Casefile Clues

22 March 2014

A Mountain of Spelling Variations for Montvill

Individuals whose names can be spelled a variety of ways are frustrating for the genealogist. 

Montvell is one of those names. 

Spelling variations, nicknames, and diminutives can make it difficult for a researcher to find individuals in indexes, finding aids, and original records. Those same variant renderings can also create problems in trying to determine whether two people with "similar names" are actually the same person. 

And there there is the dilemma of how to refer to the person when writing about them.

As I go through the blog posts on Montvell Harness, I realize that I have spelled his name in blog posts in a variety of ways. It is time to stop that and choose one spelling of his name to use when writing about him. Of course when transcribing records, I'll use the spelling that is in the actual record. There are several reasons for that:
  • it is the best way to create an accurate rendering of the original
  • it allows the researcher to be aware of other ways to locate the name in records
  • it provides a glimpse into how the name was pronounced
But flipping around and using different spellings for his name when writing about him is confusing. I've decided to use Montvell as his "name" because that's what he signed on his homestead papers in New Mexico in 1917. 

So when I write about Montvell in the 1870 census in Hancock County, Illinois, I'll use "Montvell" when discussing him, even though it's not spelled that way in the census. I will use the census spelling of his name in the transcription--because that's what the census says.

But in my analysis of his 1870 census entry, I'll use Montvell. 

There's one last reason for using the same spelling. It makes it easier for me. Instead of remembering how his name is spelled in each and every record so that I can refer to it that exact way in my discussion of that record, I'll simply cite my sources and, if necessary, include my reasons for why I think I have the same person. 

Another reason to cite our sources. Imagine that. 
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