Within my years of research I have found some of the most unusual variations
of the spelling of my surnames. Many times I have passed by names that as time
went by, I was to find were actually my ancestors. Although on first glance, they
were dismissed due to the spelling of them.
Many of the variations are sometimes easy to decipher, and then yet others REALLY make
you wonder as to just where they came up with that particular version.The are some many
different factors that play a part in the various spellings that we find of our ancestors.
Just to give a few examples of what I have found and what they ACTUALLY WERE:
Original Surname--BALDWIN
These spellings ALL referred to the same family

Original Surname--GOSS
I have found: GAUSS; GASS
These again referring to the same family

Original Surname--WARTHEN
I have found:Believe it or not...WORTHINGTON (I almost never found
that in the census records)
There are as many reasons for these variations as there are variations themselves.
Many times the census takers, although perhaps the most
educated persons in the town, still lacked much in thier spelling skills.

Names were often spelled "phonetically" as they sounded when
spoken, and then take into consideration "if" the person speaking those names had an accent; just
what that might do to the phonetic sound of the name.
The census taker may have just visited another family with the same
surname as your ancestor, but for whatever reasoning, they may have used a different spelling then your
ancestor. The census taker however, doesn't know this and spells it the same way as the last house.
It takes only ONE error in spelling to affect spelling in the following years.
One clerk writes the name incorrectly in let's say "marriage records"..it is later copied and then the chain is
Ship Listings are EXTREMELY difficult to figure out at times.
You have persons of very different dialects and languages entirely.You had men of
German,Swedish,Irish,Scottish,Hungarian descents to name a few..Just think for a moment how YOU might have spelled
those names.
The Southern Dialect is also another one that poses problems. I always try to stop and
say the surname with an imagined "southern slang accent" to see just what it would sound like phonetically.
Many times, the error is actually NOT by the census taker..but the early records are
showing the original spelling of the surname, it simply changed over the decades
In Summary, don't so hastily dismiss names you might find in the earlier records..
If they are somewhat close, they may bear checking into.
Don't assume that the way the surname is spelled today, was the origina spelling of the name.
Don't overlook the possibility of nicknames being used in any records...I once looked for a man
for several months in the census records--his first and middle name was Andrew Jackson, I had found him as a child living with
his parents, but all records as an adult seemed to have vanished. I finally found this man some months later. However, as he stood
7 foot tall, he had acquired the nickname of "Long Bud". I never dreamed it..but the census records actually list him by the name
of "Bud". Right there with his wife and children, leaving no doubt as to his identity. While I was accustomed to nicknames in the
form of "Lizzie" for Elizabeth, that was at least a derivative. I never thought to look for something like "Bud". So, when you are
looking and seemingly cannot find them...look in your records for a nickname that you might have and search for that.