The Best Methods for Searching Your Family Last Names: Episode 93

By Family Tree Editors

Sign up for the Family Tree Newsletter Plus, you’ll receive our 10 Essential Genealogy Research Forms PDF as a special thank you!

Get Your Free Genealogy Forms

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get the best genealogy research tips and tools for searching your family’s last names – from how to handle common surnames to using of geographical data.

Ep. 93: February 2016

Back to the episode list

In this episode:

News from the Blogosphere with Diane Haddad

Diane talks about her latest blog post on the Genealogy Insider blog: Surname Genealogy Strategies: My Favorite (And Least Favorite) Last Names to Research.

Top Tips with David Fryxell

David Fryxell is back to explain how an unusual surname can be an asset when researching your family history. And he’s got 6 strategies for using those oddball names to your advantage from his article, “The Unusual Suspects,” available in the Jan/Feb issue of Family Tree Magazine.

101 Best Websites

Anna Fechter of takes us on a tour of the Rootsweb Surname List website.

Family Tree University Spotlight

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but for the family historian, names are vital to our research – and often just as thorny! Nancy Hendrickson returns to the Family Tree University Crash Course segment to share some tips on the best methods to research your family’s trickiest last names.

Nancy’s tips for distinguishing between people with a common name:

  • Go to Google first
  • Use search operators such as quotation marks to denote exact phrase that must be in all search results
  • Add the word Genealogy to increase the chances that the website containing other keywords will be genealogy/family history focused
  • Search for your surname
  • Things named with that name

Favorite Tools:


The Publisher’s Desk with Allison Dolan

Allison talks about how she uses spreadsheets to keep her genealogical research on course.

Allison’s favorite resources for surname origins:

  • Dictionary of American Family Names from Oxford University Press, searchable on Fun tool to look up facts about a name: meaning, distribution, places of origin (example: Riesenbeck).
  • Behind the Name: Great for looking up surnames and given names by country/ethnic background, “Unpuzzle” name mysteries; e.g., figure out the native spellings of a name that’s been garbled or the spelling Americanized
  • American Surnames by Elsdon Smith: An interesting reference book on the origins of surnames – helps you understand how your ancestors got their surnames, cultural influences.

Your Host: Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa Louise Cooke

Listen to Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems and Genealogy: Family History Made Easy podcasts in iTunes and visit her website for great research ideas, podcast episodes and videos.

Have fun climbing your family tree!