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Searching for Smiths

Strategies for Locating Ancestors with Common Names


Most of us have at least one hard to search for name in our family tree - a common name like SMITH, a name that is also a commonly used word such as RICE, or an ancestor who shares name with a famous individual, such as George Bush. In this situation, how can we weed out the genealogical information for our specific ancestor from all of the others who share his name? These search tips, while helpful when searching for all surnames, not just common ones, are especially important when the name itself is too common to return a manageable number of results.

When searching for a common name such as John Smith, add a location and time period to your search parameters to produce more effective results.

Add common genealogical terms to your search to eliminate non-genealogy pages, such as bush family or bush genealogy or bush cemetery. Combining this with the previous technique can help narrow your results even further.

Use other less common names from your ancestor's family to enhance your query. If your John Smith married Eliana Snagglepuss, then start by searching for Snagglepuss.

When searching for a surname that is also a common noun, such as Park, Rice, Bush or Street, use the NOT or - feature to tell the search engine to not return results that include a particular word. For example, rice -cook -recipe will help eliminate Web pages which refer to cooking rice rather than your Rice ancestors.

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