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Table of Common Surname Variations
& Surname Misspellings

Genealogists learn very quickly that there is no such thing as a certain spelling for a surname!

Many of our ancestors, particularly in the 19th century, were illiterate. This meant that the spelling of their names on a ship's manifest depended on the ship purser's interpretation. Often, when confronted with a name he had not heard before, the purser had no choice but to attempt to spell it out phonetically; this lead to creative variations such as Aliff for Auliffe, Bobut for Babbitt, Doxtator for Dockstader and Cryton for Creighton.

In other documents, for instance census records, the census takers were primarily Anglo-Saxon in origin. When confronted with a name of another origin, they, too, had to go the phonetic route. This is how numerous Schmidts were recorded as Smiths and Thibeaults recorded as Tebo.

There was also significant pressure for immigrants who came from countries outside the British Empire to anglicize their names. One of our inGeneas  researchers, in her own family tree, has noted the anglicizations that follow: Jacques L'Archevesque and his wife Archange became Jacob and Jane Larsh; in another family, the children were born in Quebec and named Eliana, Elisa, Marie and Jean-Baptiste but when they moved to Ontario they were known as Leona, Leaso/Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph.

Given all of this, along with human error, writers with very poor handwriting and even poorer writing implements (which can transform a Babbitt into a Rabbit), old documents in precarious condition and microfilms of questionable quality, a particular surname can appear in many forms during an ancestor's lifetime. In attempts to make your quest a bit easier, inGeneas offers the tables below. It contains more than 10,500 surname variations and misspellings that we have encountered.

You may also choose to search using "soundex" by clicking on the "Click Here for a soundex-type Search" button. Soundex ignores vowels and assings the same value to letters with similar phonetics such as C or K and G and J. For instance, a soundex search on the surname McLaughlin will also display all McLocklin records.

In the surname variation tables, we have not endeavoured to include all variations such as Collin/Collins, Barb/Barbe or Bissonet/Bissonett where the only difference is an additional final letter -- such variations can be easily handled during a search of any of our databases by searching on the shorter version of the name. Also, we have not recorded variations such as O'Connell/ McConnell/ MacConnell/ M'Connell or Fitzmartin/Martin where the only difference is a common prefix. We also have not attempted to list variations such as Farquhar/Farquharson, Svenson/Svensen and Featherstone/Featherston where the only difference is a common suffix. Again, these variations can be handled during an exploration of the inGeneas databases by searching on the surname without the prefix or suffix.

Where a letter appears in parenthesis within a surname, it indicates that the surname can be spelled variously with and without the parenthetical letter. For instance, Smyth(e) indicates that the name can be spelled both as Smyth and Smythe. Another example is Cla(a)ssen which shows that this surname can be spelled both as Classen and Claasen.

We will continue to add to it as we come across creative spellings (and just plain mistakes). We would be happy to add any entertaining variations that you have encountered in your research. Just drop us a line!

Please select from the list below (it may take a minute or so for the table to load).