Shepard Shepherd Sheperd Shephard Sheaphearde ??

+14 votes

Need to decide an LNAB?

Sheaphearde on his marriage document 1632

Sheppard on the immigration list 1635

Shephard on his tombstone 1693

Shepard in Anderson Great Migration

Two profiles currently

Shepard-1151 (new no previous merges)

Shepherd-2 (has had multiple merges already)

Assorted spellings in the records.

Thoughts? Comments? Preferences?


WikiTree profile: Ralph Sheperd
in Genealogy Help by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Shepard is perhaps the most randomly spelled surname out there. My paternal grandmother was a Shepard. It is always fun to see how it is spelled in each census.
I can offer just what you don't need - another variant.  My doctor's name is Sheppard.
My uncle was a Shepard as was his father, grandfather and gg grandfather.  The family disliked it when any other spelling was used for their surname.

For any LNAB I do serious research to find the spelling used.  If later in life or in their will they use a different spelling I add that as the preferred surname.  Certainly a spelling on a tombstone would indicate a preference for that spelling which I would honor in the Wiki profile.
Verizon declared me a Sheepherd, plus I have seen at least census spelling of Sheephard. But I have other family lines with more outrageous variants. What is the rationale that says we can decide once and for all to establish an immutable key to the database? I speak computer/math logic, so don't hold back with your answers?
My surname is Sheppard

5 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer
Thank You for asking this question. I count Sheppards in my sleep.
by Anonymous Roach G2G6 Pilot (185k points)
selected by David Shannon
Love it, Trudy!!
+4 votes
I think our WikiTree convention has been to use Robert Charles Anderson's spelling from the Great Migration.
by Kay Wilson G2G6 Pilot (188k points)
... In the absence of a solid birth record.
I agree with Kay. In this case, we can consider ourselves lucky - there is a Wikitree convention that provides a reason.

Very few records, even to the present day, which contain a person's surname, were recorded by the individual themselves. Town clerks, clergyman, officers of the court, undertakers, newspaper reporters, etc., hear a sound, interpret it, and write down something. Who knows why they write down what they do.

As genealogists and human beings (perhaps with a trace of vanity and a need for validation?), we each have our own prejudices, as indicated by the variety of responses here. Sometimes it's "MY ancestor, MY spelling."

"Last name at birth," as mentioned (above and below) is just a choice made by Wikitree. An oft-used protocol is: 1) surname recorded on a birth record; 2) if PGM, use Anderson; 3) otherwise discuss with profile managers or on G2G.

"Good as most; better than some."
+8 votes

The unique spelling of surnames is largely a 19th century bureaucratic development.  While some families had settled on spellings for their families, many others hadn't.  That WikiTree demands a single 'LNAB' for a profile is an anachronistic system design error.  I'm sure the developers would have done this differently now, if they could.  Nevertheless, we're stuck with the problem, wasting huge amounts of time dithering about the 'correct' spelling of surnames when the very question would have been meaningless to many of our ancestors.

Shepard/Shepherd/Sheperd/Shephard/Sheaphearde is a good example of a surname that was unsettled in a society where many surnames had become settled fairly early, 17th century New England.  There is no reason to think that Ralph, the immigrant, had any particular preference for any particular spelling.  The problem is really dramatic in the New Netherland settlement where many settlers barely understood the concept of a surname, much less had one.  WikiTree doesn't provide for historical reality, only some modern standards.

I use the following principles to help me establish a surname when it's unclear.

  1. A surname used as an adult should be given preference to surnames used earlier, e.g. christening and marriage records.
  2. Use of a 'LNAB' that was apparently never used by an individual is acceptable if it tends to make clearer the family, its ancestry and descendants.
  3. Attention to broad surname usage patterns across time and geography is useful, e.g. 'du Bois' for the French family, and 'DuBois' for the American family.

In the case of Shepard/Shepherd/Sheperd/Shephard/Sheaphearde, since it doesn’t appear Ralph had any strong preference, I would weigh heavily the preferences of his children for the spelling of their names.  I don't know this family well enough to say what that would be.

Best wishes,

by Kimball Everingham G2G6 (6.6k points)
+4 votes
It didnt get any better in the last two centuries. In the Shepherd Memorial Cemetery in Macon County, NC, one can find at least four different spellings for people all related to each other. Sometimes those spellings don’t match death certificates, census records, and such. When I have two or more choices to make, sometimes I have to “standardize” the spelling if I can’t tell what their preference was. When it’s as far back as your example, I would most likely spell it the way most folks could find it when searching. Wish I could help more!
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)
+4 votes
The original name is undoubtedly "Shepherd" just like the occupation. Over the years people have changed it to suit their fancy. I agree that the best spelling is the one used by the individual (if you can find it). My 7th great grandfather, Samuel Sheperd was the Town Clerk in Holderness, New Hampshire for over 40 years. Many relatives insist it should be spelled Shepard or Shepherd, however, since he wrote it in his own handwriting and town records as Sheperd, that is the way I still use it today, for him and his descendants. Until I find someone earlier than him historically, I will continue to use it that way for him.   --Carl Sheperd
by Carl Sheperd G2G Crew (380 points)
Very 'cool' insight

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