Review of Surname Suggestion List Freeware

by Mary Papoutsy

HHGA tested out a new, free software program designed to assist surname genealogy searches on Google. This software, essentially a share-ware program, is called Surname Suggestion List, and was developed by genealogist Matthew Combs.

Reviews by professional genealogists gave the program positive marks for its overall utility, aiding researchers by listing surname variations sometimes overlooked. One drawback noted, however, was that the program didn't permit multiple, simultaneous searches of more than one surname. Nevertheless, this is a very minor criticism of the program and doesn't detract from its efficacy for the average genealogical researcher.

Although it has been our experience that surname-based electronic searches usually have only limited usefulness for Hellenic surnames, we still put Surname Suggestion List through its paces to discover the extent of its applicability for Greek-Americans. Its description and download link are located at the URL

Our first task was to download the program to learn whether it was user-friendly and simple to install. It was. The installation took only seconds with a high-speed internet cable connection. The search window popped up rapidly and was of a simple design. Users enter the target surname into the box labelled "Enter Surname" in the upper left-hand corner and click on the "Search" button underneath it. Results appear in one or all of the three vertical columns to the right, "Excellent," "Close," and "Longshot." These columns indicate how good the SOUND match of the variant is with the surname you entered.

When we typed "Pappas" into the surname box, we received these results: ("Excellent" category) "Papas," "Pappas," "Papps," and "Peppas"; ("Longshot" category) "Pepez" and "Pipes." There were no variations generated under the "Close" category.

We tried again with "Georgiades" and received only "Georgiades" and "Georgiadis" in the "Excellent" category.

When we entered a third surname, "Kallitsis," the program only yielded the same surname, "Kallitsis," under the "Excellent" category. Likewise, for a fourth surname, "Likousis," Surname Suggestion List only produced the same name, "Likousis," under the "Excellent" category.

What do these initial search results signify for researchers of Hellenic ancestry? That the program, as it is written, is not very useful. Why? The programmer is probably not familiar with Greek and its methods of transliteration into English. If the programmer had knowledge of Greek, then the search for "Georgiades" would have also yielded at least a few of the following: "Giorgiades," "Giorgiadis," "Yiorgiades," "Yiorgiadis," "Yorgiades," "Yorgiadis," "Yoryades," "Yoryadis," "Yioryiades," "Yiorgiadis," "Georgiathes," "Georgiathis," "Giorgiathes," "Giorgiathis," "Yiorgiathes," "Yiorgiathis," "Jorgiades," "Jorgiadis," "Jorjiades," "Jorjiadis," "Tzortzades," and "Tzortzadis," all of which have appeared at one time or another in my research among electronic databases for thousands of Greek surnames with these vowel and consonant combinations. And the surname "Kallitsis," which has been the special target of a number of my research inquiries, has produced more than 17 different English variants on official U.S. documents, none of which appeared on Surname Suggestion List.

A little disappointed, we decided to give the program one or two more tries. We typed in "Antonopoulos" and received the same results as for "Likousis" and "Kallitsis"--only the same name returned under the "Excellent" category. Next, we tried "Poulos." And here we were surprised by the number of returns, listed below under each category. Three surnames appeared in the "Excellent" category, fifteen under "Close," and more than forty in the "Longshot" section, as seen in the image below.

We took the "Poulos" search one step further, by entering "Additional Search Terms" under the Google search box area, "Richard" and "Portland," and by highlighting "Poulos" under the "Excellent" category of surnames. If the program worked well, we guessed that the Google search--the second step of this software program--ought to yield infomation about Richard Poulos of Portland, Maine, one of the state's most prominent attorneys and judges. Happily, it did. Although there were over 18,000 Google returns, second from top on the first page of search results was the HHGA obituary of Mr. Poulos. We then kept the "Additional Search Terms" used just above for Mr. Poulos and re-tried the search with a different variation of his surname, "Pulos," again highlighted from the "Excellent" category of the Surname Suggestion List. Although there were 241 returns on Google, none of the ones on the first two pages had anything to do with a Richard Poulos of Portland, Maine. Next, we searched for Poulos again, but this time, without the given name, retaining the geographic location of Portland. Google yielded over 23,000 results, with two good hits on the first page: the second entry was for an attorney in the Poulos law firm in Portland, the sixth was to the HHGA obituary for Mr. Poulos.

Next, we tried to narrow the Google search down by entering even more search terms, "Portland, Maine" and a date range of "1920 to 1950," keeping the "Wider Search" box in the bottom left-hand corner of the window checked. What happened? The results were about as good as with our other "Poulos" searches: there were over 11,000 returns, with the third entry of the first page linking to a brief obituary of Mr. Poulos in a Harvard alumni newsletter. There was no listing of the HHGA obituary of Mr. Poulos.

But, in the end, would this search have been of value to someone researching the Poulos family history in Maine? Probably not. Would we disount using this software altogether? Absolutely not. Even though tools designed for languages other than Greek often yield poor results, they may still be of assistance to persons with little or not information. We would suggest that this method be used only as an alternative and when genealogists have little else to guide their research.

HCS readers can view other genealogical articles and releases in our extensive, permanent archives at the URL For more information about genealogical methodology, especially in researching Hellenic ancestry, see especially the main genealogy page or the section about Hellenic Historical and Genealogical Association at the URL

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