Tuesday’s Tip – How To Find Your Ancestors

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It’s not easy to find your ancestors on Ancestry or Find My Past if their names have been mistranscribed from the records.

Here’s a couple of examples from my family tree:

Burn-Farmer incorrect trans
The ‘Farmer’ family in 1841


Henry Etter
‘Henrietta Bucknall’


The ‘Oldknow-Oldham’ family in 1871






So searching for a surname in all these cases didn’t find the family I was looking for.

But there are ways round this if your searches have been unsuccessful and you think your family names may have been mistranscribed.

The easiest one is to to try an alternate site; if you’ve been searching Ancestry without success, try Find My Past and/or Family Search to see if they’re listed there.

If you’re searching for a family and you know some of the children’s first names, just search for those in the county they’re most likely to be living in and omit the surname. I found the Oldknow-Oldhams that way, despite the transcriptions of Harriet (Herrick), William (Wilan), Enoch (Enock), Annie (Annice) and Frederick (Fre K)!

If some family members have an unusual middle name, try searching for that too. I narrowed down my search for Charles Redfern Freeman by including his middle name in searches. Also be aware of abbreviated first names – Jas for James, Thos for Thomas, Wm for William etc.

Other ways to search are by using Ancestry’s wildcard search – use ? to replace one letter in a name and * to replace 0-5 letters. They have a good guide to it here. Ancestry also uses Soundex search, which will match up names with a similar pronunciation.

If you’re struggling to find your ancestors and you know they should be there try re-reading the help sections in whichever site you’re searching – there may be something there you haven’t thought of.  Find My Past have a good guide to searching their records here. Ancestry’s is here. Family Search also have a great help section here.

Good Luck!







© Caroline Cox and Caroline’s Chronicles. 2011 – current year

2 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Tip – How To Find Your Ancestors

  1. Great tips, thank you! I haven’t yet started researching the Gauffreau side of my family, and I can only imagine the variations in spelling in the old records. When I was growing up, we saw so many spelling variations just on our junk mail that we lost count!

    Liked by 1 person

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