Coombs or Combs

+6 votes
Anyone have a clue as to which spelling is correct before we start completing all the default approved merges in this family branch?
WikiTree profile: John Coombs
asked in Genealogy Help by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (471k points)
This brings up an interesting question.  Similar to using the language of the person in question or using the place at the time of the event, I have seen discussion on using the surname the individual had at the time of birth.   Last Name at Birth being the surname used as best documented at the time of birth.  I know there was a lot of discussion like this for the New Netherlands Settlers Project.

Should not these then each be evaluated in that regard?  

I have a line of Wycoff, Wicoff, Wyckoff's that change the spelling of their surnames over generations.

FYI, I have a member of my Genealogy society who uses the surname Coombs.

2 Answers

+2 votes
There are a lot of variations to surnames. In looking up Coombs and Combs at , a free site, they had Coombs with varations but did not have Combs. It's said to be of medieval English origin.

My own preference is to spell the surname the way the person who had a particular surname, the same way they did. My grandmother and her father and grandfather all had the Hemenway surname. I would not want someone changing the spelling of my ancestors surname to Hemingway or Hemmingway.

If you want to see more on the Coombs surname history, try going to
answered by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
Sorry Frank, I should have read this first.  We essentially agree.
I think that the variations are such that it is actually impossible to know precisely what a person's surname was at any one point in time prior to more modern standard forms.

 It is not rare to find a person, or a place-name recorded in two different forms in the same medieval document. The name Coombe, Coombes, Combe or Combes almost certainly derives from the Anglo-Saxon for valley. Yet another surname that is based on a physical geographical feature, and like the huge number of place-names which include it, therefore quite common. Other variants such as Coomber, probably relate to a dweller in a valley.

The Brythonic word for valley is cwm, pronounced as coombe. It is doubtful that these two languages invented a word for the same feature with such similar phonetic characteristics, so I would guess that one borrowed from the other. I would further guess that it was originally Brythonic because of the absence of any similar word in the areas of northern Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark, The Netherlands or the Frisian Islands whose languages share a common root with AS.

By contrast there are dozens of Welsh place and river-names with cwm as a component.
0 votes

I liked the work of the Combs-Coombs &c. Research Group  when I was working on a branch of this family.

They seem to spell all the names Coombs, at least after immigration. 

Also, John Coombs-58 (a descendant of Coombs-581 above) is spelled Coombs in ''Great Migration" series by Anderson (Vol I-III, Pg 476) ... for whatever that's worth.  Sometimes this has been my rationale for choosing a certain spelling, that someone well-respected in the field chose it.

answered by Cynthia B G2G6 Pilot (124k points)
edited by Cynthia B

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