Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Surname Spelling Variations

The Dutch brothers Myndert & Carsten Fredericksen (sons of Frederick Van Iveren) immigrated to the US in the 1600s. Most if not all with the surname Vanevery are descendants of Myndert. Most if not all with the surname Vanavery are descendants of Carsten. 

My second great aunt, Katie Newmark, married Philip Dzeikops, which he changed to Jacobs. 

My wife has some Wallace and Wallis ancestors who are likely related. 

These spelling variations are slight. Even Dzeikops to Jacobs which appears to me to be an Anglicized Yiddish spelling. 

My kin with ancestors from the town of Kruvandai Lithuania probably have the surname with the most spelling variations in my tree. To date, these are the six variations I’ve found:


These are just the spellings in recorded documents. It doesn’t include additional interpretations by census takers or database indexers.

The most intriguing spelling to me is the last one. Some might try to argue it is almost a name change, not realizing that in Hebrew the V and B sound are made with the same consonant. They are only differentiated by a diacritical mark. Similarly - the O and Oo vowels are differentiated by the position of a diacritical mark. The system of diacritical marks, known as Niqqud, was invented in the Middle Ages. Ancient Hebrew didn’t have them. I don’t know the rules of Hebrew that dictate when the letter Bet is pronounced Vet, or when certain vowels are appropriate, but it is my understanding that the originator of this spelling was trying to Hebraicize the name. 

In genealogy we are taught to ignore spelling, or be creative with spelling, in our searches. Names can be recorded or indexed in multiple ways. But differences in spelling can also sometimes tell us something about our ancestors and why they may have chosen that spelling. 

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