That Wasn’t My Ancestor’s Name!

I see it time and time again.  Maybe I was more open to believing that records could be all screwed up, I don’t know.  I was helping someone research her family history.  However, the more that I brought to her attention for review, the more I heard, “That’s not how my ancestor spelled it”.Hello my name is

Anyone who has gone looking through Census records probably understands why her statement has a lot of entertainment value.  I wish she was right, but unfortunately, record keeping is only as good as the record keeper.  You need to be on the lookout for all sorts of discrepancies and alternate spellings.  There is also the ancestor’s accent, mother country, etc. that plays a part as well.

Case in point:

My husband’s 2nd Great Grandfather’s name was Peter Olaf Johnson…or was it?  It seems harmless enough.  I start researching this man.

Census Records:  Check.  Nothing unusual.  All show Peter Johnson, Peter O Johnson.  I’m feeling pretty lucky so far.

Now is this a signature?  “Olaf Petter Johanson”

For those that think this stuff is just a quick look up on Ancestry, some shaking leaves, and instant family, guess again!

My head hurts.  I decide to give old Olaf a rest for the moment.

I know – I’ll go after Peter’s son, my husband’s great grandfather.  He was born in Minnesota.  After a little sleuthing, I come across this index entry:

Jansen Birth Certificate


Birthdate.  25 Oct 1893. Check.

Father’s Name:  Pedder Jansen.  Ugh. Check? Really?  Another variation.

Mother’s Name: Raynhild Jansen.  At least her first name was unique enough – this is a pretty good bet. Check…for now.

Those are probably the right parent’s names, even if not spelled how they spelled them later on.


I have hardly done any research on this family and I already have several variations on the name.  This is going to take many deep dives to prove/disprove if I’m on the right track or not.  Peter’s Death Certificate states his father’s name as John Johnson.  Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

About Our Lineage

I invite you to join me as I share my journey of successes, surprises, and of course, disappointments. All belong to my passion called Genealogy.
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