name variations

Name is the Game: Maiden Names and Name Variation

Editor’s Note: The post below includes an excerpt from chapter 3 of Lloyd Bockstruck’s book, The Name Is the Game: Onomatology and the Genealogist.

While we wish we could share the entire book here, we also want to mention some of the other valuable material in Bockstruck’s publication. “Chapter 2: Forenames” discusses the ancestral clues that are inherent in names. Did you know, for example, that the German forenames Franz and Xavier were predominantly used by Roman Catholics? Similarly, if the father of an unborn child died before the baby’s birth, the child might have been named Ichabod. And Doctor was often used as a nickname for the seventh son in a family because it was believed that a seventh son had an intuitive knowledge of the use of herbs.

In our recently featured Part I excerpt from Lloyd Bockstruck‘s book, The Name is the Game, we focused on the history of surnames. Pulled from the same chapter on surnames, the following excerpt discusses maiden name and spelling variations, and how these can affect your research.

Enjoy Part II below:

Maiden Names

In the British colonies outside of New England, civil records of vital statistics may not have been maintained and religious records may not have survived. When the available court records do not reveal the maiden name of a wife, it could be because she changed her condition but not her surname. William Hastings, the son of Henry Hastings, was born in 1759, married his first cousin, Arney Hastings, 26 October 1785 in Amelia County, Virginia. Her father, William Hastings, gave his consent. Fortunately, the civil marriage record survived to make it possible to identify her maiden name.

Olive Branch married his kinswoman Verlinche Branch in Henrico County, Virginia but no civil or church record exists to prove her maiden name. The bride’s forename was one peculiar to the Branch family and was a very good clue for identifying her maiden name.

Spelling Fixation

It is a mistaken belief that different spellings ofa surname applied to people from different families. A good example is Sir Walter Raleigh. His surname became the capital of the state of North Carolina and the seat of Wake County. Another American city named in his honor is Rolla, Missouri although the spelling tends to conceal the connection.

The name of Sir Walter Raleigh has appeared in written records as Raghley, Raghlie, Raileigb, Rale, Raleagh, Raleghe, Raleghus Ralego, Raleigh, Raleighe, Raleile. Raleygh, Ralight, Ralighe, Ralle, Ralleg, Rallleigh, Raughleigh, Raughley, Raughleye, Raughlie, Raughly, Raulaeus, Raule, Rauleghe, Rawligh, Rawlight, Rawlighe, Rawly, Rawlye,Rawlyghe, Raylie, Raylye, Raylygh, Reightly, Reighly, Rauley, Rhaleigh, Rolye, Wrawley, and Wrawly.

In the aftermath of the Civil War George Wise published his work, The Autograph of William Shakespeare (Philadelphia: P. E. Abel, 1869) giving 9,000 spelling variations of the most celebrated individual in the history of the English language. No name is lacking in variant spellings and close attention must be paid to all possibilities. Andrew Jackson said a man who could not spell his name more than three ways was not worth knowing, so Shakespeare falls within that criterion.

Image credit: Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh by Nicholas Hilliard [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.