Sunday, November 15, 2009

Working With Surname Variations

[This post was created as part of the 24th Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy]

Despite enduring two years of German while working on my bachelor's degree (can you tell I hated it?), I still have trouble with certain words specifically surnames.  When I am doing research, I will often focus only on what I am certain is the form of a surname and not consider any other options.  This is sort of like working with blinders on but I've found a free software application that can help me out of my comfort zone.

Surname Suggestion List is an application developed by Matthew Combs which takes a surname and creates several levels of variations of that name.

As explained by Matthew, the variations in the Excellent column are very similar to the surname used in the search. The Close variations are only similar and the Longshot variations are "somewhat" similar.

There is no way I would think of variations on Henneberg like Hernberg or Heinberg without this application. And while I am a huge fan of web-based applications and tend to shy away from anything I have to download, Surname Suggestion List is one of those "must have" tools for my genealogy toolbox.

Besides generating variations, Matt has also programmed in the ability to click on a surname variation and then perform a Google search with that data. You can also specify Book Search, Image Search and Blog Search.

Worried that Surname Suggestion List won't cover the foreign names you are looking for? Don't worry. From the version list provided, Matt has included the following surnames besides those commonly found in the United States and the United Kingdom: Armenian, Belgian, Czech, Danish, English, French, German, Irish, Kurdish, Lithuanian, Maltese, Norwegian, Pakistani, Persian, Polish, Scottish, Spanish, and Swiss. And Matt also updates the program to include surnames suggested by users.

Check out Surname Suggestion List and you'll be surprised at where your research takes you. As they say, "variety is the spice of life" and of surnames in genealogy research.

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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