Friday, November 10, 2017

Using Capital Letters for Names May Make a Difference

This week I performed a surname search in an index at the Family History Center.  Doyle is such a common surname I was certain there would be at least a few and hoped perhaps one or several of them might be mine.  It saves two keystrokes to type lower case letters and, being somewhat lazy that night, that's what I did.  First name:  william.  Last Name:  doyle.

I was surprised to see no results because FamilySearch nearly always gives a list of less likely results that don't exactly fit one's search criteria.  (Click on the images to enlarge and view clearly.)

When I tried the same search again using capital letters at the beginning of names, a list of results appeared.  (Sadly, none were my family.)

I performed this search at home and received a list of results when I used upper case and when I used lower case names.

I don't know if this phenomenon of no results when using lower case for names happens consistently at Family History Centers but I thought this experience worth remembering and sharing.  It would be sad to miss results for the lack of two keystrokes.  I'll capitalize from now on.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved. .


  1. That is really weird. I would have thought Family Search is Family Search.

    1. Yes, I agree, Wendy. Who knows why it happened and whether it will continue. The next time I go to the FHC I'll check around a little more to see if it's a consistent thing or not.

  2. Randy Seaver reported another weirdness in the FamilySearch name-search mechanism this past week. It concerned the way that FamilySearch failed to find a woman's surname correctly in the Findagrave records; it found her only by a combination of her maiden name followed by her married name. I figured it was a bug introduced by the new version of Findagrave, but now I wonder whether it is a wider error that has been introduced into FamilySearch.

    1. Yes, I saw Randy's post, Marian. I know in early years of the internet upper and lower case were not interchangeable in searches but in recent years I thought it didn't matter. The next time I go to the FHC I'll have to perform more searches with both cases.


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