Name Spelling Changes
Quite often you will see a surname spelled different ways in the same family. There are number of reasons for this. If they immigrated to the US, the person entering their name may have spelled it wrong. It could have been written down wrong by a census taker. I found a misspelling of my great-grandparents last name in a census report. Instead of writing Pickard, the census taker wrote Pickett. In my situation the first names, the children, address, ages, and occupation were all correct, making it easy for me to identify my great grandparents in this census. It isn’t always that easy. Sometimes families changed their surname to make it easier to pronounce in English, while others just Americanized the spelling. Y’s changed to I’s and O’s removed from the front of Irish names. In the instance of an O’Callaghan I found the name was simply changed to Callahan. Look up the surname you are searching and find out what other spellings it might have.
Some people, less educated, would spell a name the way it sounded to them. A clerk might spell Johnson without the “h”, Jonson, or even change the “o” to “u”, Jonsun. By comparing numerous documents, census results, and family records, you can still obtain the correct information on your ancestors. Make a note about various spellings and keep them all listed in your research. That will help out future family historians.