Surname Shapes and Sounds: Circumnavigating Spelling Variations, Mistranscriptions, and Clerical Errors in Electronic Indexes
Most researchers are at least somewhat accustomed to thinking about surname spelling variations when conducting record searches. Thankfully, many search engine results automatically include some of the more basic spelling variations for us.
Augustus and Mary Ann (Michell) Chevalier were French immigrants who arrived in New York City about 1822. Surprisingly, only about a third of the census and vital records sought for the family were found by entering the standard spelling and basic known information into search engines, then viewing the results of that search. Discovering more about them, their ten children, and some of their grandchildren required a bit of trickery.Only NGS members have access to full articles of NGS Monthly. Please log in or click here to learn more about joining the National Genealogical Society.
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Why didn’t you cite the specific NGSQ article like the following item about using occupation to help find and differentiate individuals? I can grab my issue off the shelf faster than logging in.
Hi, James. There’s no NGSQ article to cite here. The Chevaliers are an example from my own, unpublished research.
I’ve recently run across a given name that is spelled differently in every single record I found, and even the picture of the tombstone had another spelling. I had no problem searching for the family and found numerous records in North Carolina, but the first name had me stumped.
This woman and her husband were found in census records as:
Husband: Phennie H., Fenny, Finny, or Fannie Puckett
Wife: Featis, Pheatis, Phetius, Fetir, Fetis, but finally, on the 1920 and 1930 census: Flora A. or Flora F.
On her death record: Feotis or Featis
FindAGrave: Featis (husband: Fennie).
SSDI: Phetis; on one SSA Claims form, she is listed as Floriann, on another, as Phelis.
I wish I could attach a photo of her tombstone. It was handmade, and her name is carved into the stone as: Feares Morgan Puckett, but the person who created the FindAGrave record spelled her name: Featis.
I have decided that since the majority of these people, including the census takers, couldn’t read or write (per census records), and that later death records for her children are probably more accurate. On a son’s death record, her name is: Floriann Morgan Puckett. On another son’s birth record, she is Flora Puckett.
The lesson here: In addition to searching for every possible record, look for chldren’s vital records.