From a while back…

Variations in how your ancestor’s name was spelled can be endlessly frustrating. However, it’s worth remembering that a variation of how your ancestor’s name appears in an index can arise from a variety of situations:

  • Your ancestor did not know how to spell his name
  • Your ancestor could not read
  • Your ancestor did not speak clearly
  • Your ancestor had an accent with which the writer of his name was unfamiliar
  • The clerk didn’t care
  • The clerk had bad writing
  • The transcriber could not read the name
  • The transcriber did not care
  • The transcriber made a typographical error
  • The document has faded over time and is difficult to read
  • Or something else

Keep in mind that one of more of these could explain why James Rampley ends up indexed as Jarvis Pample.



One response

  1. These are all great reasons for spelling irregularities. Some of my forebears certainly arrived with names that one might expect stymied them, bureaucrats, census takers. But one of the surnames was Helm. Now how many variations could that contain? But when I started my geneology search, my family wouldn’t surface on the census files. I sat mulling it over and then thought to myself – ok, the census taker comes to the door and asks who lives here, and the responder says The Helms. So I searched (on Family Search) Helms. They popped right up! That was about 15 years ago, I’m still chuckling.

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