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The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Local dialect surnames

    As all genealogists will have found, family surnames were often spelled in a variety of ways.  Spelling simply was not consistent, even into the twentieth century, and widespread illiteracy compounded this in earlier generations: normal working people would not have been able to confirm the spelling of their surnames to the authorities.

    Spellings may be so inconsistent, some imagination may be needed to connect them. Equally, saying the surname aloud in a local dialect may help matters.

    Whilst researching a Reynolds family from Norfolk, a baptism was found in the parish registers of one James “Rannells”.  It was exactly correct based on date and place when compared to census records.  But how to explain the spelling variant?  Indeed, saying “Reynolds” in a broad Norfolk accent renders it very similar to “Rannells”.  Perhaps the local clergyman had recently graduated from Oxford or Cambridge, and simply had not yet gotten used to the local accent.

    Having trouble with spelling variants?  Try saying the surnames in the local dialect, and see how many variants you can find!

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