How Many Ways Can You Spell a Name?

Name Variations in Genealogy

When growing up, I was insistent that you spelled my German last name with an S-Z. Any other variation was wrong and I believed that anyone who spelled it differently would not be my relative. I was alone in thinking spellings for last names was fixed. I only correct people when they pronounce my first and middle name incorrectly.

There are a variety of reasons a name is “misspelled.” Those include phonetic inconsistencies between languages (such as Germanic to English), no equivalent symbols between languages, misunderstandings, and bad handwriting.

With these tips in mind, I created a list of variations for the Pueseckers, a family that migrated to Franklin County, Ohio along with my direct ancestors the Maecks.

  1. Buckeser
  2. Busacker
  3. Buseker
  4. Pasenger
  5. Persaker
  6. Puesecker
  7. Pusaker
  8. Pusecke
  9. Pusecoier
  10. Puseker
  11. Pusicker
  12. Puesecker

Why Should You Keep a List of Name Spelling Variations?

Having a running list of how the names appear in different validated records makes finding your ancestors in subsequent research.

I entered the last name into the 1890 Veterans Schedules starting at the first variation and working my way down the list. I finally struck it rich when I used the #7 Pusaker name variation. And the record discovered the #10 spelling variation.

Puseker Charles 1890 Veteran Census

Source Citation Year: 1890; Census Place: Prairie, Franklin, Ohio; Roll: 69; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 123 Ancestry.com. 1890 Veterans Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.

And this, new to me, record says that Charles (#11 on document) was in a Rebel Prison for 31 days! Ohhh…. that’s a juicy story.

I searched the U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918. in the same method and found an 1872 entry with the last name of C Busiker.

1872 Pusecker C Plat Map
C. Busiker, Collection Number: G&M_30; Roll Number: 30. Ancestry.com. U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Now, there is a map line going through the last name, so perhaps it is spelled Pusiker. Both of these are new variations but it was discovered searching for name variation #2 – Busacker.

Those are just some of the record collections and the discoveries I made for Pueseckers by having a running list of spelling variations. Truthfully, it took some time to discover the B and P connection. Once I had, it made finding more records so much easier.

What name variation lists do you have? What is the most surprising name variation you’ve uncovered?

A fun look at the numerous ways one surname can be spelled (or mispelled) on genealogy documents. #genealogy #research
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

4 thoughts on “How Many Ways Can You Spell a Name?

  1. My German surname, Kaechle, also has an incredible variety of spellings. With it, I have even seen the initial "K" transcribed as a "B." Yes, it makes things complicated! But, I need to make a list and go down the list like you are doing!

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