If a name is listed in the field OTHER LAST NAMES, does it not show up on searches with that other last name?

+23 votes
Please correct me if I am wrong.  I was under the impression that if you listed alternative or variant spellings of other last names in the the field provided that this would then cross reference the profile for any searches conducted under any of the names listed in that field as well as current and LNAB fields.

With the profile listed below, this does not occur.
WikiTree profile: Sibella of Cornwall
in WikiTree Tech by Nae X G2G6 Mach 5 (54.3k points)
edited by Keith Hathaway
I assumed it did.  I often use this field for alternative spellings, in order to avoid duplicates.  Hopefully someone can confirm it.
I would also like to know.  Question, though: did you JUST add those Other Last names?  If so, the system may need to rebuild its index before search results include the new info.


There was a merge.  Before the merge, I searched under all the "known" names, including the name listed in Other Last Names field :  de Bottringham .  Nothing came up under de Bottringham or Bottringham at all.  Just checked again, and still nothing.  So I am wondering....is this a glitch or is this the rule for all profiles. 

Serious issue, in my opinion.

Nae, I concur.
I am adding a question relating to this for improvement and arborists. I agree that the lack of searchability of other last names is a serious issue.
I agree also. Chris said he was working on some some sort of database for alternate name spellings, to be used in searches, however that doesn't replace being able to list (and search on) all known name variations which may apply to a specific ancestor. That's why the guidelines for LNAB/current name for profiles with 'de Name' say to include one variation in each field, with and without 'de', so that duplicate search results are found. I have many ancestors with 4 or more different last names or variations, over the period of their lives, many because of name change after multiple marriages. I just spent several hours sending duplicate merge requests on one ancestor tree because the original profile owner did not include the 'de Name' variation, so somebody else manually re-created about 30 profiles probably because they didn't realize the duplicates existed.
Just the multiple marriage issue for last names is enough to make this a priority, let alone with the variant last name spellings and evolution of them through time.
Correcting this flaw should be a highest priority.  Particularly in light of discussion regarding Rob Ton proposal  re. Surname prepositions, that is currently under discussion/vote.  There it was suggested that the other last name field be used for important surname prepositions.  Our ability to search names is primative today.
One thing that I have learned, and it is in the Naming Guidleines, is that if you list multiple names in this field (other last names known as) that they should be separated with commas.  Then when this is incorporated into the search process, it will search each name individually rather than a group of names as "one" name.

Comma between names.  EX:  Smith, Smyth, Smythe, Brown, Braun
I'm creating profiles one at a time, from a large tree, then I check for matches.  Most of the time no matches show up.  Later,  when I've checked the orphan profiles or alpha list  there is the same person with a different last name spelling!  Is there a better way to check for matches of various spelling?   Will I need to add as many various spellings as room allows when I create the profile? There are so many variations of spelling for the last name; about 20, is there a better way to avoid duplicates?

4 Answers

+3 votes

AFAIK, only LNABs and CLNs are concerned with a last name search. There are advantages and drawbacks:

  • Plus: it allows to put anything that cannot fit in the two other cases, including titles.
  • Minus: it is an opportunity less to mention a third known last name.

The situation would be different if the search engine was not considering last name fields as a whole. We could mentioned anything we want in the CLN - e.g. several names and titles - and the search would find any string that fits the request.

by J Pictet G2G6 Mach 3 (30.1k points)
So, if I understand what you have stated is:  Other last names is not included in the search at all.  Yes?
AFIAK?   I get Last name at birth, and Current last name, but this one throws me.

A gentle suggestion if I may: It might be possible that some readers may not be used to acronyms and could gain better understanding from having things explained so the uninitiated understand it.
Thanks for the clarification Toby and Jacques.  And thanks Toby for adding a question.  I think this is a HUGE issue.
So, just as a heads up to all....I just spent a lot of time correcting some merging because I did not realize the Van_Swearingen and VanSwearingen would be considered two different LNAB.   What I realized was the best way to tackle all the potential spellings of this last name and make sure I really had all duplicates was to go to the surnames list and compare all the potential surnames for duplicates.   It took a while, but, I feel confident that I know have all the duplicates identified.   Same thing is working for Stoffold, Stovall, Stovold family.   Just a suggestion to help.
+3 votes
Hi Nae X,
Last name variations in the Other Last Names field are used for searches with a first and last name.
For example, Mary Griffith was married to a Brereton then a Cholmondeley, so her Last name at Birth was Griffith and her Current last name was Cholmondeley, and Brereton is in Other last names.
If I search for just the last name Brereton, Mary doesn't show up, but if I search for Mary Brereton, she is listed as Mary (Griffith) Cholmondeley.
Another example is Adam Molyneux, his Last name at Birth is Molyneux, but there are several variations for the name Molyneux so I added them to the Other Last Names field, ie "de Molyneux, Moleyns, Molins".  
If I search for just the last name Moleyns, Adam isn't listed, however if I search for Adam and Moleyns he is listed.
by Maryann Hurt G2G6 Mach 8 (84.3k points)

Yes, I've mentioned another one like that here before.  A search for Philip Sherman also finds Philip Shearman, aka Sherman.

I had another question about that "Other last names" field and don't think I ever got an answer.  Here's what it says at http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Name_Fields#Other_Last_Names :

This field could be called Alternate Last Names or Last Name Variations.

It could be used for alternative spellings that appear in the records.

This and the Other Nicknames fields are the ones that can include multiple names. Separate these with commas.

My questions:  If you give multiple names there, will a name search find any name in that field?  Also, does it matter if multiple names are separated by just a comma, or does comma [space] work, too?  I'm pretty sure that in the few instances where I've added two or more alternate names, I've used comma [space] out of habit.


Hi Fred

The Other Nicknames and Other Last Names fields accept a comma delimited list.  I think you need to include the space after the comma for readability as these nicknames/other last names are displayed in various places.  The space after the commas makes no difference to the software.

A search using only a last name does not search the Other Last Names (OLN) field. it only searches the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) and Current Last Name (CLN) fields.

Example 1 containing a comma delimited list in the OLN and one Nickname:

First name: Adam, Other Nicknames: Bishop of Winchester, LNAB: Molyneux, CLN: of Sefton (this is the branch of the Molyneux family to which he belongs), OLN: de Molyneux, Moleyns, Molins

Last Name searches that will locate Adam:

  1. Last Name=molyneux
  2. Last Name=of Sefton
  3. Last Name=Molyneux* (without the "de" not with it)
  4. Last Name=Moleyns*
  5. Last Name=Molins*

First Name searches that will locate Adam:

  1. First Name=Adam (too many to be useful)
  2. First Name=Bishop (too many to be useful)
  3. First Name=Bishop of* (without Chichester not with Chichester)

First Name AND last name searches that will locate Adam using values in the OLN and ON fields:

  1. First Name=Bishop AND Last Name=Moleyns
  2. First Name=Bishop AND Last Name=Molins

Example 2 containing a comma delimited list in Other Nicknames:

First name: Edward, Other Nicknames: Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots, King of England, LNAB: Plantagenet, CLN: England, OLN: of Westminster

Last Name searches that will locate Edward:

  1. Last Name=Plantagenet
  2. Last Name=England
  3. Last Name=Westminster* (without the "of" not with it)

First Name searches that will locate Edward:

  1. First Name=Edward (too many to be useful)
  2. First Name=Longshanks
  3. First Name=Hammer or Hammer of (without "the Scots" not with "the" or with "the Scots")
  4. First Name=King or King of (without "England" not with "the" or with "the Scots")
  5. First Name=Scots
  6. First Name=of Westminster
  7. First Name=Edward Plantagent

Other searches that will locate Edward using values in the OLN and ON fields:

  1. First Name=Hammer or =scots AND Last Name=England
  2. First Name=Hammer Westminster (yes both in the first name search field)
  3. First Name=King England

Example 3 demonstration of searching in the first name search field for values from Other Nicknames and OLN together:

First name: Isabelle, Other Nicknames:Comtesse d'Angoulême, Queen Consort of England, LNAB: Angoulême, CLN: of England, d'Angoulême, de Lusignan

First Name searches that will locate Isabelle (other searches wil as well, this example is just to demonstrate this type of search):

  1. First Name=Consort Lusignan (Consort appears only in ON and Lusignan appears only in OLN)

Example 4 two words in the CLN field stuffs a lot of things up:

First name: John, Other Nicknames: 1st Duke of Lancaster, Duke of Aquitaine, King of Castile, Beauford of Gaunt, LNAB: Plantagenet, CLN: of Gaunt

Searches that work:

  1. First Name=john plantagenet (first name + LNAB)
  2. First Name=duke plantagenet (a word from ON + LNAB)
  3. First Name=john Last Name=of* (too many values to be useful)
  4. First Name=Gaunt 

​​​Searches that don't work:

  1. First Name=john duke (first name + a word from ON)
  2. First Name=castile gaunt (a word from ON and a word from CLN)
  3. First Name=castile Last Name=gaunt (a word from ON and a word from CLN)
  4. First Name=john Last Name=gaunt 
  5. First Name=john Last Name=of gaunt 
  6. First Name=john Last Name=gaunt* 


If you put a single word the first name search field, the Proper first name field, the Preferred Name field, the Other Nicknames field, the LNAB, the CLN and the Other Last Names field are all searched. 

If you put two words in the first name search field the search won't locate the profile if they are both from the Proper first name, Preferred name and ON, one word has to be from a first name field and the other from a last name field. 

More than two words in the first name search field doesn't work.

If there are two words in the LNAB field, very few searches work if you are searching for the value in the LNAB.

Pretty flexible really, don't you think?


Thanks for the really comprehensive answer.  First, it answers my basic question about comma delimited fields and space.  But it goes far beyond what I asked in giving so many scenarios for entering and searching the various name fields.  To me, this sounds like a good starting point for an explanation of these considerations in the Help pages.

I will have to play with some of those variations to be sure I've got this all.  Flexible?  Seems to be.  Simple?  Far from it.

So, if we searched first name Mary Ann, last name Hurt, we wouldn't find you!  Obviously there are limits to that flexibility.

+5 votes

I asked a few days ago how difficult it would be to add a search field to the edit page:


Not much in the way of responses, though.

by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (523k points)
+3 votes
This has become a very long thread, so I may have missed the solution to this problem. A simple surname search does not search the OLN field. The solution is to do a search with "First Name = *" and the surname. This will search the LNAB and OLN!
It may also search the CLN, but I don't have an example to prove this.
by Rick Pierpont G2G6 Pilot (111k points)
Try this on Henckle-2 and if you would post exactly what you put in the search boxes so I can see an example (this profile has a different LNAB CLN and OLN so it's a good test!

I HOPE THIS WORKS!  That would be fantastic!

The only OLN in that profile is: Hinkle. There are more than 100 profiles by that name, so the surname search results are truncated to the first 100 only, which is a totally different problem.

Instead, do a search with the first name of J* and last name Hinkle. This finds your profile correctly.

To see what I originally suggested, temporarily add a garbage OLN to that profile (such as Abcdef) and then search for that garbage name, using the first name of * and last name of Abcdef.

The asterisk (*) is a wildcard placeholder. 


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