Spelling Substitution Tables for the United States and Canada

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Two kinds of spelling errors are found in records and indexes. One kind of error is made when the transcriber or indexer misreads the original or mistypes the index entry. The other kind of error is made when the creator of the records misspells the name in the original record.

Commonly Misread Letters Table[edit | edit source]

The following table[1] shows how indexers and transcribers sometimes misread handwriting. The column on the left shows the actual spelling. The column on the right shows what the indexer or transcriber sometimes thought he or she saw. The mistakes are given in order of probability. Bold mistakes are especially common.

Common Mistakes
Common Mistakes
A H, C, O a o, u, ei, ie, n, w
B R, P, S b li, le, t, h, l
C G, E, O, Ce c e, i, o, u
D G, S, I, J, T, Ir d u, a, n, ie, ei, ee, ct, o
E C, G, Ee e i,c

ee u, n, ll, a o, ie, ei, w
F T, S, G, Ti, L f s, j, g, q, t
G S, Q, Z, Ci, L, Se, ls g y, z, q, f
H N, W, He, Sl, St, A, F h K, li, lc, le
I J, L, S, Q, F, T i e, c, l

ie ei, u, ee, n, a, o, w, il
J I, L S, Q, F, T, P, Jno, Mr, Mo j y, g, f, q, z
K H, R, B, tr, te k h, le, lr, te, R, B, H
L S, T, F l e, i, t

ll tt, ee, u, a, o, ie, ei
M W, H, N, A, Al, Me m w, rr, ni, in, iv, ev, ai, ui, iu
N H, W, V, St, Ne n u, a, o, ee, ie, ei, w, m
O C, U, V, D o a, u, n, ee, ll, ie, ei, tt
P R, B, I, J, S, L p ss, g, js, k, f, fs, fa, fi, fr
Q Z, D, I, J, G, C q g, y, z, f, ej, ij, j
R Pi, B, S, Pe, Pr, Re r e, s, i, ei, a
S L, I, J, St, Se, F, G, R, T s r, i, e, c

sc x

ss fs, p, rr, w, m, n
T F, S, L, D, Q t l, f, lr, i

te k

tt ll
U V, A, O, N, H u ee, a, o, n, ie, ei, ll, w
V N, W, Ir, Jr, B v u, n, b, rr, s, r, o, ee, ei
W M, N, U, H, St w m, rr, ur, nr, ui, ni, eu, en
X H, Z, N, J x sc, c, r
Y T, F, Z, Q y g, q, j, z, p, ej, ij, if
Z G, Q, Y z g, q, y, j, p

Phonetic Substitutes Table[edit | edit source]

The creator of the record sometimes misspelled the name in the original record because he or she misunderstood what the informant said. This happened very often when the informant came from another country. Also, many people were illiterate and did not know how to spell their names. The creator of the record spelled the name the way he or she thought it should be spelled.[2]

Letters which might be substituted for the original
a e, i, o, u, y, ey, eh
au ow, ou
b p, v, bb, pp
bb b, p, pp
c (catch) k, g, gh, q, cc, ck
c (chin) ch, cz, s, sh, tch, tsh, z, dg
ch c, k, g, gh, sh, h (Chanukah), ju (San Juan)
chr kr, gr, cr
ck k, c, g, q
cr kr, chr, gr
cz c, ch, ts, tz, s, sh, tch, tsh
d dd, t, dt
dd d, t, tt
dg (dodge) g, j, ch, gg, tj
ds (bends) z, ts
dt d, t, tt
e a, ee, i, o, u, y, ie, ea
ea e, i, y, ie, ei
eau (beau) o, aw, ow, au, ou
ee ie, e, i, y, ea, ei
ew u, oo, ou
f v, ph, pf, gh, lf (calf), ff
ff f, ph, gh, v, lf (calf)
g c, ch, gg, gh, j, k, q, dg, h (Gila monster)
gg g, ch, k, q, j
gh (ghost) c, ch, g, gg, k, q
gh (laugh) f, ph, pf, v, lf
gn (gnat) n, kn
gr chr, kr
h ("h" is sometimes omitted), ch, wh, w, g (Gila monster), ju (San Juan)
i a, e, o, u, y, ei, uy, aye
ie e, i, y, ee, ea, ei
ij y, i, ei, ii
j ch, g, dg, gg
ju (San Juan) h, wh, ch
k c, ch, g, gh, q, nk, cc, ck
kn (knot) n, gn
kr chr, cr, gr
ks x
l ll
lf (calf) f, v, ph, pf, gh
Ll l, th
lm (calm) m, mm, mb, mn
m mm, lm, mb, mn, n
mb (comb) mm, lm, mn
n nn, ng, gn (gnat), kn, m
ng n, nk, ch, k, q
nk ng, ch, k, q
nn n
o a, e, i, u, aw, ow, eau (beau)
oey oy, oe, oi
oi oy, oe, oey
oo u, ow, ew
ou u, au, ow, ew, oo
ow au, ou, eau (beau)
oy oi, oe, oey
p b, pp, ph, bb
pf f, p, ph, gh, v, lf
ph f, gh (laugh), pf, lf, p
ps (psalm) s
q c, ch, g, k, gh, cc, ck, ng, nk
r rr, wr, rh
rh r, rr, wr
rr r, rh, wr
s c, sh, tch, z, cz, ss, x
sch (school) sh, s, sc, sk, sq
sch (Schwarz) s, sh
sch (Tisch) sh, tsh, tch, ch, cz, ti (nation), ss
sh s, c, ch, cz, sch, ti (nation), ss
sk sch, sh, s, sc, sq
sq sc, sk, sch, sh
ss s, c, ch, ci, sh, sc, z
t d, dd, tt, th
tch s, sh, c, ch, cz, s, tsh
th t, tt, d
ti (nation) sh, si, tsh, tch, ch
tj j, g, ch, dj, dg, tch, tsch, s
tt d, dd, t, th, dt
ts tz, cz, z
tz ts, cz, z
u a, e, i, o, ou, ew, oo
v b, f, lf, w
w wh, v, au, oa, h, ju (San Juan)
wh w, h, ju (San Juan), oa
wr r, rh, rr
x s, z, ks, chs
y i, e, ij
z s, c, sh, sch, x, ds

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Originally published in Bryan Lee Dilts, 1860 District of Columbia Census Index: Heads of Households and Other Surnames in Households Index (Salt Lake City: Index Publishing, 1983), ix-x. Here by express permission of the author.
  2. Originally published in G. David Dilts, "Censuses and Tax Lists," in Kory L. Meyerink, ed., Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1998), 331. Here by express permission of the author.