The incorrect recording of names, particularly surnames, is probably the most common reason for failure to find an ancestor in the census. It has been estimated that well over 1 million surnames are incorrectly recorded in the 1881 British Census alone!

Some of the errors are minor, and may not significantly hinder searching - by default FamilySearch allows for common alternative spellings, such as Thomson and Thompson, or Barratt and Barrett. However, other errors can frustrate even the most patient researcher.

Errors can arise for many reasons: perhaps the enumerator was unable to understand an unfamiliar accent, or had trouble reading the householder's writing (or even his own!). Other errors occur when a child of another family is staying in the household, or when a mother has remarried, and the children from her earlier marriage are incorrectly assumed to have taken her new husband's surname. Yet more errors occur when a transcriber has difficulty reading the enumerator's writing.

This index has been compiled using the corrections to surnames that LostCousins members have noted when entering their ancestors, and will be updated at regular intervals. It is based on all of the censuses that we currently suppport.

How to use the index

Enter the surname that you are looking for and click SEARCH. If this surname has been incorrectly recorded in one or more of the censuses then the incorrect names under which it has been found are displayed.

To search for a different name click CLEAR, then continue as before.

Please note that the absence of a surname that you know to have been wrongly recorded does not mean that the person concerned is not in the database - entry of corrected names is optional. The index is currently updated at the end of each month, so an entry you make today will not show up search results until next month.