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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Jun 17, 2005

Your ancestors may be Hiding in the Ancestry Archive Index, masquerading as some other surname because of a misspelling.

Your ancestors may have always spelled their name in a certain way, but believe me those who actually recorded their names, like census takers, county clerks, and tax collectors, could have spelled it in numerous other ways. It may be that your surname was spelled phonetically, or characters may have been left out or added. Character reversals are especially common when names are extracted for an Index like those you find online. Try using either the Surname Browse Search Box or the list version of the Surname Browse feature at MyTrees.com. This feature links you to the various surnames found in the Ancestry Archive Index. It makes it possible for you to easily and quickly find if your ancestor's name is masquerading as some other surname because of a misspelling.

Currently most spellings of common words and names have been standardized. Spelling standardization, however, only began about the mid-twentieth century. Prior to that a large percentage of the population could not read or write and therefore did not know if their name was written correctly or not. To complicate matters even more, the spelling of names changed according to the country from which the surname originated.

I ask you: "How often have you had your last name misspelled?" Mine gets misspelled quite often and its not because it is a hard name to spell either. My last name is Carman. Most people will spell it Carmen or Karmen. Anymore, I almost expect it to be misspelled. Because of this, when I am searching for my ancestors' names in an index, I often will search for these name variants.

Fortunately my last name has very few spelling variations. Yours however my have hundreds. That's why the names listed in the Surname Browse are so helpful. The Surname Browse lists in alphabetical order only those names that are represented in the Ancestry Archive Index. This helps you quickly find if there are other spellings of the surname for which you are searching at MyTrees.com.

Perhaps you do not know what the common spelling variations or misspellings of your surname are. Here are some simple misspelling strategies to help you discover some of those variants. Remember, just because the misspelled name appears in an index or record does not mean that your ancestor gave instructions to the recorder to spell it that way. It usually means the recorder couldn't spell, or he misunderstood the name, or the extractor misread the name that was written.

  • 1. Use the "Name Variants" feature found on the Ancestry Archive search page (The spelling suggestions given, using this feature, are created using the Soundex approach and generally contain a wide range of spellings; therefore, be sure to select those that are most applicable.)
  • 2. Try adding an "s" to the end of the surname when searching from the Ancestry Archive search page.
  • 3. Try substituting an "a" for an "o" and visa versa. For instance Ball to Boll.
  • 4. Try substituting an "e" for an "i" and visa versa.
  • 5. Try doubling the constants or removing the doubled constants "n", "m", or "l" For instance Donnely to Donnelly
  • 6. Try spelling your surname phonetically. (Spell it the way it sounds, for instance Hiday and Highday.)
  • 7. Add or remove an "e" before a "y" For instance Wily to Wiley.
  • 8. Substitute a "y" for an "i" For instance Linch to Lynch
  • 9. If the first character of your surname is an "I", substitute a "J" for it. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital I for the cursive capital J.)
  • 10. If the first character of your surname is an "S", substitute a "L" for it and visa versa. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital S for the cursive capital L. For instance Sander or Lauder.)
  • 11. If the first character of your surname is an "M" substitute a "W" for it and visa versa. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital M for the cursive capital W. For instance Wills to Mills.)
These are only a few of the spelling variations that you may find. I have not listed the categories of spelling errors that William Thorndale has summarized in "The Source":
  • 1. Calligraphic look-alikes: Daniel/David, Nathan/Mathew
  • 2. Phonetic equivalents: Lydecker/Litaker, Myatt/Maillotte, de la Hunte/Dillahunty, Hansel/Ansel, St. Cyr/Sincere, Ratton/Wroughton , Vanlandingham/Flannagen.
  • 3. Translation equivalents: Calbfeisch/Veal, Rubsamen/Turnip seed, Silver/Silber.
  • 4. Truncates: Fitzgerald/Gerald/Jurrell, O'Sullivan/Sully, Haythornthwaite/Haythorn, Strohmaier/Maier, de Villeponteaux/Pontoux.
  • 5. Spelling irregularities: Cuper pronounced Cooper, Cocks pronounced Cox.
Many of us have surnames that differ somewhat from the ones our immigrant ancestors brought to America. There are many reasons why immigrants changed their names either voluntarily or involuntarily:

1. Necessity. Typewriters and typesetting equipment used by English speaking countries did not have the ability to deal with the diacritic markings used above or below certain letters found in other languages, nor did they have the ability to deal with the character sets found in Chinese, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Arabic, and other non-Latin languages.

2. Lack of Spelling Standardization. Many immigrants could not spell their names in English. So when they gave their name to the recorder, the name would be written as it sounded.

3. Misunderstanding the spoken name. Some foreign names are difficult to pronounce for those speaking English, not to mention difficult to spell. Also, the foreign accent or even local dialect of an ancestor may have influenced the spelling of the name. For instance, my Dearing ancestors were listed as Dearen in the 1850 Census due to the pronunciation of their name using a deep Southern accent.

4. Make a new start. Some people viewed immigration as a new beginning and did not want to carry old memories and sometimes negative histories into the new country of immigration. So they changed their surname slightly and in some cases completely. Also, in countries where different naming conventions are used, like the patronymic convention, the immigrant may have chosen to use the locality of origin as their name of preference. For instance, Andreas Andreasen who came from Hammersborg, Norway is listed in the 1860 US Census as Andreas Andreasen but in later censuses, Hammersborg was listed as his last name. After a few more years it was converted to Hammersberg.

5. Family Feuds. Family members may have changed their names slightly or completely in order to avoid being associated with a relative they did not like.

6. Dislike of the original name. Jews in most of Europe did not use surnames until forced to take them by the governments in power from about the time of Napoleon. Those that could were required to pay for their choice of names. The poor were assigned names.

7. Fear of discrimination. Some immigrants left their countries of origin because they were being mistreated because of their ethnic origin which could possibly be conveyed by their surname. During World War I, many people changed the spelling of their names so they sounded less German. They feared discrimination and rejection over being identified as having come from Germany.

Beware of assuming that if the surname is not spelled in a certain way that it cannot belong to the your family. Many researchers miss their ancestor in records due to not checking for misspelling. Especially watch for letter transpositions. If you use the Surname Browse lists at MyTrees.com you can avoid having to guess what variations will bring results in your search.

Here are some other tools that may help you discover the Surname variants of your ancestors.

Search for name variations using this advanced search engine.
http://www.imagepartners.co.uk/Thesaurus/Search.aspx
The Surname Thesaurus has 135,473,315 entries for 2,729,655 distinct Surnames

http://www.serve.com/shea/germusa/surnames.htm
German Names in America

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/lwjones/dit.htm
Name Variations at Genealogy Arcadian and French Canadian Style

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~haslam/surnames/soi.html#list
Surname Origins Index

http://www.thenortheast.fsnet.co.uk/Surnames%20of%20North%20East%20England.htm
Surnames of Northeast England

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~kevrenor/csnames.htm
Cornish Surnames

http://www.rootsweb.com/~irlkik/ihm/irenames.htm
Old Irish-Gaelic Surnames

http://www.anzwers.org/free/italiangen/italynames.html
Italian Names & the History of Names

http://members.tripod.com/~zlimpkk/Genealogy/czechsurnames.html
Czech Surnames

http://www.polishroots.org/surnames/surnames_index.htm
Polish Surnames

http://www.nameseekers.co.uk/surname.htm
Surnames Meanings.

Copyright ©: 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Jun 17, 2005

Your ancestors may be Hiding in the Ancestry Archive Index, masquerading as some other surname because of a misspelling.

Your ancestors may have always spelled their name in a certain way, but believe me those who actually recorded their names, like census takers, county clerks, and tax collectors, could have spelled it in numerous other ways. It may be that your surname was spelled phonetically, or characters may have been left out or added. Character reversals are especially common when names are extracted for an Index like those you find online. Try using either the Surname Browse Search Box or the list version of the Surname Browse feature at MyTrees.com. This feature links you to the various surnames found in the Ancestry Archive Index. It makes it possible for you to easily and quickly find if your ancestor's name is masquerading as some other surname because of a misspelling.

Currently most spellings of common words and names have been standardized. Spelling standardization, however, only began about the mid-twentieth century. Prior to that a large percentage of the population could not read or write and therefore did not know if their name was written correctly or not. To complicate matters even more, the spelling of names changed according to the country from which the surname originated.

I ask you: "How often have you had your last name misspelled?" Mine gets misspelled quite often and its not because it is a hard name to spell either. My last name is Carman. Most people will spell it Carmen or Karmen. Anymore, I almost expect it to be misspelled. Because of this, when I am searching for my ancestors' names in an index, I often will search for these name variants.

Fortunately my last name has very few spelling variations. Yours however my have hundreds. That's why the names listed in the Surname Browse are so helpful. The Surname Browse lists in alphabetical order only those names that are represented in the Ancestry Archive Index. This helps you quickly find if there are other spellings of the surname for which you are searching at MyTrees.com.

Perhaps you do not know what the common spelling variations or misspellings of your surname are. Here are some simple misspelling strategies to help you discover some of those variants. Remember, just because the misspelled name appears in an index or record does not mean that your ancestor gave instructions to the recorder to spell it that way. It usually means the recorder couldn't spell, or he misunderstood the name, or the extractor misread the name that was written.

  • 1. Use the "Name Variants" feature found on the Ancestry Archive search page (The spelling suggestions given, using this feature, are created using the Soundex approach and generally contain a wide range of spellings; therefore, be sure to select those that are most applicable.)
  • 2. Try adding an "s" to the end of the surname when searching from the Ancestry Archive search page.
  • 3. Try substituting an "a" for an "o" and visa versa. For instance Ball to Boll.
  • 4. Try substituting an "e" for an "i" and visa versa.
  • 5. Try doubling the constants or removing the doubled constants "n", "m", or "l" For instance Donnely to Donnelly
  • 6. Try spelling your surname phonetically. (Spell it the way it sounds, for instance Hiday and Highday.)
  • 7. Add or remove an "e" before a "y" For instance Wily to Wiley.
  • 8. Substitute a "y" for an "i" For instance Linch to Lynch
  • 9. If the first character of your surname is an "I", substitute a "J" for it. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital I for the cursive capital J.)
  • 10. If the first character of your surname is an "S", substitute a "L" for it and visa versa. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital S for the cursive capital L. For instance Sander or Lauder.)
  • 11. If the first character of your surname is an "M" substitute a "W" for it and visa versa. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital M for the cursive capital W. For instance Wills to Mills.)
These are only a few of the spelling variations that you may find. I have not listed the categories of spelling errors that William Thorndale has summarized in "The Source":
  • 1. Calligraphic look-alikes: Daniel/David, Nathan/Mathew
  • 2. Phonetic equivalents: Lydecker/Litaker, Myatt/Maillotte, de la Hunte/Dillahunty, Hansel/Ansel, St. Cyr/Sincere, Ratton/Wroughton , Vanlandingham/Flannagen.
  • 3. Translation equivalents: Calbfeisch/Veal, Rubsamen/Turnip seed, Silver/Silber.
  • 4. Truncates: Fitzgerald/Gerald/Jurrell, O'Sullivan/Sully, Haythornthwaite/Haythorn, Strohmaier/Maier, de Villeponteaux/Pontoux.
  • 5. Spelling irregularities: Cuper pronounced Cooper, Cocks pronounced Cox.
Many of us have surnames that differ somewhat from the ones our immigrant ancestors brought to America. There are many reasons why immigrants changed their names either voluntarily or involuntarily:

1. Necessity. Typewriters and typesetting equipment used by English speaking countries did not have the ability to deal with the diacritic markings used above or below certain letters found in other languages, nor did they have the ability to deal with the character sets found in Chinese, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Arabic, and other non-Latin languages.

2. Lack of Spelling Standardization. Many immigrants could not spell their names in English. So when they gave their name to the recorder, the name would be written as it sounded.

3. Misunderstanding the spoken name. Some foreign names are difficult to pronounce for those speaking English, not to mention difficult to spell. Also, the foreign accent or even local dialect of an ancestor may have influenced the spelling of the name. For instance, my Dearing ancestors were listed as Dearen in the 1850 Census due to the pronunciation of their name using a deep Southern accent.

4. Make a new start. Some people viewed immigration as a new beginning and did not want to carry old memories and sometimes negative histories into the new country of immigration. So they changed their surname slightly and in some cases completely. Also, in countries where different naming conventions are used, like the patronymic convention, the immigrant may have chosen to use the locality of origin as their name of preference. For instance, Andreas Andreasen who came from Hammersborg, Norway is listed in the 1860 US Census as Andreas Andreasen but in later censuses, Hammersborg was listed as his last name. After a few more years it was converted to Hammersberg.

5. Family Feuds. Family members may have changed their names slightly or completely in order to avoid being associated with a relative they did not like.

6. Dislike of the original name. Jews in most of Europe did not use surnames until forced to take them by the governments in power from about the time of Napoleon. Those that could were required to pay for their choice of names. The poor were assigned names.

7. Fear of discrimination. Some immigrants left their countries of origin because they were being mistreated because of their ethnic origin which could possibly be conveyed by their surname. During World War I, many people changed the spelling of their names so they sounded less German. They feared discrimination and rejection over being identified as having come from Germany.

Beware of assuming that if the surname is not spelled in a certain way that it cannot belong to the your family. Many researchers miss their ancestor in records due to not checking for misspelling. Especially watch for letter transpositions. If you use the Surname Browse lists at MyTrees.com you can avoid having to guess what variations will bring results in your search.

Here are some other tools that may help you discover the Surname variants of your ancestors.

Search for name variations using this advanced search engine.
http://www.imagepartners.co.uk/Thesaurus/Search.aspx
The Surname Thesaurus has 135,473,315 entries for 2,729,655 distinct Surnames

http://www.serve.com/shea/germusa/surnames.htm
German Names in America

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/lwjones/dit.htm
Name Variations at Genealogy Arcadian and French Canadian Style

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~haslam/surnames/soi.html#list
Surname Origins Index

http://www.thenortheast.fsnet.co.uk/Surnames%20of%20North%20East%20England.htm
Surnames of Northeast England

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~kevrenor/csnames.htm
Cornish Surnames

http://www.rootsweb.com/~irlkik/ihm/irenames.htm
Old Irish-Gaelic Surnames

http://www.anzwers.org/free/italiangen/italynames.html
Italian Names & the History of Names

http://members.tripod.com/~zlimpkk/Genealogy/czechsurnames.html
Czech Surnames

http://www.polishroots.org/surnames/surnames_index.htm
Polish Surnames

http://www.nameseekers.co.uk/surname.htm
Surnames Meanings.

Copyright ©: 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Jun 17, 2005

Your ancestors may be Hiding in the Ancestry Archive Index, masquerading as some other surname because of a misspelling.

Your ancestors may have always spelled their name in a certain way, but believe me those who actually recorded their names, like census takers, county clerks, and tax collectors, could have spelled it in numerous other ways. It may be that your surname was spelled phonetically, or characters may have been left out or added. Character reversals are especially common when names are extracted for an Index like those you find online. Try using either the Surname Browse Search Box or the list version of the Surname Browse feature at MyTrees.com. This feature links you to the various surnames found in the Ancestry Archive Index. It makes it possible for you to easily and quickly find if your ancestor's name is masquerading as some other surname because of a misspelling.

Currently most spellings of common words and names have been standardized. Spelling standardization, however, only began about the mid-twentieth century. Prior to that a large percentage of the population could not read or write and therefore did not know if their name was written correctly or not. To complicate matters even more, the spelling of names changed according to the country from which the surname originated.

I ask you: "How often have you had your last name misspelled?" Mine gets misspelled quite often and its not because it is a hard name to spell either. My last name is Carman. Most people will spell it Carmen or Karmen. Anymore, I almost expect it to be misspelled. Because of this, when I am searching for my ancestors' names in an index, I often will search for these name variants.

Fortunately my last name has very few spelling variations. Yours however my have hundreds. That's why the names listed in the Surname Browse are so helpful. The Surname Browse lists in alphabetical order only those names that are represented in the Ancestry Archive Index. This helps you quickly find if there are other spellings of the surname for which you are searching at MyTrees.com.

Perhaps you do not know what the common spelling variations or misspellings of your surname are. Here are some simple misspelling strategies to help you discover some of those variants. Remember, just because the misspelled name appears in an index or record does not mean that your ancestor gave instructions to the recorder to spell it that way. It usually means the recorder couldn't spell, or he misunderstood the name, or the extractor misread the name that was written.

  • 1. Use the "Name Variants" feature found on the Ancestry Archive search page (The spelling suggestions given, using this feature, are created using the Soundex approach and generally contain a wide range of spellings; therefore, be sure to select those that are most applicable.)
  • 2. Try adding an "s" to the end of the surname when searching from the Ancestry Archive search page.
  • 3. Try substituting an "a" for an "o" and visa versa. For instance Ball to Boll.
  • 4. Try substituting an "e" for an "i" and visa versa.
  • 5. Try doubling the constants or removing the doubled constants "n", "m", or "l" For instance Donnely to Donnelly
  • 6. Try spelling your surname phonetically. (Spell it the way it sounds, for instance Hiday and Highday.)
  • 7. Add or remove an "e" before a "y" For instance Wily to Wiley.
  • 8. Substitute a "y" for an "i" For instance Linch to Lynch
  • 9. If the first character of your surname is an "I", substitute a "J" for it. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital I for the cursive capital J.)
  • 10. If the first character of your surname is an "S", substitute a "L" for it and visa versa. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital S for the cursive capital L. For instance Sander or Lauder.)
  • 11. If the first character of your surname is an "M" substitute a "W" for it and visa versa. (Often extractors mistake the cursive capital M for the cursive capital W. For instance Wills to Mills.)
These are only a few of the spelling variations that you may find. I have not listed the categories of spelling errors that William Thorndale has summarized in "The Source":
  • 1. Calligraphic look-alikes: Daniel/David, Nathan/Mathew
  • 2. Phonetic equivalents: Lydecker/Litaker, Myatt/Maillotte, de la Hunte/Dillahunty, Hansel/Ansel, St. Cyr/Sincere, Ratton/Wroughton , Vanlandingham/Flannagen.
  • 3. Translation equivalents: Calbfeisch/Veal, Rubsamen/Turnip seed, Silver/Silber.
  • 4. Truncates: Fitzgerald/Gerald/Jurrell, O'Sullivan/Sully, Haythornthwaite/Haythorn, Strohmaier/Maier, de Villeponteaux/Pontoux.
  • 5. Spelling irregularities: Cuper pronounced Cooper, Cocks pronounced Cox.
Many of us have surnames that differ somewhat from the ones our immigrant ancestors brought to America. There are many reasons why immigrants changed their names either voluntarily or involuntarily:

1. Necessity. Typewriters and typesetting equipment used by English speaking countries did not have the ability to deal with the diacritic markings used above or below certain letters found in other languages, nor did they have the ability to deal with the character sets found in Chinese, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Arabic, and other non-Latin languages.

2. Lack of Spelling Standardization. Many immigrants could not spell their names in English. So when they gave their name to the recorder, the name would be written as it sounded.

3. Misunderstanding the spoken name. Some foreign names are difficult to pronounce for those speaking English, not to mention difficult to spell. Also, the foreign accent or even local dialect of an ancestor may have influenced the spelling of the name. For instance, my Dearing ancestors were listed as Dearen in the 1850 Census due to the pronunciation of their name using a deep Southern accent.

4. Make a new start. Some people viewed immigration as a new beginning and did not want to carry old memories and sometimes negative histories into the new country of immigration. So they changed their surname slightly and in some cases completely. Also, in countries where different naming conventions are used, like the patronymic convention, the immigrant may have chosen to use the locality of origin as their name of preference. For instance, Andreas Andreasen who came from Hammersborg, Norway is listed in the 1860 US Census as Andreas Andreasen but in later censuses, Hammersborg was listed as his last name. After a few more years it was converted to Hammersberg.

5. Family Feuds. Family members may have changed their names slightly or completely in order to avoid being associated with a relative they did not like.

6. Dislike of the original name. Jews in most of Europe did not use surnames until forced to take them by the governments in power from about the time of Napoleon. Those that could were required to pay for their choice of names. The poor were assigned names.

7. Fear of discrimination. Some immigrants left their countries of origin because they were being mistreated because of their ethnic origin which could possibly be conveyed by their surname. During World War I, many people changed the spelling of their names so they sounded less German. They feared discrimination and rejection over being identified as having come from Germany.

Beware of assuming that if the surname is not spelled in a certain way that it cannot belong to the your family. Many researchers miss their ancestor in records due to not checking for misspelling. Especially watch for letter transpositions. If you use the Surname Browse lists at MyTrees.com you can avoid having to guess what variations will bring results in your search.

Here are some other tools that may help you discover the Surname variants of your ancestors.

Search for name variations using this advanced search engine.
http://www.imagepartners.co.uk/Thesaurus/Search.aspx
The Surname Thesaurus has 135,473,315 entries for 2,729,655 distinct Surnames

http://www.serve.com/shea/germusa/surnames.htm
German Names in America

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/lwjones/dit.htm
Name Variations at Genealogy Arcadian and French Canadian Style

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~haslam/surnames/soi.html#list
Surname Origins Index

http://www.thenortheast.fsnet.co.uk/Surnames%20of%20North%20East%20England.htm
Surnames of Northeast England

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~kevrenor/csnames.htm
Cornish Surnames

http://www.rootsweb.com/~irlkik/ihm/irenames.htm
Old Irish-Gaelic Surnames

http://www.anzwers.org/free/italiangen/italynames.html
Italian Names & the History of Names

http://members.tripod.com/~zlimpkk/Genealogy/czechsurnames.html
Czech Surnames

http://www.polishroots.org/surnames/surnames_index.htm
Polish Surnames

http://www.nameseekers.co.uk/surname.htm
Surnames Meanings.

Copyright ©: 2011 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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