For all you genealogists out
there, I know you feel my pain when I talk about how census takers and/or the
family speaking to the census takers,
drive us crazy with the misspellings of names.
Take for instance the last name
Knight. Seems simple enough,
right? In this day and age, yes. Back in the day, no way. I’ve seen it spelled so many different ways,
I sometimes forget the correct way to spell it. Was it the fault of the census taker and his/her lack of spelling
education or lack of ability to hear, or the fault of the person speaking the
last name? Or…….did the person, who
actually had this last name, know the correct spelling? We will never know exactly how it was delivered and received, but it
remains a thorn in the side of all genealogists, trying to piece together a
Here’s another good one
regarding the last name of Knight. In
my own personal family search, the last name currently is Knight, but this name
was just arbitrarily and randomly changed from NITZ to KNIGHT, back around 1860
sometime. Family members traveling away
from Ohio and the Nitz family,
suddenly somewhere along that journey, changed the last name to
Knight. Was there a conversation in the
covered wagon about how the last name Nitz (Nitze, Nits, Nitse…you get the
point), reminded them of a bedbug? Or,
was the family fleeing the Nitz family and in a desperate attempt to be
unreachable and never again found, just decide to change the last name? And why Knight? Because it’s noble?
Because it kind of sounds like Nitz and maybe a small child wouldn’t be
so confused when Mom and Dad told them their last name is now different? So many questions, and absolutely no
knowledge of the answers, or will there ever be. It’s all just speculation.
And, it drives us all crazy!
And then there’s the spelling,
or more accurately, the misspellings of names.
Knight is Night is Nite and so on and so on. Nitz is Nits is Nitse is Nitze and so on and so on. When I came across the last name of another
family member of Neighbors, I thought to myself “wow, it’s such a unique name
it will for sure be easier to find records with this name!” Oh boy, was I wrong! Neighbors is Nabors is Naghbor and so on and
And of course, there’s the issue
of naming several of your kids the same name?
You rarely, if ever hear about a family in today’s world, naming more
than one child the same name. But back
in the day, it happened all the time.
How many times have you seen a child born and named, only to pass away
at an very young age, and then the parents’ next baby was named the exact
name? Crazy, right? Or was it?
Did they do that to honor their now deceased child? Or because they just really loved that
name? Or because that’s what everyone
did back then? Or because the slew of
names available then were limited and
weren’t thought up like they are today, what with all the made up names
and all. Maybe we should be grateful
for the simple names like Mary, Daniel, Ellen, etc. Again, so many questions, and absolutely no knowledge of the
It forces us (or me at least) to
become creative, trying to put myself in these people’s shoes and figure out
why and how. How many different ways
can I spell Knight, Nitz or Neighbors?
I must confess, those census
takers were much more creative than I am.
Stay patient, think outside the
box and happy hunting!
Feel free to share your crazy
name stories with us!