I have a probable ancestor about whom I know very little, except for the fact that he used an alias and he is mentioned in his father-in-law's will. The two names are quite common - something along the lines of "John Smith alias Jones".

How are aliases typically indexed in major genealogy website databases? E.g. Ancestry, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, TheGenealogist, or others. I am thinking primarily of pre-19th century English parish register or probate record databases, where aliases are most likely to be recorded as such.

What techniques can I use to search these databases for a person recorded with an alias? Obviously a search for John Smith or John Jones alone will turn up a vast number of results, and it is impossible to see if they mention an alias without inspecting them individually.

Any general tips for searching for ancestors with aliases are welcome too.

  • Out of interest what time period and location did this probable ancestor come from? I have an 8th great grandfather who was buried in 1714 at Holnest, Dorset as George DRINKWATER alias DERIEMAN, and sometime I hope to get an inkling as to why the alias was used.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 4:48
  • @PolyGeo The particular case is from England (Notts/Lincs area) in late 18th-century
    – Harry V.
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 6:50

1 Answer 1


I use FamilySearch a lot, from my experience it will depend on what name he legally used. They do not have a special name database, just what the records list. For instance I have one great uncle that was listed in one set of records twice; the surname was the same but one given had the middle initial the other did not; luckily the birth dates matched up.

Looking at "John Smith alias Jones" this says to me that this might be indication of adoption, or because it is a surname that his mother remarried. Though it is possible he just changed it, but I discount that because an alias probably would not be listed. In stories, a person assuming a name does so to unburden themselves of the baggage of the former name.

So going on the presumption, looking for "John Smith" will probably show up in birth records, "John Jones" in marriage/death records.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.