Using this site

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Not sure how a name is spelt?

Or looking for other spelling variants of a name?

name optionsMost surnames have spelling variations due to the passage of time (and the advent of writing) and regional differences. There are several conventions used in genealogy for searching for names by sound. Two of them are included in the Person and Family Search functions of this site. Each name field in the search form offers these as an option when searching.

Some simple tips

  • Not sure whether the name is spelt McDonald, Mc Donald or MacDonald? Search for Donald (but use "contains" or "ends with", not "equals").
  • You want "Roy" but not "Royes", "Fitzroy", "Conroy", "McElroy", etc? Choose "equals". You will get something like 65 results instead of 380+.


Soundex is a way of coding names in to a letter and three numbers. "Roy" becomes R000 and "Royes" is R200. You can read more about Soundex here. It has two major shortcomings: the first is that you can get far too much information (R200 will give you over 70 supposed variants), and the second is that it does not always find variants (Hougham is H250 and Huffam H150). Try this soundex calculator on your own surname.

The good news is that you do not have to worry about how it is done because Advanced Search will do it for you. But it does help to know what it can do.


Metaphone was developed by Lawrence Philips as a response to deficiencies in Soundex. It is more accurate than Soundex because it uses a larger set of rules for English pronunciation. Metaphone is available as a built-in operator in a number of systems, including later versions of PHP - which our TNG program makes use of. Hougham (HM) and Huffam (HFM) still have problems. There is a metaphone calculator here.

Compare these search results as at March 2012
Name contains equals Soundex Metaphone
Roy 426 101 103 104
Royes 314 300 323 311
Hougham 260 230 377 255