Casefile Clues

25 November 2013

Not Your Typical Trout Fetter

Spaces matter.

Names present all sorts of problems for the genealogist. Incorrect spellings, phonetic variations, omitted prefixes, and other name irregularities are the bane of the genealogist. They are also the bane of indexers as well.

Readers will know that one of my ancestral families has the last name of Trautvetter. The Germanic name presents spelling challenges for many records clerks and transcriptionists. The Kansas branch of my own Trautvetter family actually used the spelling of "Troutfetter." Searching for that spelling is what resulted in an interesting find.

I use Google Books quite a bit to locate references to various Trautvetters and Troutfetters. Of course, optical character recognition is not perfect and my results are not always "right." When I located a reference to "trout fetter" in a history from Westmoreland, County, Pennsylvania. I simply thought that Google Books had "seen" a space where none existed. I also thought I had found a totally new Troutfetter where none was previously known to exist.

I was wrong. There was a space. And there was no new Troutfetter.

The man's name was Amos Trout Fetter. Trout was his middle name and Fetter was his last name.

He was not a Troutfetter. He was a Fetter whose middle name was Trout. There's not apparent connection to my own family in this case.

The reminder for me was that I should remember "Fetter" as an alternate spelling for Troutfetter. Any longer surname can easily be "split." Trautvetter is a good example. This splitting could result in "last names" of Traut (if the "vetter" is omitted) or Fetter (if the "traut" is omitted).

But that's not what happened in this case as Amos Trout Fetter was no Troutfetter at all.