DEVON-L ArchivesArchiver > DEVON > 2006-07 > 1152311041
From: "Brian" <>
Subject: Name spelling variations
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2006 23:24:01 +0100
I was wondering how you all handle your records when variant spellings of
surnames (and places) are involved?
In many cases, such as place names, spellings have genuinely changed through
the years and in the UK some towns and villages have even changed counties
over time. One I know of through my own research is Stockland - now in Devon
but prior to 1842 in Dorset. So, when I record my ancestor details prior to
1842, do I record the events as being in Stockland Dorset or, as it is now,
Stockland Devon? There are problems with each method when you subsequently
do searches, or try and match up people or events with places.
But more importantly, what about people's names? In the days when most
people were illiterate, we can only rely on what the registrar wrote down -
which is going to have been only what he/she heard. There would be no-one to
point out a mistake if one was made. Sometimes - quite often, in fact - the
name even differs on registrations of birth, marriage and death, and quite
often on different census returns.
So do you record the event with the spelling as it is written (or that you
are INFORMED how it was written anyway.. mis-reading or mis-transcribing
adds another layer for error)? Or do you 'correct' it? If you correct it,
where do you stop? In older times, the mis-spellings may have been
accidental, but in more modern times, it is often deliberate..
On my wife's line, there is one particular family who started out as
TOTTINGHAM, but at various stages in marriages and offspring this appeared
as TOTTINHAM, TOTTENHAM, TOTNAM, TOTMAN.. And I can imagine that in the
laziness of the north Hertfordshire drawling accent, TOTTINGHAM could easily
have been heard as TOTT'NAM or any of the others. I started 'correcting'
them accordingly, but then it occurred to me that this was maybe not a good
idea if I was to go searching e.g. on the IGI, and in any case, a later
generation of that family line in the late 1800s went under the name of
TOTT, and still do to this day.. It would be very wrong of me to 'correct'
All a bit of a nightmare I think. So to go back to the original question
(I've rambled on a bit as usual!) I was wondering what the 'standard', or
most usual, or the preferred way of dealing with such situations is..
(Devon FHS #16585)