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04 May 2015

Did the Cousins Change the Spelling?

For whatever reason, one branch of your family may choose to change the spelling of their name. Sometimes changes were done to hide ethnic background, to distinguish from connections with "unsavory" family members, or simply to avoid confusion.

One of my families immigrated to the United States in the 1850s and eventually used three different spellings in different branches of the family: Trautvetter, Troutvetter, and Troutfetter.


  1. Or sometimes it is done to avoid potential embarrassment, like relatives of my wife's who changed their last name from Pee to Lee.

  2. Some of my relatives changed the next to last letter in their name from an O to an A -- supposedly to help the mail carrier. Don't think it made any difference to the mail man.

  3. i have relatives who added an h to our last name don't know why

  4. Many names were changed by non-family members like census takers, court recorders, etc. If your ancestor didn't know how to write and spell his/her surname, then someone else took down the name as they understood it. I have found interviews with old timers in which they were asked which way they spelled their name: McDaniel, McDannel, McDanald, etc. and the old guy would say..."Don't know, spell it however you want". Later, someone in the family, that had learned to read and write, would see their family name on a document or other place and assume that it was spelled that way.