Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why You Can't Find That Family ... Or Spelling Doesn't Count.

I sometimes suspect that my family peeked out the windows to watch for the census taker so that they could avoid him/her.

After all, if they were enumerated, I should be able to find them, right? And they always spelled their name Zimmeth. Always. Forever.


It doesn't matter how they spelled it, it matters what the census taker wrote. Maybe that census taker didn't have an ear for a German accent.

In researching this Zimmeth family - that's how they spell it now - I've come across the following spellings:

1. Zimet or Zimmet
2. Fimmith
3. Gimmith
4. Zimoneth
5. Limit - ok, I think this was an index error, someone who was not familiar with circa 1850 handwriting. But it is still WRONG.
6. Simet or Simmet

And those are just the spellings in this country. The various spellings for the name in Alsace-Loraine are

7. Ziemet
8. Zimmet
9. Zimmeth

It makes searching for the family interesting. Challenging. Frustrating.

Fortunately, soundex searching will pick up most of the first grouping. Unfortunately you have to have a crystal ball to pick up Fimmith, Gimmeth, Limit and Simet. Actually those were found the old-fashioned way doing a line-by-line microfilm search.

So what do you do when you are on a site such as the Family Search Labs pilot site? You think creatively and go for that exact, close & partial match search. Sure it will bring up 5,600 search results, but chances are the people you are looking for are on the first couple of pages, provided you have burned incense and prayed to the genie gods. I personally hate using that search because it is disheartening to see the result: No exact matches and then see that you have 5,600 hits or 244 pages of hits on close and partial matches.

Today, though, after searching fruitlessly for the Tomasz Siekierski (pronounced Sikorski) family and the Michael Kruszka family, I finally found them under Thomas Sikorski and Michael Krushka, after resorting to the close and partial choice.

So next time you are looking for a family don't forget that soundex search, think creatively and even try it with an accent, so you can figure out what you think the census taker heard. Chances are they are there just waiting for you to find them.


  1. Good idea for a blog! Jimmy has a good friend from high school name Carrick Sekorski. His dad's name was Dennis.

  2. Hello!

    You’ve got a great genealogy blog and I’ve added it to the blog list at GeneaBloggers.

    In addition, I’ve made sure your blog is listed in our search engine ( so that it may be searched along with over 800 other genealogy blogs.

    Finally, I will also highlight your blog in my weekly This Week’s New Genealogy Blogs post on Saturday, December 26, 2009.

    Is there anything you need from us in terms of tech assistance or other advice? Check out the GeneaBloggers Welcome Wagon for lots of info: And if you need technical help, I run a tech blog for bloggers:


    Thomas MacEntee

  3. MAW: Thanks! I can pretty much trace that Siekierski line forward.

    Geneabloggers: I am speechless!

  4. Congrats Anne, great first post!