The topic of variants and deviants is addressed in detail during the Introduction to One-Name Studies course. Essentially we have likely all come across variants and deviants to our surnames, even if we have not called them that.
For the purposes of my own One-Name Studies I have registered two variants for ORLANDO, these are ORLANDE and ORLANDA. For my BUTCHER study I registered just one, BUTCHERS. It is also worth pointing out that you do not need to register a variant and at the initial point of registering the surname Butcher I did not register a variant. I did so when I came across a divorce record in the name of Butchers in which the male stated that his name was Butcher and not Butchers.
When looking at my husband’s ancestry his early Goucher ancestors were recorded as Goacher. The Goucher surname is listed as a variant in the Goacher One-Name Study by another member of the Guild of One-Name Studies.
A deviant is a change of surname that happens inconsistently. In the case of the 1939 Register, my husband’s Grandmother, was recorded as GROUCHER.
Why do variants exist?
Accents, spelling and people writing what they think they hear rather than what they actually do – Goucher is a case in point and I regularly receive correspondence in the name of Goucher and Groucher. In a letter recently, I was referred to as Goucher and Goacher, within the same sentence and that is not all, the envelope was handwritten and addressed to Mrs Groucher!
In a time when not everyone could read and write it was very easy for the inconsistencies with the spelling to exist because the person writing the surname would not be corrected if the person could not read what was written down.
Those with “foreign” surnames might change their surname, to make themselves fit in more and I gave an example recently. Surnames that have spellings that are not familiar in one country might become changed over time, just to be easier to manage.
You might find this page on the Guild of One-Name Studies website useful as you consider your own surnames and their potential variants. Those of you who read this post from earlier in the year might find it useful to read it again and consider the potential variant I discovered. I will at some point write about this again and my hypothesis about this.