Thoughts on Another Spelling

As mentioned on Genealogy Tip of the Day, I recently discovered another variant spelling for my ancestor Franciska Bieger’s name: Francis KaBücher. That discovery reminded me of several things beyond just being aware that there can always be an additional spelling variant.

The spelling came from the 1895 marriage in Hancock County, Illinois, of Franciska’s daughter Ida Etta Trautvetter. It was not the spelling for Franciska’a name that was on Ida Etta’s marriage application (which was a part of the license). That spelling was Franciska Bücher. When the clerk went to write the entry for the marriage in the marriage register, he apparently read the name as Francis KaBücher. Since he likely was unfamiliar with the name it is easy to see how this could happen.

The marriage register is a summary of what is on the marriage license. It contains no additional information. The marriage license would be considered an original source and the marriage register would be a derivative one (in this specific instance). That’s because the information was put on the license first and then from the license put in the register. The information on the marriage license is a combination of primary and secondary information.

Some may wonder why even bother with the register since it (in this instance) contains derivative information that is already contained in the license. There are reasons. A notation may appear on the register that is not on the license. There may be something on the license that is now illegible or the licenses may no longer be extant and the register may be all that is available.

I’m always glad to obtain additional spelling variants for an ancestor’s name. Those variants help me to search more effectively for that person in other records and give me some insight into how the individual likely pronounced their name. In this case it confirmed (for me) that some members of the family pronounced the last name of Franciska (which was actually Bieger) as something close to Bücher. This flies right in the face of advice I received from a German expert years ago, very early in my research, who told me that Bieger and Bücher were not variant spellings.

They might not be in German. While Franciska’s father was of Germanic origin, I’m not researching him in Germany. I’m researching him in the United States where the records are in English. There are no records on Franciska’s father, Peter Bieger, where he actually wrote his own name. The records that contain his name were all written completely be a records clerk–there was no signature.

Which has me thinking: was the name actually Bücher?

At this point I am not certain. I’m not certain that it matters at this point. What does matter is that I use all the variant surnames I have and try and make certain that no matter what the rendering of the name is that I have tried to be as certain as humanly possible that I have the same person, no matter how the last name is spelled–as long as it’s relatively close one of my Bieger or Bücher alternate spellings.


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