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One issue that can be a trap for the person new to family history is the fact that in the past surnames were not always spelt as we now expect. There can be various reasons for this. Not everyone could read or write, so they may not know that their name had been spelt "wrong". Regional accents can also lead different people to "hear" a name differently, which can becomes evident when a new minister or clerk takes over a parish. An example of this is the name "Breaks" which became "Briggs". People may also think that spelling is unimportant and flexible, meaning that a name may be spelt more than one way in a single document. Over time this can mean that a name has changed considerably from when it originally appeared.

In addition to names being spelt in various ways, they can also be misread, especially by indexers unfamiliar with the local names, e.g. the name Sawyer being indexed when it should be Tawyer.

The list below contains real examples of different ways of writing a name. It is not a list of variants that I think MIGHT occur – only ones I know HAVE occurred. It does not take into account any mis-readings of a name by a transcriber or indexer as listed above.

If you have any other names to add to this list, please feel free to email me at jenny.joyce@writeme.com

Akhurst Ackhus
Annesley Ainslie, Annesly, Ansell, Ansley, Anslow
Bailey Bayley, Bayly
Batchelor Batcholer
Boardman Broadman
Burgess Burgeis, Burgis
Byrne Byrnes
Chasmar Chasmer
Dummelow Domelow, Dummolaw
Fahey Fahy
Fleming Flemming
Foxcroft Foxcrofte
Hemming Emin, Heming
Highett Hiett, Hiot, Hyat, Hyatt, Hyett
Huddleston Huddlestone
Iles Isles
Ireland Island
Ives Ive
Joyce Jawsey, Joice, Joicei, Joicey, Joisce, Joisey, Jowcey, Jowsey, Joycey, Joycie, Joycy, Joyse, Joysey, Joysie
Laurie Lawrie, Lourey
Lisson Leeson
Maude Maud, Mawd, Mawde
Moore More
Parsons Parson
Petchey Pechey, Pechy, Petchet, Petchie, Petchy
Pickering Pickerin, Pickerum, Puckerin
Poole Pool
Purdy Pardy, Purdey
Quinn Quin, Quin
Sanders Saunders
Sanderson Saunderson
Scourfield Scurfield
Seeley Celey, Sely
Sharpey Sharp, Sharpeigh, Sharpigh
Sproule Sprole, Sprowl, Sprowle
Stinchcombe Stinchcomb, Stinchcome, Stynchcombe
Swalwell Swallwell
Tilling Tellin, Telling, Tillen, Tillin, Tillings
Toas Toase, Toes
Torpy Torphy
Tyler Tylor
Welch Welsh
Wenban Wenbon
Wenborne Wemborne, Wemborne, Wemborne, Wembourne, Wenborn, Wenbourn, Wenbourne, Wenburn, Wenburne, Wenburne, Wenburne, Whenborne, Wynbourn, Wyneborne
Whitby Whidby