Spelling is important!
We all know that our ancestors’ names could and usually were spelled every which way imaginable, and that it’s important to be able to use the various tools such as Soundex and wildcard searches to be able to find them with any success. But it’s also important to learn the actual spelling of a name used by the person, no matter how strange. This is especially important when it turns out that the “actual spelling” is quite different from the “expected spelling,” because the algorithms used to produce variant spellings may not work.
In researching the Norman family, I was looking up information on a Geraldine Norman who married Elzie Savage – or so I thought. I found it difficult to find much on either one, and neither Geraldine Norman nor Geraldine Savage in Arkansas brought up the right person for me. I got lucky in searching Arkansas County Marriages on FamilySearch Record Search, as it brought up Elzy Savage when I input “Elzie Savage.” And the record indicated that he married Gearldean Norman. I didn’t pay much attention. I did not even give it much notice when I saw that the handwritten entry for her name on the marriage records in the image also used the spelling “Gearldean.” But when I found her handwritten signature as witness on another relative’s marriage document with this same spelling, it finally got through my thick head: “That’s how she actually spelled it.”
And then – surprise! – the proper spelling finally brought up a death record for her in Ancestry – in North Carolina, where I did not expect to find her (most of the family stayed in Arkansas or moved to the West Coast).
I am very excited this week about being contacted by a gentleman who knew Bun and Square Brinlee, the “eccentric” Brinlee brothers that I have mentioned previously on this blog a couple of times (which is how he found me).
He knew them when he was a child and teenager and had quite a bit of information on them, some of which confirms the family (and newspaper) accounts and some of which does not quite support the legends; it appears that a few things may have been exaggerated in the original stories. However, his information does confirm that they were indeed real characters, and in a nice way, too. He had been planning to write an article on them, and in the course of trying to find additional information found my blog.
I shared what I knew – what I had heard from other family members and found in research – and he shared some of his rich memories. He was also able to provide me with the correct name of the author who wrote a short book based on their adventures, and I may try to dig up a copy on Amazon, though apparently it’s rather expensive. One area I may try to pursue is whether Bun actually married a woman named Mary Josephine McDonald. The story goes that he did and that he was too scared to tell his parents, so he just came back home to live. Now to find out what other information some of my Brinlee relatives may have!
Finally sent in my registration materials. Knoxville, here we come!