||In many instances emigrants showed their papers but you need to remember that many people did not leave from their own country and come directly to the US. These ships would go to many ports on their way here. Each time they might get additional papers written in that country. Many also would only have the fare to get to the next port - then they would stop and work until they had the next leg of the journey which also left them at the mercy of that countries paperwork and spellings. If they were not well educated and could read and write themselves then they likely handed their papers to people without knowing what was in them other than to know it would get them where they wanted to go.
As far as the handwriting goes there is a method in the madness there as well. Here's a fun thing to take a look at
Old Handwriting. It'll give you an idea about different kinds of old handwriting samples.
Why Do Spelling Inconsistencies Exist?
First, name spellings weren't standardized several generations ago, so many people spelled even their own name in a variety of ways. In addition, many people couldn't write, and those who wrote for them when the need arose sometimes had minimal spelling skills and just spelled phonetically, writing down what they heard.
More drastic name changes often took place when a family immigrated to the United States. The family may have Americanized its name by dropping syllables or difficult letter combinations, translating their name to English, or changing it completely. In addition, immigration officers often made mistakes or had to guess at more difficult name spellings, doing their best to spell out what they heard. You can find similar problems in census records when the enumerator interviewed newly-arrived
immigrants. Here are some of the ways in which immigrants' names changed upon arrival to the United States.
Finally, spelling mistakes exist simply due to human error. Record-keepers and transcribers aren't any more perfect than the rest of us!
Problems with Pronunciation
All kinds of records were prone to spelling mishaps, including vital records, church records, and of course the immigration and census records mentioned above. Throughout all of these documents, the following letters were often confused due to verbal miscommunication: B and P, D and T, F and P, F and V, G and K, J and Y, S and Z, V and B, V and W, and W and R, depending on the accent of the person who was saying the name and the person who was writing it. In addition, C and S could become CH and SH. Also, double letters, such as RR or LL, could turn into a single R or L, and vice-versa.
Vowels were prone to change as well. I, IE, EY, and Y were often interchanged and the same happened with O and OE, A and AY, and other
similar vowel combinations. E could be added to or dropped off of the end at will (and the same goes for S). Vowels could also be dropped out of the middle of a name, leaving several consonants in a row. These are all letter changes to keep in mind when you are looking for a family name in a record set. Let's take a look at an example.
Current spelling GOUDIEAlternate spellings: allowing for variants: Gowdy - Goudy - Goudey -
Gouedy - Gowdie - Goudie - Gowdey - Goudey - Gade
Soundex Code for GOUDIE = G300
Other surnames sharing this Soundex Code:
GADD | GADDY | GAEDE | GATT | GAUT | GETTY | GOAD | GOETHE | GOOD |
GOTT | GOUDIE | GOUDY | GOWDY | GOYETTE | GUTH | GUYETTE |
Try saying all of these different spellings out loud. They all
sound fairly similar, and with the right accent they could sound
virtually identical. You might want to try the same exercise with
some of your family names. The idea is to find new spellings of a
surname that sound similar to the current spelling
It's my belief that many of the variants can be traced to lack of
reading and writing skills AND all sorts of problems with
comprehension of the original transcriber (from imbibing, a cold,
hearing problems, inability to decipher through accents.. ad nauseum)
Therefore.. I offer that Goudie would/could be directly related
(having seen the errors in spelling of official papers from birth,
marriage and death certificates) coupled with the DNA relatives with
similar stories and lineage which include many marriages Ó la fašon
(after the custom of the country) to First Nations women.
I have managed to connect with descendants of James Goudie
[1808-1887] Hudson's Bay Company blacksmith and miller: Orcadian
Scot, b. 18 Sep 1808 Stromness,
Mainland, Orkney, Scotland, d. April
23, 1887 at his residence on Blanchard St., Victoria, B. C.,
associated with: Fort Colvile (1830-51) blacksmith and miller; in
Washington State and British Columbia. I'm still working on finding
other descendants who would be residents of the Grand Ronde Reservation.
Errors Caused by Handwriting
Other types of ancestor-hiding "mistakes" to watch out for have to do with handwriting. Older styles can be difficult for us to read today, and there are some styles that were not even taught in schools, but by notaries or others to their helpers. The secretary hand, the court hand, the italic hand -- each had distinct letter forms and abbreviations.
In some older handwriting styles, capital L and capital S often were written so similarly that it was difficult to tell the difference between the
two. The same is true for capital I and capital J. In addition, rounded lower case letters such as A, O, and U could also appear identical, especially when the A or O was left slightly open at the top or the U was almost closed at the top. One final handwriting problem is the SS. This letter combination was often written as SF, and even a single S was occasionally written as F.
Remember, you can run into these types of errors not only when looking at handwritten documents, but also when you are looking at records that have been transcribed from older original documents. When reviewing a record with an unfamiliar handwriting style, it is important to record all the letters of the alphabet on a sheet of paper and list the variations that you come across. This self-training takes very little time and saves a lot of errors and forgetting.