Free software - Surname Suggestion List
October 12, 2007
If you have ever searched for an ancestor in a database, or browsed a book's index for their surname, you need this free software. Surname Suggestion List will generate a list of similar sounding surnames for any surname you are researching and potentially help you crush that brick wall.
Searching for a variety of similar sounding surnames, as well as similarly spelled surnames, is vitally important if you hope to find your ancestor. Have you ever searched for an ancestor in a database and the database returned no hits? It may be because you are only searching for the one surname that you are used to, or you have not thought of how the census taker may have interpreted and written the name.
For example, I recently looked for John McCall in an index of a book. He was not there under that spelling. Had I stopped my search with the McCall spelling, I would still be stuck. Digging deeper, the index listed the same person, but with a variety of spellings: MaCall, McCaul, and McHale.
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, a good resource to turn to is Surname Suggestion List. It is a very simple program - all you do is enter the surname and click search.
(Click on image for a larger view)
In this example, I entered the surname of McCall and it gave me dozens of other possibilities:
Many of these results are ones that I did not think of on my own. With this new information, I should probably go back to the many databases and indexes and search again.
You never know how a census taker, indexer, or even your own ancestor will spell their name. I strongly recommend downloading Matthew Combs's free software - Surname Suggestion List.
I'd love to try Surname Suggestion List, but I'm hanged if I can find the download link.
Posted by: jack barnhart | October 12, 2007 at 10:44 AM
Jack, the name of the software is hyperlinked in the very last paragraph.
Posted by: Geoff Rasmussen | October 12, 2007 at 10:48 AM
Is the free Surname Suggestion List compatible with Windows Vista?
Posted by: Edna | October 12, 2007 at 04:07 PM
I wrote the Surname Suggestion List software, and I hope you find it useful in your family history research. To answer your question, the software is compatible with Windows Vista as well as Windows XP.
If you have any other questions about the software, I'll do my best to answer them.
One suggestion I have is to try out the "Wider Search" option. It expands the web search the software performs, and could possibly help you find some new info.
Posted by: Matt Combs | October 12, 2007 at 05:58 PM
A bit disappointing. It appears to be a stock list of names and alternatives rather than a tool that creates alternative. For example, the name Slaughter doesn't even come up with Slater or Slawter. If a name is not in there, you're out of luck.
Posted by: Joe | October 13, 2007 at 02:23 AM
This is great - I am going to use it continually with my genealogy research. Easiest download ever !!!
Posted by: Annette Bergeron | October 13, 2007 at 04:39 AM
Download was simple and quick. Can other spellings not on the list be added later?
And would you please email me off this website. I want some information on DVD burning.
Posted by: Alice Sanders | October 13, 2007 at 09:02 AM
New surnames can be added to the database. Email me the surnames, and I'll look into adding them to the database during the next release of the software.
The surname SLAUGHTER did not match SLATER or SLAWTER because SLAUGHTER translates phonetically to SLFTR (think S LAUGH TER), while SLATER and SLAWTER both translate phonetically to SLTR. They are slightly different. Try your search using SLATER and you will get more matches.
Posted by: Matt Combs | October 13, 2007 at 10:49 AM
Does this give possible alternatives for Eastern European surnames? These are very difficult to determine variations for, as well as the myriad possible corruptions by census takers as well as transcribers.
Posted by: Elaine | October 13, 2007 at 12:51 PM
As for the Eastern European surnames, I suggest you download the program and give it a try. It's a really easy download and install. Or if you prefer, you could post a message with some of the surnames, and I'll take a look at them for you.
There are approximately 90,000 surnames in the database, and I know there are many Eastern European names represented.
Posted by: Matt Combs | October 13, 2007 at 03:21 PM
This seams to work with 1st names too. I put my name in & got one common mistake "Denis" and was off by 1 letter "Denice" (Denise) on the other.
Posted by: dennis | October 14, 2007 at 11:53 AM
Sorry, but I find this to be of limited usefulness. It doesn't even come up with known variations of several names. And this phonetic translation business is just nonsense. It leads to "translations" that aren't even remotely like the name sounds. It tries to convince you that Slaughter and Slawter don't sound alike. Names like have vestigial spellings from the early days of written language. Our ancestors weren't linguists, just ordinary folks trying to spell things as they heard them.
Posted by: Bob | October 14, 2007 at 03:46 PM
Bob, if you could provide some additional examples, we might be able to find out the root your cause for your concern. It is well known that there are different pronounciations for the SAME spelling of a surname, and that holds more true for surnames which are spelled differently.
A good example of this is the actress Kim BASSINGER. Some people pronounce this "BASS in ger" and others pronounce it "BAY sin ger". Which is right? I suppose that both are correct.
Posted by: Matt Combs | October 14, 2007 at 05:22 PM
I note that your programme works on both XP and Vista but does it also work on Windows 98 and other later software ?
Posted by: Paul Godbaz | October 15, 2007 at 01:36 PM
I haven't tried to run the software on Windows 98, but I don't know of any reason it would not run on it. It has been reported to run fine on Windows 2000 Professional.
Posted by: Matthew Combs | October 16, 2007 at 09:34 AM
The software is not "free". Unless you make a paid donation it only allows you to do one search at a time after 15 days, so it is more accurately called "shareware". Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Posted by: Paul | October 21, 2007 at 05:18 PM
Paul, I make the software available for free to those who are unable or unwilling to support it. I understand that there are people of limited means who would like to use the program, and I have made provisions for them. I am also willing to make the software available for free to those who just don't want to give. All those individuals need to do is send me an email, and I'll get the instructions to remove the restrictions out to them.
This software is a labor of love for me. It has been a uniting of my love of genealogy and my programming skills. I appreciate those who have stood beside me and given support for the program's development. I am just glad that so many people are finding it useful. Your kind words are greatly appreciated.
Posted by: Matthew Combs | October 22, 2007 at 06:23 PM