More on Variants

Variants & Deviants

Designed by Julie Goucher using ~ March 2020

The latest Introduction to One-Name Studies course has just officially finished, though I shall arrange one more chat with those students. One of the things I love about teaching the courses, is the questions posed over the duration of the course. Those questions are always answered during the course, but often, I bring the question here, either in the format I have used today, or by addressing the question in narrative.

This is an abridged questions posed by student, (JS)  which I have adjusted slightly, as otherwise, it would be possible to identify the student.

However I think there may be a large number of variants.
How do you know how far the variants should extend.
Also what are the dangers with such small numbers.

Here is a slightly tweaked response:

I think the way to look at variants is to be guided by the records you locate.

When I registered Butcher, I did so with no variants. I did however, record instances of Butchers. For about a year they remained as completely separate databases, then I looked at the divorce records on Ancestry. There were several Butcher records, as I read one of them, it transpired that the divorce was recorded as a Butcher because that was how the marriage was registered, but the man was actually a Butchers.

The divorce record provided the marriage certificate and that confirmed that the marriage was recorded as a Butcher rather than a Butchers. I immediately merged the GRO Marriages for Butchers into the Butcher spreadsheet and did the same with the GEDCOM, merBefore adding any variant to a study I would recommend assessing the numbers that might be involved.ging Butchers with the Butcher file. I then recognised that the study would reflect both names and noted the fact that the instances of Butchers was in actual decline, likely that the name dropped the S on the end, becoming Butcher.

Small numbers might show varying things:

1. Define the geographical spread for small numbers – Orlando is small in England and Wales but not the case in Italy and the US.

2. Small numbers might be indicative of migration. One student who had a reference to the surname of Ganselem in the family stated that there was no instances in any of the origins books. In my reply to that I said the surname sounded Jewish, based upon nothing more than a hunch. I then looked at JewishGen and did a search for the surname which did reveal some instances.

3, Small numbers can only identify a surname in decline. It might therefore be useful to conduct an assessment of births, are there high mortality numbers? are their large numbers of females born who largely change their surname upon marriage?

Knowing the origins will perhaps influence, and in some regard. depend on your search options and those parameters.

Ganselem Distribution

Ganselem distribution from

As I pulled together this post I had a quick look at Forebears to see what their distribution map showed, there was one patch identified, as Mongolia with 245 individuals in 2014.

There are a couple of points:

  1. The surname has a representation according to Forebears, as given name.
  2. What has driven the only instance of the surname to show Mongolia

The Introduction to One-Name Studies course (901) is set to begin on 2 June 2020.

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
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2 Responses to More on Variants

  1. Christopher Dallison says:

    Good Morning Julie,

    It is interesting to see how the spelling changes as families moved. In my case a move from West to East Midlands (in the 1840’s) resulted in a change in spelling. Then later in the century a move to Yorkshire created another branch of the family that reverted back to the original spelling.

    Now with deviants – just how many ways can you misinterpret a surname?

    Keep up the good work – the introductory course I did with you last year was extremely useful.

    Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, lovely to hear from you again. Accents play a great deal in how surnames are changed and recorded in documents. Of course, when your family moved back to Yorkshire, it only needed a vicar or curate to recognise the surname and spell it the way it always was.

      Deviants are perhaps more tricky, as they very often occur in a relatively short period of time. I think one of the examples on the intro course was related to my husband’s Grandmother, recorded in the 1939 Register as Groucher, in every record prior to that and past that she was recorded correctly. That is a deviant.

      If you see a name that could be a variant, note it down, just in case!

      I hope you stay safe too – strange times we live in.


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