Have misspelled surnames on official lists been a problem for you as well as me??

+7 votes
110 views
Sometimes I can't believe how badly the surnames I'm researching have been misspelled! Here's an example: My wife's great grandfather was Michael "Stefancic." But in the 1910 census it was spelled "Steferrist!" My widowed GG grandmother immigrated to the US in 1876. Her surname and the names of her four children was spelled "Driesch" on the immigration records instead of the correct "Triesch."

I guess this is just a rant. But finding the records I needed took me MONTHS instead of minutes.
in The Tree House by Bart Triesch G2G6 Pilot (253k points)
One of my great grandfather's first names was spelled Fordrick and should have been Frederick. I communicated with the source and they corrected it.
On the 1880 census, my ggg grandfather James P. Stephenson is transcribed as Dennis P. Stephenson transcription:   https://www.familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M8L6-FTX

image:  https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYY5-ZWM?i=14&cc=1417683

On the surname, sometimes you need to look for ancestors just with a first name and try to narrow down the possibilities through some other means!
good to know.  I've got spelling issues all over and struggle with this issue too.
For a joke, I wrote one of my adult children about spelling misteaks.

The spelling was corrected to "mistakes," and without comment.

My great grandfather, Frank Israel Fuller, had his middle name transcribed from a census sheet as 'Grael' by some careless person! I searched for DAYS for his record! Finally, in desperation, I was able to look at the original census record vs. the erroneous transcription, and EUREKA!!!

Now, how to get that wrongful transcription corrected??? I have done the best I could, by noting it in each and every pertinent biography of Frank ISRAEL Fuller.

Just how would any one of us like to have our names misspelled for posterity?

2 Answers

+8 votes
 
Best answer
I've often been amazed at the inexplicable changes in spelling of surnames and first names, with the most astonishing thing I've yet seen being a complete misspelling of a person's last name on their tombstone. People might assume that something "written in stone" is correct, but I've now seen for myself that's not always true!

But having joined you briefly in this rant, I'd love to encourage all of us here at WikiTree to get creative with how we do investigation any time we hit a dead end, keeping in mind that many "brick walls" happen at junctures where names change. These changes happen not just at the expected moments--such as when immigrants arrive in a new country and change spelling to be more in keeping with their new homeland--but also due to the person writing the document spelling the name how they think it should be written, as well as translation errors, spelling changes due to someone being illiterate, or the person being known by a different name than their given name. And then there are cases where a person's first and last name are switched around.

Here are some tips I've found helpful to break through brick walls that end up having been there due to differences in name spellings:

- Establish as many factual details for the person as possible, including family members wherever possible. Sometimes census records provide just the right clue to pick up a trail that got temporarily lost due to a name change.

- Leave off the name in searches, and seek to find all other attributes matching--or using the bare minimum of data facts you have for an individual. This minimalist approach has often rewarded me with breakthroughs, with results showing up I'd not seen before, which is how I then recognize the same person showing up with a different name.

- Try creative combinations of search fields, such as trying a combination of birth place, gender, approximate birth date and father's last name to narrow down the search, and see what turns up. Vary the results in different ways, such as including just the first name of a person with the first name of a parent, spouse, or other family member.

- Search on initials rather than full names. I've sometimes had good fortune when doing searches on just initials for the name, along with combinations of other facts.

- These tips are useful for searching genealogical databases such as familysearch.org, and also for searching in Google Books--especially when you know a specific time and location for individuals.
by Cynthia Larson G2G6 Pilot (170k points)
selected by Randy Erickson
+6 votes
I have so many, this one amuses me, on the Census the name is listed as Grescand and her name is Grace Ann. To be fair this was in the Danish West Indies and Grace Ann came from St. Kitts. I sat there for weeks trying to puzzle out that name.
by Lynnette Dovy G2G6 Mach 1 (19.0k points)

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