October 17, 2017

Where In The World Is Your Surname?

I saw this cool new tool over at Family History for Beginners called World Names Profiler, and being the sucker inquisitive person that I am for genealogy research, I gave it a whirl. The concept of the search for your surname is very well written about at Family History for Beginners, so I won’t belabor it here, but the short version is that if you want to know where in the world your surname is distributed, all you have to do is type it in on the World Names Profiler page.

In our family, we have avery unusual surname: Osgathorpe. It is the name of one of my ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War, and I have proof of that because I have compiled a preponderance of evidence which includes photo-copies of Richard Osgathorpe’s RW pay vouchers. But, we have a problem with tracing his line back to England, where he reportedly originated. And, to confuse things further, after being in the continental US for a couple hundred years, the family members have changed the spelling of the name, and the pronunciation. Some go by Osgatharp; some by Osgathorp, and some by Osgathorpe. I believe the name originated as Osgathorpe, and became “Americanized” over time and through other regional accents being applied.

When I first began researching my family tree,  a cousin had written in a book that the name was Oglethorpe. Wishful thinking on her part, and I had to send her lots of documentation to change her mind. Her reaction when I did so? She said, “that it was what her mother had always told her“. Hmmm….Lesson for today. Never go by hearsay.

Today, I put the name Osgathorpe into the World Names Profiler search and came up with these results. Some were surprising, some not so much. I knew that some of my Osgatharp cousins lived in Tennessee and Indiana, but it was surprising to me at how many live in New Zealand. All of this doesn’t bring me any closer to finding Richard Osgathorpe in any British records, but it did narrow it down to certain districts in the UK where the surname is found abundantly.

When I get rich, I will hire someone and have them track down all my dead ends. For now though, it’s fun to use tools like World Names Profiler. Try it, and let me know what you find! My results are below.

I Solved A Census Transcription Mistake

Sometimes, you get a transcribed record for a census and you wonder how the transcriber came up with a completely different name than what it actually was.

For example, I have a transcribed census record with my ancestor’s surname spelled Aytes instead of Yates. It might look like a transposed letter error, but then I found an actual census image today that might present another reason for a transcription error: it wasn’t one.

Look at that loop in the Y , but the name in the 1840 census record where I found this lists him (correctly) as David Yates. Can you see how this could be misinterpreted by a transcriber though?  Heck, they could have thought it said “Gates” too.

None of this is a slam against transcribers or anything.  Genealogists owe them much gratitude for the hard work they’ve done. This just points out (again) the need to used every imaginable spelling combination to find your ancestors.

What’s your most memorable “name” story?



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