Name Variations in Canadian Indexes and Records

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Before you decide your ancestor is not in an index or record, try the suggestions in this guide. Identifying your ancestor's name in indexes and records may be difficult because of:

  • Spelling errors and spelling changes over time.
  • Errors in reading handwriting.
  • Foreign surnames modified to sound more British.
  • Errors made by an indexer.
  • Errors made by the transcriber of a record.

What You Are Looking For

Ways to overcome problems finding your ancestor's name in indexes and records.


These 4 steps will help you identify your ancestor's name in indexes and records.

Step 1. If you can't find the record, check if the name is spelled a different way.

Two kinds of spelling errors are found in records and indexes:

  1. The transcriber or indexer misreads the original or mistypes the index entry.
  2. The creator of the records misspells the name in the original record.

The following table lists problems and suggests possible solutions:

Look for the middle instead of the first name. For example, instead of the name, "WALKER, George Herbert" try "WALKER, Herbert."
Vowels Look for the name spelled with different vowels. For example, look for GILLESPIE under GALLESPIE, GELLESPIE, GOLLESPIE, GULLESPIE, or GYLLESPIE.
Double letters Search the index for the name with double letters added or deleted. For example, for the name FULLER, try FULER. For the name BAKER, try BAKKER.
Transposed letters Look for the name spelled with each of the first four letters transposed. For example, look for name WIGHTMAN under IWGHTMAN, WGIHTMAN, WIHGTMAN, and WIGTHMAN.
Misread letters Old handwriting is often a challenge to read. Use the Commonly Misread Letters Table to find letters which were possibly substituted in the spelling of the name.

Using this table the name CARTER might be searched for under GARTER, EARTER, OARTER, CEARTER, CEIRTER, CAETER, CASTER and so forth. For further suggestions, see:

  • Deciphering Old Handwriting
  • Kirkham, E. Kay. The Handwriting of American Records for a Period of 300 Years.
  • Sperry, Kip. Reading Early American Handwriting.

Step 2. Apply the suggestions.