I remember years ago, that many early genealogy programs used to produce a compact way of describing the main surnames found in a family genealogy. This format was called a Tiny Tafel. It had a header section with general information and included ancestral surnames along with soundex codes, earliest and latest years and locations.

Wikipedia has a brief description of it, and shows the following example:


N Howard L. Nurse
A 2257 Old Middlefield Way
A Mountain View, CA  94043
T (415) 967-1900
S FidoNet 143/26
B COMMSOFT BBS/(415) 967-6730
C 2400/B/X
D 5/IBM DSDD/360
R Sample Kennedy database
Z 29
A252 1915 1947 Auchincloss/MA
B160 1698 1933 Bouvier/Long Island NY
B530 1906 1939 Bennett/New York
B620 1869 1933 Burke/Suffolk Co. MA
C200 1803 1833 Cox\Ind
C414 1861 1899 Caulfield\Norfolk Co. MA/Suffolk Co. MA
C540 1868 1928 Connelly/Suffolk Co. MA
F326 1690 1890 Fitzgerald/Suffolk Co. MA
F430 1806 1836 Field/PA
H200 1806 1857 Hickey/Suffolk Co. MA
H500 1802 1865 Hannon/Middlesex Co. MA
K500 1858 1892 Kane\Ireland/Suffolk Co. MA
K530 1793*1957:Kennedy\Ireland/New York
K530 1793*1984 Kennedy\Ireland/Wstchster Co. NY
L000 1847 1906 Lee\MA/MA
L163 1923 1961 Lawford\England/L.A. Co. CA
L532 1753 1783 Lindsay\MA
M500 1847 1890 Mahoney\Suffolk Co. MA/Suffolk Co. MA
M610 1791 1821 Murphy/Wxfrd Co. IRE
M626 1710 1766 Mercier\MA
R324 1929 1959 Radziwill\MA
S240 1892 1928 Skakel\Cook Co. IL/Cook Co. IL
S530 1927 1960 Smith\Kings Co. NY/Suffolk Co. MA
S616 1915 1965 Shriver\Carroll Co. MD/Suffolk Co. MA
S625 1831 1861 Sergeant\MA
T525 1947 1983 Townsend\Baltimore Co. MD/Middlesex Co. MA
T653 1706 1736 Trintignant/IT
V650 1783 1813 Vernou\CN/CN
W453 1767 1797 Wilmouth\NH/MA
W 11 Dec 1986

A number of programs still produce Tiny Tafels. My question is if there still is a useful purpose today for them, and if they are actively used anywhere.

3 Answers 3


They are useful when searching for fellow researchers through queries on webpages or bulletin boards, and for describing your latest book release. But with today's ability to search individual names in large databases, Tiny Tafels are used less and less.


One thing that is worth mentioning is that a tiny tafel could serve as a form of hard-copy backup.

The Tiny Tafels system is not just designed to be read by computers, but it's also designed to be read by humans. Moreover, if something can be read by humans, then that same media can be re-entered into a computer decades later, even if the actual format is no longer supported.

When stored on a computer, it's basically plain text, which means it's easy to print a hard-copy backup, since no special software is required to read it.

Thus, I'd say that even if it isn't as useful as far as searching goes, it may be useful for preservation purposes.


Tiny Tafels are still useful for sharing surname interests in mailing lists or newsgroups.

The problem is that most of the software for editing and matching them is old. I still run a Tiny Tafel Editor using DOSBox under Windows. It won't run in normal Windows because the clock speed of modern computers is too high.

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