Good genealogy websites for wildcard name searching?
November 28, 2015 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to compute all the variations of my family last names in hoping of finding more leads to my family tree.

So the problem of being Greek and Polish is that the family names changed amazingly or slightly over the years as the families immigrated to North America.

One relative was a Pole living in Austria (or an Austrian living in Poland...the family history is fuzzy on this) and changed his surname slightly to avoid the prejudice of the time.

I was able to find out that my father's family went through Ellis Island in the 1910s...but only once I figured out how the family name was mangled!

Similarly Staskiew became Stasco...but goodness know what the original spelling of Staskiew is :-D

It's been a while since I climbed the family tree since and I used a long time ago. Are there any new and popular genealogy websites these days with good wildcard searching that anyone can recommend?
posted by Calzephyr to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Knowing the language and way names are pronounced is helpful. I can't believe I am suggesting Reddit's genealogy subreddit 2 times in the same day here but head over there and pop in your relatives name. There are many people experienced in different nationalities.

(I'd be glad to give it a shot and I have the same region in my tree.)
posted by ReluctantViking at 10:26 AM on November 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Huh, I would not have guessed using Reddit at all. Thanks!
posted by Calzephyr at 10:35 AM on November 28, 2015

Best answer: FamilySearch has the best wildcard searching around. It allows multiple wildcards, placed anywhere in the name.
posted by Knappster at 10:44 AM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm having trouble retrieving this through google, but I remember reading at some point about a formalized system for collapsing variant last name spellings, taking into account phonemes that are frequently interchangeable, endings that are commonly added/removed, etc. I think it was also vowel-agnostic.

It might have been specific to Jewish immigrant names since I was trying to find out about my own family, but maybe not. Hopefully this rings a bell for someone who knows more about it!
posted by threeants at 10:44 AM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is why we have Soundex. Both Ancestry and Family Search give you the option ("sounds like" vs. "exact spelling") when searching.

Place names are also likely to be an issue - for those, I recommend just plain searching Wikipedia with the name you have, because people have done a pretty good job of including all the variants in each article's redirects, and most resources I know about are strictly one-to-one (i.e., "Yiddish and Russian versions") as opposed to giving you all the options. On Wikipedia, "Lviv," "Lemberg," "Lwów," and "Lvov" all get to you to the exact same place.
posted by SMPA at 10:44 AM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ah, yes, Soundex is what I was thinking of.
posted by threeants at 10:44 AM on November 28, 2015

Response by poster: Oh man, I took a quick look at FamilySearch and I am blown away by how good it is. I don't think I could have found it on my own. Thanks so much.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:00 PM on November 28, 2015

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