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12 December 2012

Did They Change the Spelling?

It's always possible that your ancestor altered the spelling of his name. Name spellings, especially before the twentieth century, were not always consistent, and your ancestor might not have even been literate. Don't get too tied to the "correct" spelling because chances are your ancestor did not care about spelling as much as you do.


  1. One branch of my family changed the spelling of the surname slightly, supposedly to keep the postman from mis-boxing the mail. Didn't work tho and it just created more confusion down the generations!

  2. Not only might the relative have used different spellings but so might the people filling out different official forms. Since doing indexing of early records it is amazing the different spellings that a person sees for the same name.

  3. My own ancestor changed the spelling of his surname from McJannett to Jannett, but there are many differing spellings I have found over the years, including Janett, Janet, McJanet, McJannet - there are probably more I haven't found yet!!

    I have also come across another family member who changed his name from Heel to Heeler, presumably to distinguish his family from other Heel families living in the village.

  4. Hi,
    I have been reading your blog for awhile now. I always find it helpful. Thanks for the tips.

    I find altered spellings of my last name, Daley, make finding records difficult. When I do searches I search for most variations, but when I order records from a source, it often comes back not found the first time because the people in the office did not search for all spellings even if I remind them. Frustrating.

  5. Tim--I'm glad you are enjoying the blog.

    One difficulty is that record clerks often don't have the vested interest in the people that we do.

  6. My ancestor changed the name from Cadwallader to Wallander so not to be associated with the Quakers any longer.