View Full Version : Spelling

Francis Shedd
11 July 2006, 03:14 PM
I have a person for whom the name is spelled two ways. I believe that one is correct but I do not wish to lose the other possibility. What is the best way to keep track of this alternate spelling? Thanks.


David G. Kanter
11 July 2006, 03:53 PM
I have a person for whom the name is spelled two ways. I believe that one is correct but I do not wish to lose the other possibility. What is the best way to keep track of this alternate spelling?My approach, when a Source cites a spelling that is known to be "wrong", is to make an entry in my Research Notes field for that person--such as "Also cited as xxxxxxxx"--and assign a cite to that Source. That way, the record of the other spelling is preserved in the Family File, but it isn't perpetuated in the regular data fields. I do not use the Alias/AKA field for such "wrong" spellings as I believe most readers would take an entry in that field to indicate a deliberate use by the person of whatever is entered there. As an aside, I've chosen to put Nicknames into the First & Mid Name field, enclosed in quotation marks, rather than in the Alias/AKA field. While that has the downside of making the name entry longer (sometimes a problem in charts where the box gets rather long because I don't wrap names), the upside, for me, is that the Nickname--often the only name by which many family members knew the person--is part of the primary name entry.

When I have alternate spellings (or even unrelated alternatives) where it's yet to be resolved which is "right", I record all in the regular data field to which that would be applicable, but separate each from the other(s) by the pipe symbol (i.e., "|"). (I avoid using the regular slash [virgule] symbol [i.e., "/"] as that's the name delimiter in a GEDCOM.) For example, if I had an unresolved question as to whether the spelling were SMITH, SMYTH, or SMYTHE, I'd make an entry of SMITH|SMYTH|SMYTHE. (If any one had a slightly greater likelihood of being correct, I'd put that one first in the series so it would be used by Reunion in sorted presentations such as the Index.) As more information becomes known, I'd move the then-discredited version into the Research Notes--with, if possible, an explanation why it was discredited--so there's an audit trail for anyone who might subsequently use the information in the Family File and had also come across the Source which had the "wrong" spelling. (Of course, when dealing with transliterations, you may decide that there's more than one "right" spelling and deliberately leave both in the regular data field--still separated by the pipe symbol.)

Francis Shedd
14 July 2006, 07:19 PM
I have a person for whom the name is spelled two ways. I believe that one is correct but I do not wish to lose the other possibility. What is the best way to keep track of this alternate spelling? Thanks.


Thank you for the complete response.

Susan Cocker Hopkins
14 November 2008, 12:02 PM
Another view of what is "correct" as to spelling.
Often ancestors were not such great spellers, or could not read or write at all. Sometimes, they even took a fancy to trying out a different representation of their names.
Cases in point:
a. my husband's grandmother, Ethel Hopkins, in her wedding book and in a few copies of books she owned as a young woman, spells her name "Ethelwyn."
b. Another relative, Bessie Lanier, spelled her maiden name as LaNier on her wedding license recorded at the county courthouse. When I showed this to he daughter, the daughter laughed and said her mother told her she'd just gone through a phase and thought that version was more interesting.
c. I'd been spelling my great grandfather's name as Rudolph. Just found him in a new online naturalization record as Rudolf, but only after I went through all the Meyer individuals. If I had known to look for that spelling, which is how he signs his name on the document image, I could have saved myself some time. I might also have missed him entirely had I insisted on what was the "correct" spelling of his name.
SO, I include all the variations of a name as they occur in various records that I find. I want to remind myself, and others who see my files online, that the name has variants that appear in records. I've tried to document where I find each variant, but have not been consistently diligent. And, using a / in Famlly Treemaker, which transfered in my uploaded gedcom to Rootsweb's online searchable family trees / Worldconnect, did not translate to the display of names in my new Mac and Reunion. So, now I need to figure out how to rectify that problem, as I have many individuals like this.

Susan Cocker Hopkins
14 November 2008, 12:50 PM
In my previous message, I mentioned that I'd had a problem getting variant names to show up in the transfer to Reunion. Turned out to be a SO (stupid operator) error. The individuals where I'd just now noticed the problem are ones that overlap in two of my family tree files. I'd done a better job in the file where I focus on them and the name variants, complete with / or \ to separate variants and these do appear in Reunion. (I seem to have used both / and \, sometimes for the same person and for no apparent reason!)

First and middle names are treated by Rootsweb (in its family trees - Worldconnect section), as first names, but the surname variants only appear searchable as surnames if they are the last to appear. Otherwise, Rootsweb treats them as first / miiddle names and includes them, but not as searchable surnames.

Elsewhere among the discussions, someone suggests using | as a separator. I may try that to see how it shows up in searches. But another suggestion that has helped me, with the / mark, is to be sure to have a space on either side of the / or \. I'm also now seeing that others have some interesting ideas on this in other parts of Reunion Talk.

I do want other folks researching the same people, or family members wanting a quick reference to some detail, to be able to find someone using whatever spelling they are familiar with or have seen in a record. I've matched up with some very valuable co-researchers by doing what I can to make it possible for others to identify whether our family tree interests overlap.