how to search for a surname that is also a town name

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logan
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how to search for a surname that is also a town name

Postby logan » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:56 am

If you are searching for a surname that is also a town name, e.g., London, your search results might be overwhelmed with matches to the town. Here is an imperfect strategy for filtering out the town matches.

This strategy only applies if the geographic region where you are looking for your surname does not include the town. For example, it will work if you are looking for the surname London in Poland, but not the surname London in England.

First, change "Any Place" to a geographic region that does not include the town. In the London example, you would change "Any Place" to "Poland."

Then, use the - operator (NOT) in your search term to remove matches of the form "town country" and "common_business_ending town" and "other_major_town_not_in_your_geographic_search_region." For example:

london -"london england" -"ltd london" -"limited london" -"co london" -"new york" -paris

The above will find pages containing the word "london," but not the phrase "london england" (punctuation is ignored, so no need for "london, england"), not phrases like "smith's umbrellas ltd, london," etc., and not listings for companies with many branches around the world, like "smith's umbrellas of london, new york, paris, cairo." Many of the town matches you would otherwise get are indeed for businesses, so this works reasonably well for sources that are directories (not as well for sources in the history collection).

This strategy will not remove all town matches, but it will hopefully remove enough that you can work with the search results.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable way, in general, to tell whether a word refers to a surname or town.

If you have other tips for solving this surname=town problem, please share.

Logan

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