Sometimes it is difficult to locate an ancestor because there could be errors either you have made or that were made when a vital record (birth, marriage, death, deed, military, etc) was created. The spelling of given and surnames is one of the common areas of errors.
Many names have quite a few various methods of being spelled and those ways have even changed over the decades. The surname of ‘Rue’ has been spelled over the years. In 1840 it was “Routh”, then in 1850 “Ruthe”, in 1860 it was “Rough”, and then two versions in 1870 which were “Rouch” and “Roughe”. It is not until the 1880s and beyond the family and branches settled on “Rue”. So you can see it was difficult to know which family when researching. Many other factors such as given name (with their spellings), ages and birth places played a part.
Then there is the problem with given names and nicknames. Elizabeth can be Eliza, Betty or Beth, or Dick for Richard, Maggie can be Margaret and so on. In fact, the nickname can generally be solely used and it is even harder to find the full given name. Or that nickname could be the original given name. A child could have only been named ‘Beth’ and never Elizabeth. So finding some of these changes may not be an error but what is really that ancestor’s name.
Other possible errors may have to do with reading and understanding certain handwriting. All early documents were handwritten and the cursive writing can be difficult to understand. It is especially true with transcriptions of old census records. When you use a search when looking through census records, investigate even the names that appear way off base. It could be an error in transcribing the document which was handwritten. Try various methods that that name might be written. This is especially true of letters with ‘J’, ‘I’, ‘T’, or ‘F’. You might be looking for a ‘Jones’ and instead, it was transcribed as ‘Tones’. That does happen quite often.
Another common mistake to be aware of is mix up in dates. Instead of a birth date 1836, it was written 1838. Those last number can be mixed easily. Give yourself a date range and be open to different dates then you thought you knew. The mistake or error could be in the family tradition. Use as many different sources as you can find, compare and draw your own conclusions.
In doing research on a famous local person, there were many earlier magazine articles and book written on this person. One factual item was that the person had lost an eye in a gun shoot but out of 12 different articles, about 4 said it was the right eye, 5 stated the left eye and about 3 said the person ‘lost an eye’ – not stating which one! In my research, I went to the World War One draft registration forms since this person was of the right age that all men had to complete this form. There it was, signed in 1917 by the person being research as well as a governmental officer who witnessed the person who had a disability ‘the loss of the right eye’ as stated and signed by all on the official form. That was solid proof for me.
So yes, there are errors in all types of records. Sometimes there is a reason such as the use of different names, such as a nickname. Other times it is human error in transcribing or handwriting.
The key is not to be frustrated, be patience and keep checking diverse sources and different ways a name, place or date might be recorded.
Photos: Spellings of names such as ‘Royile’; a street name hard to figure turns out to be “Reeve Street”.
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