What to Leave Out

One effective search approach when querying databases is to leave out various pieces of information. The difficulty is that one cannot leave out every piece of data. What should be left out? The first name? The last name? The year of birth? The place of birth?

Think about what piece of information is easiest to get correct and include those details in your search. A slightly different approach is to think about what information is easiest to get wrong. For some of my families who did not speak English, the last names seem to present more problems. So when searching databases, I tend to leave those out if possible.

If I look for a family in a census record and the entire household should be enumerated, I think “whose name is easiest to spell for someone who does not speak the language?” Then I tend to search for the individuals named John or Anna instead of those named Wubcke or Tjalde.