Because officials kept records at the local level, German genealogists need to find a village of origin to move forward in research. So when the leading geographical dictionary went online in 2016 as MeyersGaz.org, German researchers rejoiced. And genealogists now have another reason to cheer: A recent MeyersGaz update allows users to search using a “sounds-like” feature.
As we’ve discussed in our article on MeyersGaz.org, the site allows users to keyword-search the Meyers Gazetteer for free. Since the site’s launch, the volunteers who created it have continued to look for ways to improve user experience. The “sounds-like” search feature does just that, allowing you to broaden your search results to include similar-sounding placenames. Considering that many German placenames feature tricky-to-decipher phonetics and multiple spellings, this feature will make searching the site easier than ever before.
The MeyersGaz.org “sounds-like” search uses the “Double Metaphone” algorithm, which indexes entries phonetically. Developers first used the Double Metaphone in 2000 to allow the original Metaphone program to better account for Germanic names.
Let’s look at an example. Say your ancestor’s hometown of “Doosberg” doesn’t appear by that name in a traditional search of MeyersGaz.org. Now you can run an enhanced search that includes placenames that sound similar to your keyword. Simply click the link on your results to switch to the sounds-like search. Using this new tool, I found 11 phonetic results for “Doosberg” (including “Dasberg” and “Daseberg”).
As a refresher: The Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs (commonly called “Meyers Orts-,” or the Meyers Gazetteer) was published in 1912 as a comprehensive list of every placename in the Second German Empire (1871–1918). Genealogists will find the gazetteer useful as its own resource, and also as a finding aid; the FamilySearch.org catalog sorts its German records by administrative districts as they appear in the Meyers Orts-.
The site launched after more than 20 years of work by Marion Rainey and computer programmer Brad Coleman. MeyersGaz.org pulls together a lot of information from sources outside Meyers Orts-, too.