05 January 2007

Ancestor's Names

Names can become a big hurdle in your research for your ancestors. When searching databases for an ancestor, first think of every possible way their name could have been spelled both different versions of spelling as well is phonetically (though not correct) spellings.

For many reason our ancestor's names were not always spelled exactly the same way on every document. Here are some of the things to think about that created inaccuracies in documents.
  1. How educated was your ancestor, if at all? Could they even spell their name?
  2. Were they an immigrant to the country? Therefore creating a language barrier.
  3. Did their name have different spelling variations, even with in the same family?
  4. Was the name spelled differently because of locality? Such as a family from say Missouri with may have had their name spelled one way, but when they said the name in California people spelled it differently because their accent made it sound different.

I encountered one of these issues today. I have been researching an ancestor for a friend of mine. The information I had came from a census record. Also keep in mind that census records are not always correct. Many times there are discrepancies. Sometimes they even relied on neighbors to get the information just to finish a neighbor hood. Anyway I had been looking for Charles Speisman from Germany, possibly Baden or Oberhausen. born about 1847 and migrated about 1869 and naturalized about 1879. I had no luck finding is naturalization or immigration papers.

I had searched everything I could and finally I wrote to the Pennsylvania records asking for help. I very wonderful lady found the information in a day. Here is the kicker there are so many discrepancies that I may have been passing him up all along. Sometimes it pays to ask for help. She found the only Speisman in Crawford county! Crawford is where is spent the rest of his life after he immigrated to the United States. It make me think that maybe his children were telling the census taker all the information. In the naturalization records his name is Charley (a variant of Charles) Speesman (possibly a misspelling because of language barriers). He was born Dec 22, 1851. Not uncommon for census records to be off, I've seen them off as much as five years. He was born in Baden, Germany (correlates with the 1880 census records) and was naturalized in 1897. That is understandable. They may have told the census taker that he was naturalized earlier, not know when he really was. But the part that makes me sure that these two men are the same people is the fact that he is the only Speisman in Crawford County to take the Oath of Declaration during that time period. Most of the discrepancies are understandable because of language barrier, not to mention how unreliable census records are.

So when searching for your ancestor, broaden your search. Search a wider range of years if you are having trouble finding them in the year you expect. Search with the name spelled many different ways both first name and surname. Also search surrounding localities. This same ancestor I had found in a different county in 1900 because he was in a state hospital during that census, but his family was still back home in Titusville, Crawford, PA.

Good luck with your research!

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