RB Search Gizmos

Easy Name Variant Searching with Carl’s Name Net

This tool is thanks to one of my longtime Patreons, Carl. We’ve been trading email for years and he’s always been generous with encouraging words. A couple of weeks ago he gave me a great idea as well!

Recently we were chatting about some research he was doing. Part of it involves name searching; we were talking about how to do searches on a proper name and make sure you find all possible results.

Now, the thing about me and searching is that if I hear about a searching problem I am 100% a dog with a tennis ball. I will chase it down and figure it out, or if not figure it out unravel it as much as possible. The output of such activity used to be generally confined to offering search suggestions (or just thinking out the problem if that wasn’t possible).

But now? Now I’m getting a better grip on JavaScript and I can MAKE things. So I made Carl’s Name Net, which is available at https://researchbuzz.github.io/Carls-Name-Net/ .

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Carl’s Name Net makes name variants and searches for name variants with one click. It works with three-name monikers (Louisa May Alcott) or two if you don’t know the middle name.

Let’s use Louisa May Alcott as an example. Enter her full name on the form. If you’re getting too many irrelevant results (unlikely in this case, but stay with me) you can add additional query terms. Those should be kept general: France instead of Paris, professor instead of Notre Dame.

After you click the Generate Name Variants button, CNN generates a set of links for you underneath.

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There are separate searches for regular Google, Google Scholar, and Google Books searches.  For those resources, the searches for three-word names are divided into two searches, one with more common name variants:

(“Louisa May Alcott” | “Louisa M Alcott” | “Louisa Alcott” | “LM Alcott”)

and one with uncommon variants:

( “L May Alcott” | “Alcott LM” | “Alcott Louisa” | “Alcott Louisa M” | “Alcott Louisa May” | “Alcott L”)

— with the understanding that uncommon vs common is entirely subjective, of course!

Click on an URL and you’ll go to a page of search results.

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The Internet Archive’s search works a little differently, and because of that each name gets its own Internet Archive link.

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I loved playing with this because you will find the most random stuff when you do name variant searches. The fourth result here is a 1909 publication from London that’s advertising a lot of LMA books on its front page.

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Finally, you’ll get a list of name variants so you can see what was searched for (and copy/paste if you want to use something elsewhere).

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How does Carl’s Name Net work when you have only a first and last name? Very much the same, only it generates four possible name variations.

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You might find yourself in the situation when you know an initial but not the entire middle name. Go ahead and use it; you’ll get a slightly different set of names to search but it should work fine.

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I made this with Carl in mind, which is why I chose the resources that I did. But if you do a lot of work that involves name searching (genealogy, prospect research?) and would like to see this tool applied to other resources, drop a comment. I could even hook it up to Super Edu Search!

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