Multiple mame spellings in records for same family [closed]

+3 votes
How can I get around adding family members where the Church Records have them recorded with different spellings of the same names. The records for my 5x great Grandfather has him recorded as BACRAFT, his son is BEECROFT. All his children get the same name, but then one is convicted and transported out to Australia and then it becomes anyone's guess. The records here are BECROFT, BEECROFT, BEACROFT, BAYCROFT, BARECROFT AND BECRAFT. If I try to enter what the records say it is just mayhem, researchers are missing out because they don't accept some as being in their family. WikiTree wont acept them unless I put them all in as one of the above spellings.

I'm forever chasing my tail, how do I get this sorted out' ?" If you have a suggestion let me know please.


closed with the note: I have my answer with all answers pointing in the same direction. Thanks to all.
in Genealogy Help by Geoff Masters G2G6 Mach 1 (13.9k points)
closed by Geoff Masters

Geoff, no, it's not ideal, and you're not alone, and despite WT recommendations, it's not always as easy a choice at it may appear to some.  Here's food for thought.

Possession, as they say, is 9/10th of the law.  When you or I create a profile, the surname, although not written in stone exactly, is not easy to change.  And since we tend to be lemmings when it comes to genealogy, by choosing a particular surname we are, in effect, "setting" the surname spelling for that person, at least as far as Wikitree users are concerned.  And that name will travel.

Personally, I enjoy this problem.  Often genealogy is dry, stale, and quantifiable cut-and-paste busy-work.  Investigating a surname, thinking about it, considering the possibilities, and making a firm choice based on sound logic and good case-building can be a life-affirming, artistic challenge.   

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that so much of WT is "should" and not "shall," and that when the morning comes you'll still be in one piece whatever you do.

UPDATE:  As luck would have it, Geoff, I just came across one of my own ancestors which fits your question.  I noticed that the Profile Manager did the following:  GAVE TWO DIFFERENT SURNAMES AT ONCE.  How?  I'm not sure, but the Profile is titled "Mathias Click  formerly Cleek, as if Cleek was the man's maiden name. I guess this is OK with Wikitree... honestly I have no idea.  Maybe someone higher up the chain can comment on this.  Notice that he's Cleek-76, NOT Click-76.

Hi Greg,

That would be fine if it was just two names, but I'm dealing with a family that has about 8/9 spellings.

I have been informed of a way to get this settled though now al I have to do is implement it.



5 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
The LNAB is the earliest recorded name, all the other names go in other last names.

You can if you want write a paragraph at the beginning of the bio about all the names and why they are connected. Anyone looking for them should be able to see .
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
selected by Jillaine Smith
Thanks for the star Jillaine

the spelling that appears in a birth record should be used for the Last Name at Birth unless there are other documents from at or near the time of birth that inform us about a more common or correct spelling


Last Name at Birth

 It is usually the formal name as it appears in official documents at the time of birth. However, it may not be exactly what appears in a birth record if:

• There was a spelling mistake or error in the document, or if the family name was more commonly spelled in a different way at the time of the birth (see the spelling conventions section above).


In other words, if everyone in the family has the last name Smith, you don't give one child the name Smiths just because that's how it may appear (when it might just be a stupid curlicue!) on a baptismal register.  If everyone in the family has different spellings on early documents, but they are known throughout life by one particular spelling (which is how the father spelt it, even if the clerics did not), you use the common spelling as used by the family.  As per Wikitree naming "guidelines". 

Hi Marion,
Thank you for the common sense answer, I thought of this as well but with there being so many spellings I wanted to clarify it really was the best way to go.  Your answer convinced me it was, so thank you again it deserves a star.


Hi Melanie,

Thanks for reminding me about the guidelines, something I had let slip by. The harrowing point with this family is that even if it is pronounced the same as the father's name the spelt it the way it was on their birth or Christening document. One family has 12 children and of the 12 there is the name spelt 4 different ways and it seems to stay that way to their death. But I have come to a solution that IU hope will suffice.


+2 votes
You don't have to enter the same spelling for LNAB for every profile especially where there was a change in spelling between generations (create the profile of parents with differently-spelled surnames and then add children by connecting rather than creating parents from the childrens' profile to avoid the automatic creation of a new profile with the same spelling). If the same person had multiple spellings of their surname during their lifetime that can be verified by records use the "other last names" field or make a note of the discrepancies in the profile.

(This sounds like it also makes for quite the headache when searching for relevant documents; the worst surname I've encountered for that so far is "Clitherow", in the period from 1500-1600 or so, which appears as Clitherow(e), Clyderow(e), Cletherow(e), Clyderau, Clitherhow, Clyderhowe, etc...frequently with three or four different spellings all used for the same person.)
by C Handy G2G6 Pilot (136k points)
+2 votes
It's a problem that really isn't that unusual when you go back several generations, since literacy is a relatively new phenomenon.  I agree with the other answers, but sometimes when you encounter inconsistent or conflicting records, you just have to assess the preponderance of evidence and make your best judgment call (e.g., when you have a birth record for a child and his name is spelled differently from that of the parents).  I love it if I can find some document that was actually written or signed by the subject of the profile, since I normally give a person credit for being able to spell his own name.
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (441k points)
I have seen early documents were an individual spells his own name different ways in the same document.  Spelling wasn't that regimented.
Yep, I've seen that too. Yesterday I was reading a will where the surname is spelled three or four different ways.  I think it also happens when the person is illiterate and someone else has to decide how to spell the name.
+2 votes
Geoff - hate to have to tell you this but, get used to it.  I began my quest for Mom's family tree about twenty years ago, and I knew it would have those name change, did not know there would be so many.  so sooo many!  Some will branch out and the later generations will keep that change and not know they are kin to the cousins that come off the branch with a different spelling - My mothers' maiden as it goes back, about six or seven steps back one grandfather changed his spelling and then on my branch the next went back to how the grandparents spelled it - you just have to go with the flow and use what they did and know those changes are out there.
by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (148k points)
Hi Navaro,

The trouble with this family is there are 12 children, but there are probably 3 with the same spelling and probably 3 or 4 different spellings used in all of them. I have worked out what I'm going to do though and first is to add a notice in the Bio of each. And when I am adding them in the edit page I will put in all the AKA's.


+1 vote
Hi Geoff, yes indeed, it makes it VERY HARD to complete our trees, me being an EX Inlaw to the Beecrofts have found the SAME PROBLEM. one trip to a Family History Center I was able to obtain many NAMEs that were involved one way or another, my Daughter was more involved as with her GrandMother, being a BEECROFT, with visit to my Daughters one time we were talking about NAME and I decided to check my LOCAL PHONE book, low and behold, I found a BECROFT, not being very good with the PH and with the right words it took me forever to ring the ONE BECROFT, finally hand wrote some notes that I wanted to say and with ALL THE INFORMATION (IGI and other) in front of me I spoke to the Lady on the PH and she asked me how did I spell my BEECROFT, I told her and she also told me that there was NO CONNECTION, I FROZE, not knowing what to say or do, hanging on to the PH and LOOKING AT ALL THIS information I had in front of me, wondering how all this could be wrong, so I took a DEEP BREATH and said thanks for your time and hung the PH up. after further information I have found more information in regards to a NAME CHANGES, for being involved with CATTLE DUFFING, here we have OUR EDWARD BEECROFT, getting a 7 yr Holiday in Australia and some of US involved glad of a SKELETON in the cupboard, other are not.
by Graeme Wilson G2G3 (3.9k points)
Hi Graeme,

Just in case you didn't know Edward was sentenced to Death for stealing a sheep. Luckily his sentence was reprieved to 14 years Transportation which was considered by the Brits as a life sentence. Send email later today.



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