One of my hobbies is family history research, which I do when I can between everything else. Recently I’ve been researching two families from Cornwall, partly because the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks website has an extensive database and easy-to-use search.
One of my great-great-great-great-grandmothers had the surname Trevaskis. Except that it appears as Trevascus on her baptism record in 1798. The baptism records for that parish record a Trevaskes in 1693, then Trevascus (1708), Treveskeys (1711), Trevascas (1768), Trevaskis (1780), Trevaskus (1780) and Trevarcus (1785). Then in 1819, everyone decided that they were going to use the spelling Trevaskis. It is possible that these were different families, each with their own spelling, and that the others died out, but I doubt it. The family which used the spelling Trevaskis in 1819 previously used Trevascus in 1804 and 1807, Trevaskus in 1809, Trevascus again in 1811 (two records, for Jennifer and Jenifer), Trevascus and Trevaskus in 1814 (two records for one child), Trevaskis and Trevaskus in 1816 (two records for another child) and finally Trevaskis in 1819 (two records, for Margaret Trevaskis and Margaret Edwards Trevaskis).
But we can’t blame the families for this. There was less standardisation of spelling in general, and the information which I am seeing on the internet has gone through at least two sets of ears/eyes, brains and hands – the vicar or parish clerk of the day and the volunteer transcriber of recently. The database search allows for wildcards – I found all of the above (as well as Trevanen and Trevorrow, each with a smaller number of variants) by searching for trev%. (PS the website says, in the small print: “We make no warranty whatsoever as to the accuracy and completeness of the data”.)
I’ve discovered branches of the family which I either didn’t know existed, or only had the most basic information for. But sometimes I hit a brick wall. One great-great-great-grandmother was married in 1855 and came to Australia in 1857. Is she the girl of that name baptised in that village on 12 Apr 1835, or the one of the same name baptised in the same village on 17 April 1836? Or was she one of the six other girls of the same name baptised elsewhere in Cornwall in those two years, or was she older or (possibly) younger than that? (And it’s not the case that the first one died young and the parents gave the second one the same name – the two have different parents.) I may never know. It also does not help that there was a limited supply of given names, and most children only had one given name – this one had a middle name, and there’s still that choice. (But I did find another ancestress (and more of her family) because of a very unusual middle name.)
By the way, my ancestry is English and probably Welsh on my father’s side, and Scottish, Scots-Irish, Irish (probably Scots-Irish) and Cornish on my mother’s. Various great-, great-great- and great-great-great-grandparents came to Australia between the 1840s and 1880s. We know almost of the great-great-great-grandparents’ names, with a greater or lesser amount of details, and with some families traced beyond that. Most of what I’ve done is collating information from other family members, plus some research of my own.