Monday, August 13, 2012

Surnames and Spelling

It may be tiresome at times, if you search databases with the ‘soundex’ system and you get lots of variations in the spelling of a name, however it is surprising just how some surnames have evolved and varieties of the same name can co- exist. A cousin of mine noted that ancestors coming directly from England spelt their name as ‘Nicolson’, but those that came via the United States added an ‘h’ to the name and now spelt it as ‘Nicholson’. Others have noted a similar process with ‘Thomson’ and ‘Thompson’.
Sometimes you have to imagine how a name was pronounced using a strong accent to find a spelling. This is not a transcription error, but simply how the name was recorded by an unfamiliar party. My grandmother had the name ‘Hackett’ written on her marriage certificate, but luckily it was then changed to the correct spelling ‘Eckert’. Another person tells how the Irish surname ‘Higman’ became ‘Hickman’ from listening rather than seeing the name written.
The moral of the story is that you need to be open minded about how an ancestor may have spelt their name and consider other versions when researching family history.

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