Quick tip – Spelling variations

In the past, there was no concept of official spelling. Do not rule out that a record is for your person just because their name is not spelled the way you think it should have been. In the Netherlands, spelling of surnames should have been fixed since 1811, but errors occurred even later.

We tend to think of the written word as the canonical version, but in the past it was the spoken word. The written version was just a derivative. And don’t forget that many of our ancestors were illiterate and not the ones doing the writing. Even if there was a “correct” spelling of their name, they may not have known it. The recordkeepers just wrote what they thought they heard. Accents and language bariers can cause many creative spelling variations.

children learning to write

Credits: Willem van de Poll, collection Nationaal Archief (CC0)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

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