Surname Genealogy Strategies: My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Last Names to Research

By Allison Dolan

What’s the most annoying last name to research in your family tree? Not the ancestor or relative whose name it is, but the name itself. Mine are:

  • Frost, because searching the web or old newspapers and books brings up weather reports. It’s also among the more-common names in my tree. I once got all excited because I thought my third-great-grandfather had served in the Civil War, but after some research, I had to conclude that the soldier was someone else’s Thomas Frost.

    Another Thomas Frost, a mail carrier, was arrested for not delivering the mail, which would be in character for my Thomas (I’ll have to tell you more about him sometime). But I’m pretty sure that’s a different guy, too.

  • Thoss, because newspaper and digitized book searches result in a flood of matches with the word “those,” and Google tries to give me results for the name “Thomas.”
  • Koop is very common. Also this family was huge and repeated first names, making it difficult to determine whether and how I’m related to a given Koop.

On the other hand, several surnames make my genealogy research a little easier: Ladenkotter is unusual enough that just about every record I’ve found with it is for a relative (this post has a picture of the tree I sketched just from FamilySearch’s German birth and marriage records for Ladenkotters). Depenbrock and Birkmeyer are distinctive, not too common, and not easily mistaken for other words by search engines.

Our next webinar, Surname Genealogy Research Strategies, will help you tackle tricky surname issues, such as misspellings, variants, common last names and names that are words. You’ll also learn how to take advantage of the benefits of unusual names.

The hour-long webinar with Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Nancy Henrickson is Thursday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. Eastern. Get your questions ready, because you’ll have a chance to ask them.

Find out more about our Surname Genealogy Research Strategies webinar in Family Tree Shop.