What’s in a name?

Yesterday at work, a couple of the girls were telling stories about how their names have been butchered over the years. Sales clerks, servers, friends and even family have pronounced and spelled their names wrong. I thought the stories were really funny and they reminded me of something that happened in my ancestry adventure a couple months ago.

Fresh off my trip to Boston, I was inspired to go back through my Betts documents. Now, at this point, I’d had some of these documents for years, so in some ways, it was like looking at them for the first time. For some reason, when I looked at this PDF, I noticed that there was more data about the Betts family that indicated variant spellings like “Bettys” and “Beattys.”

I have no idea why I overlooked this before, but after all the luck I had in Boston, I decided it was time to take a gamble on the random spellings.

As it turned out, someone had done all the work for me. By Googling “Betts” and “Beattys” together, I found pages on RootsWeb, a partner organization of Ancestry.com that mentioned both names. As I clicked through the pages, I found detailed information about the Betts family with all-important citations to back up the work.

The cover of the Betts Family book

The cover of the Betts Family book

Starting with Captain Betts, I was able to trace his paternal line all the way back to a John Beattys in Wetherden, Suffolk, England, born in 1465. What was even crazier is that there was a book called, “The Betts of Wortham in Suffolk 1480 – 1905” that the information came from. In all my Googling of “Betts” this book never came up. But there it was online. Disbelief is the only word that could have described that moment.

As I read the book, a new last name came up to research, Wryght, but that’s a story for another day.

The moral of this story for fellow ancestry adventurers, though, is to spell your name wrong. Whether it was indifference or illiteracy or a combination of the two, people didn’t enforce consistency in surname spelling. If people spell your last name wrong now, you better believe they did back then too. Instead of getting upset, thank them; you never know if that misplaced letter will unlock a door to your past.

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