Is it appropriate to change spelling of surnames when you have sources?

+7 votes
I have run across several "cousins" of mine already in the tree. I have sources for these people and my sources show a different spelling than the name posted.  Should I change it?  Should I contact the person who posted it?

My second question along the same lines is I have posted some ancestors and again, I have sources showing that the spelling of the surname is the way I posted it and someone has come along and changed the spelling. What is appropriate in this case?
in Policy and Style by Deena Cross G2G6 Mach 3 (34.2k points)

2 Answers

+17 votes
Best answer
Unless something has changed recently, you cannot change the surname of a profile if you are not a profile manager.  Maybe you have to be on the trusted list.

Anyway, spelling was not exact in previous centuries.  If you have a different spelling, it is a good idea to add it to the other last names.  It is not necessary to change it unless all of the sources have the same spelling.  

If you have proof of a discrepancy in the LNAB you should get in touch with the profile manager and discuss changing it.
by Maureen Rosenfeld G2G6 Pilot (182k points)
selected by Dale Byers
Expanding on this excellent answer, please know that because of the spelling variations that existed, wikitree has a policy re: last name at birth (LNAB): it is determined by how the surname was documented at the time of the birth-- either on the person's birth record or other *contemporaneous* family record.

That means that even a male's surname may change from his birth to his death. And that the spelling of a son's or daughter's surname may differ from their father's spelling. This is particularly true of emigrants/immigrants. And particularly true of 17th century settlers.
+5 votes
Deena , I have family with different spellings and sources that can have a different spelling for the same person on different documents. I try to find a birth certificate. If I can't find one I use the spelling on legal documents with their signature. Or if nothing else can be found for the sake of merging I talk to other managers about agreeing on a spelling and try to get all of the names on one profile.  It takes awhile. And I go through all surname list to find them. Thank You for asking that question. I noticed you have Baker relatives. Any from West Virginia?
by Anonymous Roach G2G6 Pilot (186k points)
Birth records were less likely to occur in the UK before 1837, unless you were lucky enough to have a parish clerk or priest who entered birth dates along with baptismal dates. The LNAB policy is therefore a bit hit and miss as a result. However, it seems fair and proper to use names recorded in official or legal sources - but beware. I have a number of land charters and legal documents going back to the high mediaeval period in England in which the same person is recorded with different spellings of their name in the same document.

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