Knight, Night and Nite....names that drive us crazy

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 family tree.

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 so on!

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 answers!

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!

Ancestry Sisters





4 comments:

  1. My own last name makes me crazy. It's "Halls". Between the oh so common dropping of the "s", to misspellings like Hollis, Hawls, Hauls, Holtz, and so on, and then there are transcription errors like Halle, Hales, Kalls, Kales, etc. Then there is the spelling in England where you see Halse, (which is, oddly I think, is related to Halsey). And don't even get me started on church halls, bingo halls, residence halls, etc. in the both the singular and plural that I see whenever I search on Google.

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    1. We feel your pain!
      Thanks for sharing!
      Ancestry Sisters

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  2. I read somewhere (wish I could find it) the Catholic Church had an approved list of names for children. Somewhere around a 100 for males and 35 for females. I read it while searching Canadian Drouin records.

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    1. Tanya,

      I would love to know if this list is real. This would make so much sense for the Irish. I will also search for this list on google.

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