Last names are the key to genealogical research. Over time, they can be spelled in different ways, surrendered at marriage, and sometimes changed for other reasons. So if you want to find your family's history, you need to learn to search effectively for your family last names. The first thing to remember is that in times gone by, people worried less about consistent spelling; William Shakespeare, for example, spelled his name half a dozen different ways. So don't be surprised if you discover that a simple name like "Hardy" was spelled "Hardie," "Hardee," "Hardey," and "Haredy" by different relatives, sometimes in the same immediate family.
Names translated from other languages into English can be even more confusing. "Longacre" and "Longenecker" are variant names for the same family.
When researching family names, the best tactic is to look for similar consonants; the vowels often tend to shift and change. That is the principle of the Soundex searching system, which can help you discover ancestors you might otherwise have missed.
One useful strategy is to keep a list of last names you are looking for. You can list whole lines or specific individuals you're searching for. When you're talking with other genealogy researchers, ask them about your family names. Look them up in various indexes to historical documents. When you keep your eyes open for a family last name, you may be surprised at the treasures you find.
You're not alone in searching for your last names. At OneGreatFamily, you may find other researchers who have discovered important branches of your family tree. A single new link can help you discover thousands of ancestors and entire new lines.