Re: Need suggestions for how to search for misspelled family names #records

Laurie Sosna

My favorite game of phonetic whack-a-mole. Here are some things I've used.

Anna and Belle KOBB immigration at Ellis Island. Could not find it using existing Ellis Island search engine in 2010.
Searched with first initial of LAST NAME (K) plus town "sounds like" Wilkomir.
Found manifest: Henschel and Beile KABE (phonetic spelling) 1911
Nussen KARP 1912
Judel KARP (penciled in correction from traveling companion Friedsohn) 1913
Pinkus & Abram KAP 1922

1930 Census record for Phil KOBB. Knew where he was living, could not find the record. Used first names only and approximate birth year: Phillip (1902), Helen, son Leo. State: New York.
Found indexed as ROBB. "K" in the census taker's handwriting looked like an "R"

Immigration manifest for Herbert & Sylvia SOSNA 1914. Brought to the U.S. by their father Benjamin.
Did not know their old country names.
I think I used, maybe ancestry.
Another case of a handwriting problem. I used asterisk instead of first initial of last name *osna
Immigration officer wrote cursive S that looks exactly like a cursive L. Indexed as "LOSNA."

I sometimes only put in a "sounds like" town name and a date range and sift through the results.

Time is another factor. Records are indexed at the whim of the site where they are located.
Morris Pell naturalization. Family arrived in January 1910 as Papelewskim home town Ivanifka.
Variations on different documents: Popelowsky, Popelousky, Papelewski.
I started locating records for him and his family (his wife is a Sosna) in 2014 using their adopted name and many, many, many variations of their original last name and home town.
His 1920 census says he was naturalized in 1919.
I doggedly kept checking back on ancestry and familysearch (they are my two favorite sites.)
July 1, 2020 I tried again, on familysearch: Popelowsky and date range 1910-1919
There he was. Morris Popolowsky.
Declaration in 1914, petition in 1916, declined in 1917 (one of his witnesses didn't know him for the full 5 years) and granted in 1919.

Depending on the record, the transcriber, translator, age or place of origin, they vary wildly.
Wild card searches won't work, the spellings are just too variable. "Sounds like" is the only option.
FRIEDSON/KOBB from Wilkomir:
I maintain a list of the ways the name FRIEDSON has been spelled, current count is 24, including regional variations.
In Lithuanian records, for example, I found FREDZONAIT and FREDZONAS.
KOBB has a Lithuanian variations: KAPAS, KAPIENE.

Wanna guess how many ways you can spell Judelevitz? Luckily, they shortened it to Levitz, before two of them changed it to Levitt. (Thanks guys).
Or the Sosna who changed it to Susner during naturalization and used that spelling on her father's death certificate which confused me for 5 years, but his headstone says Sosna? Nice.

Laurie Sosna
San Francisco, CA

Ivonifka, Ukraine; Rashkov, Ukraine; Mogilev-Podolsky, Ukraine, Vilna, Lithuania; Wilkomir (Ukmerge) Lithainia, Dnipropetrovsk (Yekaternislav), Ukraine; Ostrowiec, Poland
New Jersey, New York, Massachussetts, Connecticut, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, Cleveland.

Join to automatically receive all group messages.