Thursday, January 3, 2013

DON'T GET BOWLED OVER BY NAME VARIATIONS




I have ancestors with the surname Bowles. It is a simple name but you would be amazed what variations occur. Some of these errors are due to spelling or transcription errors, but sometimes it is just because the name has evolved over the years.

The following are excerpts from The History of the Bowles Family; Containing an Accurate Historical Lineage of the Bowles Family from the Norman Conquest to the Twentieth Century, with Historical and Genealogical Notes and Some Pedigrees of Bowles Families in Various Sections of the United States and Britain (1):

(1)
(2)

So far we have:

Bolla
Boel
Bole
Boles
De Bolle
Bolles
Bowle
Bowl
Bowles

According to The Internet Surname Database (3), we can also add to this list:

Bowell
Bowells
Bolle
Boelle
Bowler

As if that weren’t enough…I started looking on FamilySearch.org for my 3rd great grandfather, PHINEAS BOWLES. I found:

Finnis Boales
Finis Bowl
Phenie Bowls
Phil F. Bolls
Pinineus Boles
Phinehes B. G. Bowles
Finnes Bowles
Finis Bowles
Phineas Bolles
Phinius Bowles
Finner Bowles
Phineas Bowlis
Phineas Bowes
Phineas Boules
Finnis Bowles
Pheeneas Bowles

I could go on, but you get the point.  Remember to think outside the box when doing a name search for an ancestor—even if it is a name that seems very clearly spelled one way to you. Not everyone excels in spelling and in the olden days spelling wasn’t that important. Keep in mind too that your surname’s spelling may have changed over the years. 

ILLUSTRATIONS BY:

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, East Meets West Art Deco, 2010.

CITATION SOURCES:

(1) The history of the Bowles family; containing an accurate historical lineage of the Bowles family from the Norman conquest to the twentieth century, with historical and genealogical notes and some pedigrees of Bowles families in various sections of the United States and Britain, compiled and published by Thomas M. Farquhar, Philadelphia, 1907, p. 51  (http://archive.org/details/historyofbowlesf00farq: accessed January 1, 2013).

(2) Ibid, p. 52.

(3) The Internet Surname Database, 1980 - 2013 Name Origin Research (http://www.surnamedb.com/surname/bowles: accessed January 3, 2013).







3 comments:

  1. Bowles was my maiden name and my ancestors were from Kent, England. Original documents (18th/19th centuries) that I have seen spell it mostly as BOWLES, but I have seen BOWLS and BOALS.

    Modern (late 20th/early 21st century) variations include BOWELS and BOLES.

    A colleague of my late father, reading Bowles as a native French speaker/writer, used to call him Mr "Boo-lay". Just think how many variations that could produce!

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  2. Hi Brenda,

    Thanks for your comment. It is amazing how a little name can have so many permutations. It is no wonder that we have difficulty finding ancestors.

    My ancestors were from Kent also—Badlesmere, Faversham and Elham. They left England for New York in the early 1800s.

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    Replies
    1. MIne were from Headcorn, Chart Sutton and East Farleigh in the 19th century, and before that in Yalding and Lamberhurst, though the earlier Bowles's aren't direct ancestors because gt gt grandfather who was illegitimate took his step-father's surname of Bowles. His mother was Mary Harris and his biological father was George Roots

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