Does FamilySearch Know Habben and Hobbin Are Similar?

Sometimes I do not really understand how the unexact searches at FamilySearch work.

I needed to review the 1940 census image for Anna Habben in Elvaston, Hancock County, Illinois. She’s there. I have seen her entry before. Away from my files, finding her in the 1940 census index and FamilySearch and navigating to the correct image would be a two-second project.

Without thinking I searched for her in FamilySearch’s 1940 census index as “anna habben” in Illinois–with the exact boxes checked. I got exactly Anna Habben. Not the one I wanted, but one in Iroquois County. It’s not the right person.

I repeated the search with the exact boxes unchecked and leaving the state set to Illinois. This should catch main spelling variant–including the one I really suspected the enumerator used: Hobbin. The Hancock County Anna was not found. There were entries though for a variety of last name spellings, including:

  • Hibben
  • Hawben
  • Hebein
  • Haben
  • Hasban
  • and Habben

Certainly Hobbin would have been returned as a result.

After trial an error, I finally located her by searching for the first name of ann* living exactly in Elvaston, Hancock County, Illinois.

The one born in 1860 was confirmed to be her when I looked at the image–and Elvaston is not that large of a place.

But why wasn’t Annie Hobbin returned as a search result in my initial search?

I changed the first name to Annie did not change my results. For some reason searching for the last name of Habben (with the exact box unchecked) does not bring about results for Hobbin.  That’s strange as the names are Soundex equivalents.

One work around is to search for the last name of H*bb*n in these search boxes at FamilySearch. 

But that still doesn’t explain why (as of this writing) when Habben is put in the last name box and the exact box is unchecked, Hobbin is not returned as a result.



2 thoughts on “Does FamilySearch Know Habben and Hobbin Are Similar?

  1. I recently tried to get the 1870 ogle Illinois census which I do already have a paper copy of. Neither familysearch or ancestry was able to give me the equivalent of Glawe. I got various other names beginning with G. I finally searched for another name on that page and got there that way. I can’t remember how it was spelled on the page but I do remember thinking why didn’t that spelling come up? Stranger spellings were at the top of the return list. I was able to correct the spelling at ancestry but familysearch doesn’t have that function.

    • I’ve known for a while that FamilySearch doesn’t include Soundex options when the exact button is unchecked, but every so often I forget and spin my wheels to find someone I know is there. Like you, I knew this person was there and had found them before. I thought searching for them in the index would be a no-brainer and faster than getting to the image in my database. Actually sort of good for me to have the reminder.

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