"Surname geneology" is the common misspelling of surname genealogy. Since "surname geneology" is commonly misspelled on the internet by people posting on blogs and message boards, it's a good idea to include the misspelling in your search terms. You could search for "Jones surname geneology," for instance, as well as searching for the correct spelling of "Jones surname genealogy."
Likewise, the surname that you're searching for could be misspelled itself. Take a simple surname like Christensen, for example. Variations of Christensen include Christiansen, Christianson, Christian, or Christenson. This is important to remember when searching for your ancestors. Some online databases will automatically search for spelling variations, but others will not.
If you have an unusual or uncommon surname, you have to be especially careful. Online databases hire extractors to type into the database what they see handwritten on documents. But if an extractor sees a surname he's unfamiliar with, he'll make his best guess-which more often than not is incorrect. Handwriting plays a part, too. In old cursive script, a capital K could look like a capital R, and a capital L could look like a capital S. If that's not confusing enough, lowercase Ms, Ns, and Rs all blend together.
Because of the many variations of the spelling of surnames, a system has been devised to help in searching. They system is called Soundex, and it has been applied to the U.S. Federal Census. In the Soundex system, each letter is assigned a number. Letters with similar sounds (or letters that are often interchanged in surnames) are grouped together:
1. B, F, P, V
2. C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, Z
3. D, T
5. M, N
In this system, you keep the first letter of a surname and assign a number to each subsequent consonant sound up to three places. Thus the surname Robertson becomes R-163: 1 stands for the B-sound, 6 stands for the R-sound, 3 stands for the T-sound, and the rest of the surname is not included since the three spots are already taken. On a shorter surname, such as Brown, three consonant spots are not necessary so a zero is filled in at the end. Thus Brown becomes B-650.
The advantage of Soundex is that in many databases, such as Ancestry.com's census database, you can select the Soundex option. Then names will be coded by Soundex, and all the surnames that fit the Soundex code will be displayed. Instead of limiting your search to one spelling of a surname, a search for C-623 would bring up Christensen, Christenson, Christiansen, Christianson, and Christian.