If you have ever searched a database for an ancestor and did not find what you were hoping for, it is still possible that your ancestor is there. They may be "hidden" behind a variation of the surname that you had not thought of previously.
For example, Christian RASMUSSEN was listed in the same database with four variations of his surname's spelling:
If I searched only by the one surname with which I was comfortable, chances are I would not find Christian.
Successfully searching databases and indexes requires the researcher to be creative. Put yourself in the census enumerator's shoes for a moment. He had a lot of work to do in a small period of time. I hesitate to believe that he would verify with each household that he spelled their names correctly. He probably wrote down the spelling of the name that was most familiar to him and moved on to the next house.
Fortunately there are some good resources available to help researchers come up with spelling variations.
MyTrees.com's Surname Variants
At MyTrees.com, when you click on the Name Variants link on the home page (you might have to do a Control-F to find this phrase as it is easy to overlook) you get a screen where you can enter your ancestor's surname. Click on Find Spelling Variations and you will get a list of many other ways that the surname could have been spelled based on how the name sounds. Click on the image below for an example.
Surname Suggestion List
This free software will also display other possible variations of surnames. We previously published information about it here.
Standard Finder is a new project published by FamilySearch. Here, you can search for a surname and it, too, will return a list of other possible variations. Click here, and then scroll to the Standard Finder section.
If we are going to find our ancestors, we must develop creativity and imagination when trying to come up with variations for our ancestor's names. When we cannot think of all potential variations, MyTrees.com, Surname Suggestion List, and Standard Finder are good resources to turn to.