Casefile Clues

26 August 2014

Habbens are Happening

Having unusual surnames sometimes makes research easier. Sometimes it doesn't.

Automated indexes have the potential to make research more difficult or easier--depending on the situation.

I usually don't get too many hits for the last name of Habben, even when I have the soundex option turned on at Ancestry.com  and other sites. So I was somewhat surprised when a soundex search for Habben in Illinois records turned up nearly 3,000 results.

Scanning the results made it clear why there were so many results.

The automated indexing system apparently grabbed the phrase "can't happen" and "can happen" and determined that they were names of individuals.

Habben and happen are soundex equivalent, so the result came up as a hit when my search was conducted.


I was not surprised to see the items, but it was still frustrating. I can still perform an exact search for the last name of Habben or include first names in my search.

But it looks like with this database my usual approach isn't going to work.

The yearbooks at Ancestry.com , like the newspapers at all digital image sites, are not indexed manually by humans reading the words.

I need to remember that or my search results will not be happening in the way I would like them to.