• Broaden Your Ancestor’s Name Search

    To trace the Irish origins of a client’s Irish grandfather, I recently searched a number of government record databases. The Irish grandfather’s name was Thomas Hogan. Feeling confident in pinpointing the specific person, I entered the first name, Thomas, and the family name (surname), Hogan, in the search fields of the searchable database. My confidence quickly diminished, when, unfortunately, the search results did not produce the one and only Thomas Hogan I was looking for. Being patient and persistent, I took a chance and broadened the search by simply entering the family name (surname), Hogan, in the search field.

    Although, as you can guess, this wider search produced hundreds of records, I hoped that it might uncover the correct Thomas Hogan.

    Eureka! Lo and behold, the “Hogan only” search produced a record for a “Thos. Hogan”, the correct one, the grandfather I was looking for.  The lesson learned: before giving up and suspending your search for a specific first name-last name combination, broaden your search to include an abbreviated first name. You may ultimately find the person you are looking for!

    Footnote: To quicken the creation of a written form or record, a government official sometimes abbreviated the first name of a person in that form or record. Today, searchable electronic databases contain those same abbreviations.

    See more Irish family history articles and lessons learned in earlier posts below and in the archives.


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