By Barry J. Ewell
Never assume that the surname you are researching has stayed the same through the generations or even through a life time. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that spelling conventions became common. Spelling was a phonetic practice meaning you wrote down the name as you heard it. Ewell becomes Youile, Uhl, Zoule, Eule. Census enumerators, priests, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, tax collectors, and any other persons with need to write down your family name probably had some input on how it was written. Be prepared to find the name spelled differently for every record you find. When record the spelling in your genealogy database, leave the spelling as you found it. And of course make sure to add any new spelling to your family/name reference list so you will be aware spelling variation.
- Finding missing ancestors
- Finding evidence that ancestor served in the U.S. military
- Look for cultural naming patterns
- Look beyond just names and relationships