Regarding Stuart/Stewart in Scotland, would the spelling vary in the same time period ...

+20 votes
1.2k views the same town or should I assume that Margaret Stuart vs Margaret Stewart are two different people?I don't know whether I could expect there to be misspellings on the Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 records within the same family. There is a gap in Margaret Stuart's children that would be explained by a different spelling. Thank you! :)

WikiTree profile: Margaret McGregor
in Genealogy Help by Deanna Heaslet G2G4 (4.8k points)
Thank you everyone. :)
I have a distant ancestor who deliberately changed the spelling for political reasons when he came to America.  He didn't want to be connected to the regals in his new home.

The Stewart spelling is the older of the two, but “Stuart” became popular after Mary, Queen of Scots. Brought up in France, she spelled her name “Stuart,” due to their being no “w” in the French language.

9 Answers

+19 votes
Best answer
The further back you go, the more you rely on the spelling of whomever was writing the documents.  Expect multiple spellings for the same names, but also expect multiple people with the same names, as families stayed near to each other, and they all named their children after themselves and their mothers and fathers.

John X has 10 children, 5 boys, one of whom is called John X

The 5 boys have say on average 8 children each, 5 of them are called John X.  The 5 girls have another 8 children each, 5 of these are called john too, but with different surnames.

Before long you have 100 John X, and different generations can be born on the same day in the same place!  When the oldest child is 19 and has a baby at the same time the mother has her last child, and they both call them John X!

Dats Jeanology dat is.


by Allen Clark G2G3 (3.6k points)
selected by Monica MacKeachan
Well, I don't think I have much hope of figuring out my Stuart/Stewarts then! :)

Thank you. :)
I learned the hard way on the Stuart/Stewart name issue to follow the mother's name.
I agree.

My own surname Stuart was spelt Stewart Prior to 1800 in fact my 2X great grandfathers name is spelt Stuart but his father and one of his brothers was spelt Stewart.

All this dependant on the Clerk recording, it as the people involved would probably not know how it was spelt.
Also, remember the illiteracy of the day.   You may have known how to pronounce your own name and those of family members but did anyone really know the correct spelling or the variants?   You see this clearly written within the Kirk Sessions throughout Scotland.  You'll see if when you visit the archives and read various and sundry family papers that are kept or possibly recently archived.  The surname varies in spelling within families and the only way to be successful in researching is by looking through every nook and cranny and to be open minded, checking each variant of that name. Surnames present a challenge and variants broad or otherwise should not be overlooked.  In my own Stewart family, the records found are recorded both Stuart and Stewart and to the extent that headstones for the same family are engraved with both spellings.
At least Stuart/Stewart only has 2 real variations.  I have one family, McElwaine, that is positively crazy to keep straight.  The current line of that family goes by Wayne, but fortunately my ancestor was a McElwaine when she married my Cunningham ancestor in the 1800s.  Going back, the family name spelling varies from one generation to the next, sometimes going back to an older spelling.  In Scotland, there is a document where the family took ownership of a castle (by marriage). The official English document recognizing the change of ownership has the name spelled two different ways on it.  Other versions of McElwaine are Muckelwayne, M'ylveyne, MacIlvaine, etc.  If you can think of a different way to spell it, somebody did.  Stranger still, they are part of the MacBean clan, but I didn't see any MacBeans in the line going back to the 1300s.  There is a Stewart princess though.
I have also seen Steuart show up regularly on WikiTree profiles.  Recently I tend to follow the latest version of the Red Book of Scotland Vol. IX simply because I trust his research more than anything else. I wonder though if others do the same ?
+16 votes
In the time period before general education, the bulk of the population could not read or write. The educated Clerics who recorded births, deaths or marriages spelt names as they thought best. I have a past relative started as a Monkhouse went through Munkhouse and finished as Munchouse. I also have past relatives with genuine birth records as brothers one Stewart one Stuart. So yes it is possible to have different spellingsin the same town even the same family.
by Allan Stuart G2G6 Mach 2 (27.1k points)
+12 votes
Not an expert here but in my limited researching the earliest of this family it seems Stewart spelling was more common in English records. French records I came across tended towards Stuart. See for an example.

As both spellings were used, when you find older Stewarts/Stuarts where all other information indicates they same it would seem to be a safe bet that they are the same.

Marty Acks
by Marty Acks G2G6 Pilot (149k points)
+20 votes
The name was derived from Steward and, in Scotland, became Stewart.  This was the name in common use through much of the early to mid middle ages.  With involvement of many of the Scottish families in the wars in France the name that was adopted was Stuart.  This name became associated with the Scottish Royal family and later the Jacobite Rebellion.  By the period in question, for Margaret Stuart, the name was used varyingly by different families.  There was, at that date, not "standard" and I wuld recommend you use the one on the birth certificate which you could likely obtain from Scotlands People website.  The Parish of Keith is in Banff.  However it is worth noting, and mentioned by others, that, given the year, the person may not have known how to spell their name and thus the name was at the whim of the Parish clerk or Priest.
by Doug Straiton G2G6 Mach 2 (22.3k points)
+9 votes
Just adding my two bobs worth we have a letter to my father whose middle name Dad had and in this letter uncle Joe spelt his own surname in 5 different ways. If the owner of the name can read and write and doesn't spell correctly what chance has anyone else of getting it right?

Even now you are at liberty to use any name you like as long as it is not for dishonest purposes and often people do use another name dishonestly on purpose anyway.
by Heather Douglas G2G6 Mach 1 (17.2k points)
+7 votes

When the Scottish royal family Stewart became the English Royal family the English spelled the name Stuart and the name variation stuck.  There are now several additional variants of the name.

I'm still trying to find my great great grandparents' immigrant parents in Canada.  Jeanne Stuart's name has been spelled Stuart, but perhaps that name in Scotland was something else (Stewart or Steuart or etc.)

by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
Not strictly true David. Stuart was used prior to the Union of the Crowns. For example Mary, Queen of Scots was Stuart. She, and others lived in France for a long time, probably had a better grasp of French that either the Scots or English language.
+9 votes
This doesn’t exactly help with your problem, but here are some interesting statistics from document extracts at the website National Records of Scotland:
1501-1600 A.D. : 1,508 records for Stewart vs. 67 for Stuart (Stewart 22.51 times Stuart)
1601-1700 A.D. : 3,661 for Stewart vs. 343 for Stuart (Stewart 10.67 times Stuart)
1701-1800 A.D. : 7,071 for Stewart vs. 1,542 for Stuart (Stewart 4.86 times Stuart)
1801-1900 A.D. : 10,704 for Stewart vs. 2,752 for Stuart (Stewart 3.89 times Stuart)
I’m not sure what all that means other than Stuart becoming increasingly popular with each century. The most dramatic increase came, unsurprisingly, in the century after Mary Queen of Scots adopted the French spelling Stuart. That also means that the original appearance of Stuart was no accident but the Queen's choice.
by Loretta Layman G2G6 Mach 4 (43.1k points)
In my family, we are Stewart all the way. I checked my tree but could find no Jeanne. Where in Scotland are they from. David and where did they end up in Canada. I*ll see what I can do.
+3 votes
My family seemed to have bucked the trend.  All my family back to and including 3rd gr grandfather used Stewart.  His father, my 4th gr grandfather was Stuart.  I learned a long time ago to use 'sounds like' in my searches.  I have found Steward Stewar and Steuart as variants just to throw in a few extra for you.  It must be exciting to be able to go back into the 1500s.  I am stuck with my 4th gr granddad John Stuart born 1778. He died in 1848 and prior to 1855 parent's names weren't listed on marriages nor deaths.

Anne Stewart
by Anne Stewart G2G1 (1.4k points)
+4 votes
The basic answer is yes, as most ordinary people were illiterate, in the not to distant past, their names were spelt by the person who recorded an event.

See The Stewart Name Study, it lists all of the spelling variations used in Wikitree.

The main thing to look out for is when and where the spelling Stuart was first used.
by Allan Stuart G2G6 Mach 2 (27.1k points)

Related questions

+5 votes
1 answer
+5 votes
0 answers
158 views asked Aug 16, 2022 in Genealogy Help by Mary Morgan G2G5 (5.3k points)
+12 votes
2 answers
+7 votes
4 answers
+11 votes
4 answers
720 views asked Apr 19, 2018 in Genealogy Help by Kirk Hess G2G6 Mach 6 (69.9k points)
+7 votes
1 answer

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright