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08 June 2014

Is There Really a Right Way to Spell?

Today it's usually advised to have our name spelled the same way on every document, but that might not have necessarily been the case for your ancestor. Even if your 18th century ancestor was literate, he might not have been concerned about whether his name was spelled the "right way." Your ancestor might have been more concerned that the legal description of his farm was correct in his deed or that her accounting of items received from her husband's will was done correctly. 

Those things impacted your 19th century ancestor's bottom line. The correct spelling probably didn't.

It's possible that your ancestor was concerned about the "right" spelling, but the reality is that there might have been other details in the document whose "rightness" mattered more.


  1. I have many French and Dutch ancestors. Their names are challenging to say the least. The Dutch seem to change their surname spelling every couple of generations. The French do something similar and then there are the "dit" additions. Have to be extra vigilant to check if I have the correct parents and lots of little notes to self stating where I found the name and whether I "trust" the source, i.e. original documents when possible.

  2. Excellent... and very true, many times in the document a name will be spelled differently.

  3. I've seen documents where the name may be spelled several ways in the same document.
    P.S. love that mail box in the captcha