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Search Tips: Use Flexibility in Your Name Searches

One of the keys to finding the correct records in your online family history research is the name search you use. Sometimes people enter the exact, full name of their ancestor and then get few returns, or perhaps none at all.

But that doesn't mean that the record you need is not there—it just means you need to try a different approach.

If your first search does not pull up the results you want, vary your search to see if you can find your ancestor.

In the "Search Tips" article for last month's issue of GenealogyBank News, I explained how to use variations of first and last names. Let's further explore how you can be flexible in your name searches.

I recently had a letter asking for my help in finding the "death certificate for Mary Elizabeth Temple nee' Robertson/Roberson, born 1853?? Wake County, North Carolina, and who died between 1920 and 1930."

There is an online index to North Carolina deaths from 1906-1930.

I did a simple search for "Mary Elizabeth Temple" and pulled up these results:



Several of them seem like a possible match for her.

However, in opening each death certificate it was clear that this was not her.

It would be easy to conclude that her death certificate was not on file with the state of North Carolina.

What you want to do is repeat the search, but change your search terms.

Instead of searching for her by her name only, I added the surname of her father: "Robertson."



Bingo: up came another possible hit.

Notice that her name was entered as "Mollie" not "Mary," and the father's surname is given as "Roberson" not "Robertson."

So you will want to be flexible and try different search approaches to find your target ancestor.

As you examine that online index, you will see that there are many persons with a variation of the name "Mary Elizabeth Temple." Although this document actually called her "Mrs. Molly Temple," what is critical for identifying her is that this is the only death certificate that shows her maiden name was "Roberson."

Here is her death certificate: