A Perfect Use for Misspellings…Surname Variations

Census Search


Hello, I am Kristine, a new blogger for the DMPL Local History Blog. I have an avid interest in local history and genealogy. I will be sharing information on the historical aspects of Des Moines as well as tips and tricks for genealogy research.

A Perfect Use for MisspellingsSurname Variations

On my great grandmothers’ Iowa marriage certificate to her second husband in 1922, it listed her mother as Margaret Bonlanken. I have never heard of that surname and it looked a little strange but I was glad to have something of substance.

Even a simple Google search of ‘Bonlanken’ warranted less than 20 results, so I figured the information was incorrectly transcribed but I had no idea what else it would be. It remained a brick wall for years.

I was recently researching a different surname of my family in the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany. I stumbled across a website listing German Emigrants of the 19th Century (www.rootdigger.de). I searched each of the surnames of my German ancestors just to see if they might appear and sure enough the mystery was solved.

I located my great-great grandfather on the list, Friedrich Schimmer, it stated he emigrated in 1870 and was married to Margarethe von Lancken. Bonlanken – von Lancken. I was stunned, the name was so close and yet it never occurred to me to try an alternate spelling such as that.

I was able to fill in several generations of my tree based on that new information.

When searching for ancestors it can be helpful to search for alternate spellings of even common names. A very common name such as Schultz can have many alternate spellings including: Schultz, Schultze, Schulz, Scholz, Scholtz, Schults, Shults, Schulze, or Schultheis.

This is an excellent strategy when searching census records in our online resource, Heritage Quest. By searching alternate spellings of surnames you can broaden your possibilities of finding that ancestor you’ve been looking for.

German Genealogy Resources:

Palen, Margaret Krug. German Settlers of Iowa: Their Descendants and European Ancestors. Heritage Books, 2009.

Iowa Genealogical Society – German Group

One Response

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