Standardization of Names

I’ve been thinking about standardizing the names of various relatives again. This does not mean transcribing them that way from original records. One should never change the spelling of a name from how it is listed in a document.

But when I write about an ancestor or relative, which spelling should I use?

I’m thinking I should pick one rendering for each ancestor/relative and stick with it. It also seems reasonable to have some procedure to choose that name, although there will be exceptions to any rule.

My 3rd great-grandfather is referred to as George Trautvetter, John George Trautvetter, Johann George Trautvetter, etc. with most other variations leaving out the “e” in George. His son, who was known as Theodore Frederick Trautvetter was actually named Christian Theodore Frederick Trautvetter at birth. The name of Christian, which Theodore did not use was actually passed down in the family.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I think I need to start keeping a list of what name I have chosen to use when writing about an ancestor. Individual records should be transcribed as they are written, but I need to pick one name for Johann George Trautvetter when writing about him.



6 thoughts on “Standardization of Names

  1. I was an O’Neil but some of our family in Nova Scotia, spell it O’Neill.

    I know families where siblings change the spelling. That can cause research problems:}

    I make note of it by recording O’Neil/O’Neill.

    • Alice Bampton says:

      In my family tree we have members of the same family using different spellings: Robison and Robinson, although the original spelling seems to be Robison.

    • Since spelling wasn’t standardized back in the 1800’s and earlier, variants abound. Adding to that the americanization that many of our relatives chose, choosing a standard reference name for our own records certainly sounds like a good plan to me. Making a “cheat sheet” to deter confusion to later generations imo is also a good plan. One example in my family history is the name change from Christian Karl Julius to Charles Louis… That took me some sleuthing…

  2. My Dad’s family are the original Douglas’s from Scotland. In this country it seems like every other generation spelled with 2 (ss)or 1 (s). It’s confusing.

  3. Behind again in my on-line reading, Michael. But here is a thought just the same. In much of what I do I use initials only after the first entry; i.e. Michael John Neill (MJN). If you were a Junior, then MJNjr. However, when writing a bio or narrative, I would use Michael John Neil (Neill)(MJN) and go on from there. It gives the reader the full name as known to the writer/researcher and saves a few key strokes.

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