Surname Study – A reboot of sorts

Fitting time in to our busy schedules to undertake a Surname Study can be difficult, whether you work full-time, have multiple bosses, are busy running the household and looking after the living relatives; life has a habit of getting in the way of research for yourself (whether that be your surname study or your own history).

I admit, my study has taken a back seat as I take on client research work, the full-time job, the year out to gain my Post Grad Certificate from Strathclyde, the socialising at RootsTech, Who Do You Think You Are Live, the monthly meetings of the West Middlesex Family History Society, and being a committee member for The Surname Society … well you get the idea. Because of this there hasn’t been a lot of progress in the past year-and-a-half. This is about to change.

The Surname Society, led by Kirsty Gray’s ‘stupid idea’ has launched monthly personal challenges, as a way to reinvigorate your surname study, or assist / provide ideas if you’re just starting out. It was launched in the May hangout, ‘Collaborate, don’t cogitate’, which members can view in the School of Surnames.

The challenge for June is to take a dataset you’ve not looked at before, extract your named entries, and make a plan for how to use the data found.

So with this in mind I decided to look at FindMyPast’s release of the Sussex, Eastbourne Gazette Newspaper Notices, (1858 to 1931) as I know there are a cluster of STEERS families in this area.

Now before I jump straight into the data set the first thing I do is open my ‘database research log’. This is a simple Excel workbook with two tabs; one for Ancestry and one for FindMyPast.

These are my headers:

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 19.17.50

I then proceed to search the dataset with the ‘exact’ box ticked. If any results are returned I just state ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. When I get to the ‘Other’ column, this is where I use the ‘variants’ tick box. The reason I do it this way is that STEER is brought up as a variant of STEERS, but I don’t consider it to be so. This prevents me missing exact spellings / known variants amongst the sea of STEER entries. Plus, there is actually a STEER One-Name Study.

If an entry is found, I then return to the ‘Source Code’ and create one; for this dataset I will be using FMP_SSXEastGaz.

Once the source key has been created I move on to my ‘source list with key’ workbook. [I may have an over-reliance on spreadsheets!). This is my quick view list, where all datasets that contain STEERS information is collated.

The headers here are:

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 19.18.20

Now this is done I can open my ‘Newspapers’ workbook, and this one is a bit more complex, so rather than list the headers in a table I’m going to list them:

This relates to the unique identifier every person in my study has, as generated by my genealogical software of choice. Each row in my spreadsheet can only have one ID number. If multiple persons are mentioned the entry is simply duplicated and the different ID number assigned.

If I have added the entry as an event or source against the individual on said genealogical programme.

i.e. birth / marriage / letter to the editor / advert / obit

Primary Surname
Upper Case

Primary Forename
Sentence case

Others Involved


Source Code (as created above)

Name of Publication

Date of Publication

Page and Column
Starting with (a) as the left hand column

Image Code
For the above dataset it would be FMP_SSXEastGaz.00x.PRIMARYSURNAME, PrimaryForename (where x is the number of the image)

Date Accessed 

However this dataset does not contain images so there will not be any associated images at present – I will investigate whether or not the British Newspaper Archive hold copies, and if not, I will see if I am able to view the microfilm / paper in the Newsroom at the British Library, as we all know how important it is to review the original document.

So this is part one of the challenge, part two is using the data …


6 thoughts on “Surname Study – A reboot of sorts

  1. Carole,

    The nice thing about one name studies is that it almost forces you to log your records the correct way which is by source.

    The tendency is for genealogists who are researching multiple lines, to file their records by ancestor when they should also be filing by source. By source is correct when you go back to check that source, you need to know what you’ve already found on all lines.

    But I was wondering about your “source list with key” workbook, why don’t you store that information in your genealogical programme?



    1. Oh I do, but because the study is so large I tend to extract all the data and then enter it into the software once I’ve identified the family groups. The time between these two actions can be months. Plus it’s a handy second version of a back up.


  2. Because many of my surname study records are at Find My Past I have started working through the hints and entering into my Family Historian Project as I go along using Ancestral Sources. Some information I already had as I started the project from what I knew but new parish records have been added recently which I have now added.
    I also created queries which I can use to create a database in Excel of what I have enetered.
    Yesterday I started to look at records I had downloaded an organise them betterso that I don’t download them again. Organising by county and parish and then record type. I have kept the number used by the website and added my own identifier at the end to futher avoid downloading more than once.


  3. That’s fabulous. I also use Family Historian, but couldn’t get along with Ancestral Sources. I don’t make enough use of the Queries function in Family Historian and this is something I need to work on.

    Sound’s as though you’re very organised.


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