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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Getting Through the Confusing Maze of Variant Names and Spelling

Christine has confusion with the varied spelling of her ancestor's name - recorded variously as Grumbley, Grambley, Grumley, Grimley, Bromley, Grumly

I have been searching for my 2nd great grandfather Philip Richard Grumbley b: abt 1823 in Ireland.  My great grandfather’s obituary spelled his last name as Grambley but survived by a brother named Grumbley.  I can document the wife Rosa with Philip Richard Grumley and their children in  the 1880 Harmony Township, Clark County, Ohio census.  I found the family listed in 1870 as Grimley in Harmony Township, Clark County, Ohio.  In the 1860 census they are listed as Bromley in Green Township, Clark County, Ohio.  The church marriage records from the diocese list them in 1853 as Philipium Grumly and Rosea Hockett and shows them married in Springfield, Ohio at St Raphael’s Church.  I found marriage records for two of the daughters as late as 1887 in South Charleston, Ohio at St Charles Borromeo Parish.  Try as I might, I can not find a death record for either Rosa nor Philip Grumbley.  I have not found anything that tells me other than Ireland and I am not at all sure how their name was really spelled!  I have been a member of ancestry since it’s beginning and I have used, findagrave and the Clark County Heritage Center Library.  No luck……… Can you help?

Christine - Normally when there is such a jump from a surname starting with "G" to "B" as in that 1860 census, the usual reason is that the original record has been mis-transcribed. In this case, it has not. The image clearly shows Brumley. So how does this happen? Say the two names out loud. They sound rather similar, especially if mumbled, said with an accent or by a child. Remember we do not know who gave information when the census taker came around - was it a neighbour, a child? Did the person giving the information have a strong accent? This family was from Ireland and I can well imagine a clerk could easily confuse the sound of Grumley for Brumley. I'd discard that as a variant of the surname.

As for the other variations, remember that spelling was not standardized in the 19th century. People spelled words as they sounded (phonetically) and many individuals could not read or write. You can get more help with an article I wrote called  5 Tips to Help You Navigate the Confusing Maze of Surname Variations

Finding a place of origin in Ireland can be a challenge. One of the tricks I use is to trace the children and find their marriage and death records. Sometimes you get lucky and a county of origin is given. Also look for obituaries of the parents and all the children. Since you found church records for the family you know what religion they were. This can help you narrow the search in Ireland. I see they were Catholic so you might want to search the new online Catholic Parish Registers for Ireland. You might first want to read my blog post 10 Steps to Searching the Irish Catholic Parish Records When You Only Know a County of Origin. 

The tips will work even without you knowing a county of origin but hopefully you can narrow that down by finding those all-important death records.

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