Because of the variant spelling of many surnames, due to illiteracy before the 20th century, it is useful for a genealogist to be able to search for a range of spellings of a surname by the input of one surname only. Thus a search for the surname Smith can find all the records for Smith, Smyth, Smythe, and possibly another half a dozen variants. The main problem with this facility is not in its implementation in software, but in the choice of surnames that belong to each standard surname. The list may be too long: for example if Smyth includes surnames such as Smitters, Smithies, Sixsmith, McSmyth and Smithson, Smithdale, Smithwick, and many others, then the recall (meaning the coverage of possible options) will be very full. But the list of hits may then be so large that you cannot find what you need, i.e. the precision of your search may be too low to be useful.
When performing a Standard Surname search, the search criteria displayed at the top of the search results includes the “surname (plus variants)”. Click on this text to view all surname variations that are being matched for your search.
We recommend that you first try the Standard Surname Index to find what you are looking for and if that returns too many records then select Exact Match to reduce the number of hits. Simply select the desired Surname Match option at the bottom of the Search Box.
Note that there are no standard first names used in the searches. First names searches are always done as a wild card search, e.g. the first name of Mar% will return matches for Mary, Maria, etc. but if you enter Mary, variants such as Maria will not be returned.
On some records one or more of the parents’ first names may not have been recorded in the original record, may have been illegible or been recorded incorrectly by the priest. It was also less common to record the surname of the mother on baptismal records. It may be recorded on one child’s baptism but not on a subsequent baptism.