Backtrack that Name?

A distant cousin of mine used the name “Hobby.” I knew that his immigrant parents had likely actually named him “Habbe” and that “Hobby” was the spelling he used because that’s how his name sounded to an American ear.

My first reference to a relative in the US was as “Jede.” I know that her name was most likely “Tjede” because that name was more common in her ethnic group and would have sounded like “Jede” (or perhaps “Chede”) to an untrained ear.

If your ancestor has an atypical name and you are aware of their ethnic group or linguistic history, ask someone familiar with the language what the name could have been in their original tongue. That may help you to find them in records of the old country.

And keep in mind that anyone can speak with an accent. That’s how my ancestor Susannah ended up having her name occasionally written as “Susannar.”