Tips for Using Databases


  1. Don’t Depend on Soundex: It picks up alternate spellings but it is better to try variant spellings. Some databases use phonetics, which is extremely valuable for certain languages.
  2. Search Surname Variants: This will pick up incorrect transcriptions. FamilyTreeDNA has lists of alternate surnames.
  3. Use Nicknames and Initials, also Hebrew names and names they may have used in the old country.
  4. Consider Alternate Surnames: Some immigrants had double surnames when entering the country but Americanized to one name or altered the spelling.
  5. Try putting the last name in the first name field or vice versa. Or try using a first initial of the first name instead of the whole name. 
  6. Use Wildcard Search: Often an advanced search will allow a wildcard search that will pick up variant surnames (Smith, Smithe) 
  7. Combine Search Fields : If allowed, try searching using other information, like siblings, or the name of a parent.
  8. Eliminate Search Criteria One Field at a Time: This will help in databases where different info is asked in different places.
  9. Search for Family Members: Try searching for siblings, cousins and other relatives, often your relative is nearby.
  10. Search by Database: Sites like offer a global database so you know which databases to search on the site.