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