December 18, 2014

The Importance Of Considering All Surname Spellings

Jas K Gats -Yates family 1870 TN

Surname Spellings: It’s All In The Eye Of The Beholder

Early on in my genealogical research I was under the impression that it was best to look for the spelling of my maiden name Yates using just those letters. Boy, was I proved wrong almost immediately. While looking in census records for my ancestors with that surname I have found it spelled as Yates, Yats, Aytes, Yeats, Gates, Gats, to name just a few. Actually, the surname Yates refers to “gate keeper” so it wasn’t too far off to see it as Gates.

A lot of this confusion has to do with some illiterate census takers, and (sorry to say) transcribers who just couldn’t read the census takers scribbling. For instance, the Aytes transcription was because the census taker had made a big loop at the beginning of the Y and so to the transcriber it looked like an A. I may never have found my kin in Tennessee if I hadn’t had a kind soul in the Roane County Genealogical Society find the alternate name.

Searching the 1940 US Federal Census (to be released April 2nd, 2012)

With just this one example, I hope that it will encourage you to consider all spellings of the surname for which you are searching. Use your wildest imagination when you do it!

If you will be transcribing the The 1940 US Census, please use your best assessment when it comes to probable name spellings too.

Living On The Edge Of The Census

1895 June, Moline, St. Paul, MN

1914 Chelton Ave, St. Paul, MN – 1895

Sometimes, you just get lucky and find a census record for your family members that shows the actual street address of the house they lived in. I was very lucky to find this census record for my Great-Grandfather John Emil Moline showing their address as 1914 Chelton Ave, Ramsey, MN.  The date is June 1895.  That corroborates the information on a photo I have from my Moline family that shows their house and has the notation the same address.

**UPDATE**

This is the house the Moline family lived in at the time of this 1895 census.

Who Are Those Other Two People?

Listed in the same household are two “extra” people.  I wonder who Mick Lund, age 28 could be; I suspect that Hulda S. Swanson, age 14 might be a servant. But as they are both from Sweden, are they relatives or just employees?

Living On The Edge Of The Census

Normally, but not always, you will find at least the location of where a family is living listed on the left edge of the census page. Even if it’s just a street name, it gives you a clue, and might prove handy later when you can put the location together with another document or photo.  Also, when you put the street name in your records, make sure to also add the date of the census record too.  If it’s given, having the month and day can help you pinpoint whether or not you have the correct family and approximately when they were born. Census records are rich with information and you have to scan every single bit of it to extract the “gold”.

Excellent, Affordable Genealogy Webinars by Michael John Neill

Genealogy Webinars – by Michael John Neill

There is nothing closer to my heart than telling my friends about excellent genealogy resources.  Even better, these webinars were created by my friend Michael John Neill! You may know Michael from Casefile Clues and now I’m happy to say he has released his Genealogy Webinars to the public.

I hope you’ll take a moment to click the link above and discover some new genealogical information you might never have thought of before.

If you’re in a hurry, I’ll be adding a link to my sidebar so you can return and sign up later.

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That Headstone Might Not Be Stolen

 

John Whitmore’s Headstone: The First One Was Broken In Shipment

We researchers probably hear about headstone desecration more in genealogy circles than the average person, but I’d like to caution my readers to always check to see if there is another facet to the story if you should find a headstone somewhere other than in a cemetery.

It’s entirely possible to find a lone headstone just laying out in a field (sometimes with cattle in attendance).  If it’s an old patch of family land, there could even be others nearby that you wouldn’t even see because they’ve deteriorated in the weather.

You Have A Headstone In Your Yard?

But what about those stones that are broken and used for steps or something in someone’s yard? No doubt at first you would be appalled that someone could use them in such a way.  There could be some simple explanations though:

  • They were not used or approved by the family because there was a mistake.
  • In the process of setting the stone it broke and the mortuary discarded it.
  • A new one was set in place (such as the Medal of Honor one above) and so one of the family members took home the old one and used it in his/her yard.
  • A new owner of a home might not know that the other side of that nice piece of granite in the yard has an inscription on the other side.

Years ago I found a DAR cemetery marker in an antique store in Iowa.  It had no identifying marks on it, and since I’m in the DAR I bought it and brought it home.  Truthfully, I have no idea what to do with it, so it’s just stored away in a safe place.

My final thoughts on all of this is that before you contact any authorities and report anyone, try to find out the facts first.

How To Clean A Headstone – Advice From The Artist

W. D. Breedlove – Bredlow headstone

 

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