Federal Building in San Francisco and the Santa Fe railroad depot in Los Angeles. I was able to do image searches on google and find historical photos of those buildings. Libraries and state archives are another good resource for finding vintage images of buildings. With these searches I was able to go back in time and see what my uncle saw.
I knew that Warren was in the navy, and I was able to use Fold3 to discover a bit more about his experience. A 31 December 1943 muster roll from the submarine Searaven showed an enlistment date of 6 July 1942, just two days before he wrote the letter. That immediately got me thinking about what my 21-year-old uncle might have been feeling – excitement, fear, homesickness and more.
I thought about the date. July 6 was a Monday. Just two days after Independence Day, the most patriotic of holidays. I imagine the first 4th of July after Pearl Harbor must have held some particularly impassioned celebrations. Might those have perhaps prompted Warren to enlist? What was going on in San Francisco and the world at that time?
I looked at the San Francisco Chronicle and found some answers. On Sunday 5 July 1945, page 1 of the comics ran the cartoon, “Terry and the Pirates.” In this strip, the evil Chinese captor threatens Muzz and derides her independence. Mazz ponders the words of the Declaration of Independence regarding the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and how we must invest in our futures to keep those rights.
Elsewhere in the same paper, above the masthead on page 1 of the news section, was a striking photograph, the full width of the page, captioned “Yesterday, San Francisco saw a parade. San Francisco has seen other parades, many of them, but never one like this. For passing grimly down Market street marched sudden death. This was typified by a 3200-man combat team of the Army of the United States. Armed to the teeth, this unit, however, was not unique. It was only representative of hundreds of other such units in the United States and over the world ready – and anxious – for a scrap. Above, infantrymen of the unit march by with fixed baoynets.”[i] Other page 1 stories included “New Zealanders Pile Into Rommell; The Tide MAY Be Turning in Battle of Egypt,” “First Yank Flyers Skim Dutch Housetops to Bomb 3 Airdromes in Nazi Europe” and more.[ii] It seems that every day the first several pages of the Chronicle were filled with accounts of the war. Warren must have had those stories in his mind when he enlisted and as he wrote his parents of his experiences as a new recruit.
When you’re reading old correspondence, make sure you spend some time studying the history, reading the local newspapers of the time, and finding images to make your family letters and the people who wrote them come alive.
[i] San Francisco Chronicle, 5 July 1942, page 1, col 1.
[ii] San Francisco Chronicle, 5 July 1942, page 1
I was recently looking for Van Wert County, Ohio records. On Linkependium in the Estate Records category there was a link to Ancestry.com’s “Ohio Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998.” I reasoned Linkpendium wouldn’t have sent me to Ancestry if it didn’t have any records for Van Wert. But when I searched for some surnames that I knew had probates in Van Wert County, those didn’t show up in Ancestry’s list of results.
Finally I just searched with NO surname and "Van Wert County and I got 2509 results! And I’m afraid none of the results were terribly useful. You can see below that on page 1 of results, not one of them has a name and only 2 even have dates:
It’s not until page 25 of the results that any additional entries with dates show up, and still they don't show names. In fact in the entire list of results, all 51 pages, no names are listed. None.
I clicked on a random item on Page 37 of the results, an 11 Jun 1888 probate. The abstract entry gives me the date and place but no name. When I click on the image, I can see quite clearly a probate record for Anthony McQueen, deceased.
If you try to use the search boxes to find Anthony McQueen, you will come up empty, not because there is no record, but because Ancestry has not indexed this particular set of records by name for this place and time. On the search page for “Ohio Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998” Ancestry describes the collection, saying:
"The records come from a collection of microfilm that took years to compile. They have been brought together from multiple courthouses over time to give you a single source to search. Some localities and time periods may not be included because they were not available to be acquired as part of this collection, or the records may have been lost or destroyed before the effort to collect them all began… For details on which counties and records are included in this collection, please explore the browse menu.”
If you “Browse,” you see Van Wert is one of the counties with records. Ancestry’s search page has boxes, but because they have not indexed the Van Wert records by name, the search boxes are worthless. That doesn’t mean the records aren’t there. It only means the records are not searchable, they are only browsable. But Ancestry doesn’t give you any clues that this is the case. To me, the mere presences of the search boxes on the screen below should indicate these records are searchable.
The takeaway here… On any search on Ancestry, if you don’t get a hit, don’t immediately walk away. First, search for a very common name, something like Smith or Brown, which ought to be found at least once in the records. If you still come up with no result, try searching just by place with no name in the search boxes. If you come up with no result, this probably means Ancestry doesn’t have records of that type for that location. But if you get some "hits" on you no-name search, Ancestry probably has some records and you'll have to figure out how to browse through them. Browsing isn't always the speediest process. But by being willing to try a No-Name search you might discover that there are records.
One more thing about these records -- to me they look a lot like the digitized films from FamilySearch. You may have an easier time going directly to FamilySearch and browsing there. I find the interface on FamilySearch provides a clearer way to recognize which records are Browse-only and an easier method to see all the browsable items in the particular collection.
For another post about browsing on FamilySearch see "Understanding Indexes in County Records - Graves Tabular Initial Index" which talks about just one of the many kinds of indexes that make browsing easier.
In my latest post on the Julia Achard story, “Julia Achard and the Death of Sarah Ahern,” I quoted from some coroner’s inquest records. Are you using coroner’s inquests to fill in your family history? If not, maybe you should be.
If a decedent’s death was under “suspicious” circumstances, a coroner may have been called in to investigate. “Suspicious” could mean some sort of accident, a suicide, or an unattended or unexpected death. The coroner may eventually deem that the unexpected death was due to natural causes, but if the decedent had not been under a doctor’s care, or recently seen by a physician, there might be some question as to the cause of death and require a coroner’s investigation in the matter.
Where can you find coroners’ records? You can contact the county where the death occurred to see if there was an inquest. The coroner might be a branch of the sheriff’s department or might have an office unto itself. When in doubt, do a little digging on the internet, or contact the county sheriff and they can point you in the right direction.
Some coroner’s records are available on FamilySearch. Do a “Place search” in the catalog for the county and state of interest https://familysearch.org/catalog/search). In the catalog section under “Vital records” for that county, you might find “Coroner’s records” listed. Stark County, Ohio is one place that FamilySearch has made the coroner’s records available (https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/1922540?availability=Family%20History%20Library).
When looking at on-line records, you may find that some of the pages have been blacked out due to privacy restrictions.
What might prompt a researcher to look at coroner’s records? Sometimes the death certificate might indicate if there was an autopsy done. A coroner’s report might provide more details. Or maybe you found a newspaper article about the death which hints at an accident, a suicide or something otherwise suspicious. A newspaper article might even mention that a coroner's inquest would be held. Or maybe the only death “certificate” you can locate is a line item in a death register, where the “Cause of Death” column notes “blood poisoning” or “RR accident.”
Though the term "R.R. Accident" might seem self-explanatory following up with a coroner’s report can give you many more details of just what happened. And if you find a young woman died of blood poisoning, you'll definitely want to look for coroner's records - many of these cases, were similar to the story of Sarah Ahern, the result of an illegal operation to terminate a pregnancy.
Some coroner’s reports are more extensive than others. I’ve seen some one-page pre-printed, fill-in-the-blank forms and at the other end of the spectrum, some six-page or longer reports which include transcriptions of the testimonies of several witnesses. But with each one, I came away with more details about the death I was researching.
Here’s one example… I found a brief article on Newspapers.com in The Akron Beacon Journal of 27 January 1896 indicating Andrew McGowan and George Thorn were killed by a train on the Fort Wayne road near Massillon, Ohio.[i] I was able to find their death records on FamilySearch.[ii] For each man, the ledger-style death record showed the cause of death as “R. R. Accident.”
But from the coroner’s records, many more details come to light regarding the death of “George Thorn, whose dead body was found at Newmans Creek Crossing alonth The P. Ft. W. Railway track on the 26th day of January A.D. 1896…” Coroner T. C. McQuate states that after examining the body and heard the evidence “I do find the deceased…George Thorn in company with his friend McGugan were killed while intoxicated and trespassing on the P. Ft. W. R. track. Said Thorn and McGugan were on their way home, going westward on The P. Ft. W. Ry track. Said Thorn got close to a curve in the track about 100 yards above Newmans Crossing, he was struck and killed, said curve hiding view so they could not see east bout train, till it struck and accidentally killed him.”[iii] McQuate reports much the same regarding the death of “Auda McGugan.”[iv]
As you can see, the coroner’s report provides significantly more detail than the “R.R. Accident” noted in the death register. If you haven’t used coroner’s records in your genealogy research, it might be time to have a look at some!
[i] “Miners Killed,” The Akron Beacon Journal, 27 January 1896, page 3, col 1, from Newspapers.com, accessed 5 March 2017
[ii] "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001," database with images, FamilySearch.org. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89ZR-VGKJ?mode=g&cc=2128172 : accessed 5 March 2017), Thornton, Geo. W, 26 Jan 1896; citing Death, Newman, Lawrence Township, Stark, Ohio, United States, source ID v 3 p 534, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 897,621 AND "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F665-QQS : accessed 5 March 2017), Andrew Mcgougan, 26 Jan 1896; citing Death, Newman, Lawrence Township, Stark, Ohio, United States, source ID v 3 p 376, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 897,621.
[iii] "Ohio, Stark County Coroner's Records, 1890-2002," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9GKR-X9N?cc=1922540&wc=SNB8-SPJ%3A218158301 : 21 May 2014), > image 172 of 209; County Records Center, Canton.
[iv] "Ohio, Stark County Coroner's Records, 1890-2002," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GGKR-X51?cc=1922540&wc=SNB8-SPJ%3A218158301 : 21 May 2014), > image 174 of 209; County Records Center, Canton.
Don’t you just hate it when you search for an ancestor on FamilySearch and you get a hit for what you know is the correct record, and then you see the dreaded “No image available”? Well last week in the Family History Library, the absolute nicest woman, Sister Hays, taught me a nifty little trick that just might get you around the “No image available” roadblock. Here’s how you do it…
In my example I searched for a marriage record for Edward Barrett. I knew from his death certificate his wife’s name was Catherine. He was born about 1855 so I guessed he was married between 1875 and 1890. I plugged that into FamilySearch and the second result looked promising.
I clicked on the document icon and I could see a little more.
Note, the dreaded “No image available.” Well, Sister Hays, sitting right next to me said “I maybe know a way around that. It doesn’t always work, but let’s try it.” And so we did.
Step 1 is to copy the film number, as I’ve highlighted in yellow. Next, go to the FamilySearch catalog search and in the box for Film/Fiche number, paste the film number, like so….
Click on Search, and you’ll get… Search Results. Fancy that!
“Marriage records, 1801-1951” is a hyperlink to the next screen. You’ll have to scroll down to see the film notes, but lookey here, there’s a camera icon. That means pictures!
I got an array of thumbnails of microfilm images. For this particular film there are two batches of marriage records, the first from 1875-1884, and the second batch from 1885 to 1890. Edward and Kate were married in 1887 so I worked my way down to the second set. The first few pages in each set of records are an index, which appears to be alphabetical by the first letter of the groom’s name, and then in somewhat chronological order by the date the marriage was recorded.
Edward’s index entry was found on image 396 of 768.
This told me their marriage record would be on page 420. (Note this is not image 420. It’s the register page labeled 420, which happens to be on image 646.) And look at the fruits of my labor!
It's the sideways one in the upper left corner. And here in all it's glory...
This little trick doesn’t work with every “No image available” record. But thanks to Sister Hays I now know a workaround to try.
I’m certainly thankful for the week and a half of research I’ve been able to do at this wonderful library with its incredibly helpful staff. If you haven’t been here, definitely put it on your research bucket list.
One of these names is not like the others. Can you tell which one? If you guessed Van Horn, guess again. It’s Ahern. Huh? Yeah… Ahern.
For a long time (far too long!) I assumed when I typed the surname, AHERN, into the search boxes on FamilySearch.org that it would pick up not just AHERN, but also some of the common variants such as AHEARN and AHERNE. But recently I discovered that for some inexplicable reason AHERN garners its own set of results.
I did some searches in two New Jersey record sets – “New Jersey Births and Christenings, 1660-1980” and “New Jersey, Births, 1670-1980,” limiting the results to a birthplace of Somerset County, New Jersey and birth years between 1847 and 1900. I was looking for birth records of the children and grandchildren of my great-great grandfather, James AHERN, and his three brothers, all immigrants from Ireland.
With the search for AHERN I received 13 results. In each of the results the surname of the child and the father was indexed with the identical spelling, AHERN. Closer examination of these results, looking at birth and/or christening dates and parents’ names revealed some of them were duplicates of others in the batch of 13 records. Eliminating the duplicates, I discovered six unique children.
When I typed in AHEARN in the search box, I received 67 results. Eliminating the duplicates, I narrowed it to 45 unique children. Not one of those results duplicated any of the results in the AHERN search. But if I searched for AHERNE, HEARN or HERN, I received the exact same list of 67 results. The 67 results included surnames HORN, HERN, VAN HORN, VANHORN, HOHN, HORNE, and O’HEARN. With each of these alternate searches, the resulting names appeared in a slightly different order, but they were the same results and none of them included any from the original AHERN search.
I don’t know what comprises the search algorithm used by FamilySearch.org, and I have not found any guidance on their website explaining it. But my takeaway from this exercise is that I should not make any assumptions about what alternate spellings FamilySearch searches for. Read the results list. If you don’t see at least one example of each alternate spelling you know could be there, experiment with all known surname variants.
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.