Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spelling of Names in Genealogy Records

I spoke to a second cousin of mine on the phone last night. He had recently discovered the information about the Panther family. This is despite the fact that I posted information on RootsWeb immediately after the discovery and he saw these posts. He just didn't realize it was his family because of the spelling of his great-grandfather's name. That is what prompted me to write this post. A portion of this post was in the Panther Family History book.

Stephen, I'm very glad you were able to determine this was your family. I'm happy to hear your family is enjoying the information!

Whenever you're looking at records that could pertain to your family, keep in mind that prior to modern times, especially before about 1900, spelling was not important. Many people were illiterate prior to about 1800 and for those that could read and write, spelling was unimportant. As long as the pronunciation was correct, it didn’t matter how you spelled it. For example, we’ve seen the surname of Panther spelled as Panter and Pantzer but the most common spelling seen is Panther.

Here is a list of a few of the names found in the Ulm and Moesbach area church books. The first listed is the most common way found of spelling it and the rest are other spellings found in the books.

Panther – Panter, Pantzer
Birk – Burk, Burck, Birck
Klumpp – Klump, Klumpf
Hürt - Hirt
Sutter – Suter, Sutterer
Müller – Miller
Grafsig – Kräfsig
Hanle – Hinle, Heinle
Allgeyer – Algeier, Algeyer, Allgeier

In addition, frequently, especially in the earlier Latin records, the last names of females had the suffix “-in” added to the end. For example, Maria Anna Allgeier was listed and signed her name as Maria Anna Allgeierin and Margareta Armbruster was listed as Margareta Armbrusterin.

When it comes to first names, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, in the church books, especially in the earlier Latin text, most of the names were in their Latin form. For example, you wouldn’t find Franz Joseph but you would frequently find Franciscus Josephus and you wouldn’t find Johann Adam, you would find Joannes Adamus. My great-grandfather, Aloysius Panther, prior to the discovery of his birthplace, I had seen his first name spelled as Aloysius, Alois, Alos and even Aaron. In the Moesbach church records, his name is spelled as Aloys. These are some very different names but they all referred to the same person. In addition, just as spelling didn’t matter for last names, it didn’t matter for first names either.

Another issue about first names is that many times, you’ll find multiple children born to the same parents having the same first name and sometimes also the same middle name. When a child dies young, many times the parents would name a child born later the same name as their deceased child, resulting in many children recorded to the same parents having the exact same first and middle names. Also, a large percentage of boys were named Joannes and a large percentage of girls were named Maria. They would then have different middle names. Because of this, a family may have a Joannes Adamus, a Joannes Franciscus and a Joannes Jacobus along with a Maria Anna, a Maria Theresia and a Maria Salomea all living at the same time. These would be known as Adam, Francis and Jacob and Anna, Theresia and Salomea respectively.

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