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There are so many opportunities for names to be, not just misspelled, but completely butchered. What a mess as far as researching family lines goes! Too bad they didn’t have computers “back then.”

I’ve been researching my family for forty years and have found some errors that leave me wondering about the common sense of record keepers, census takers, and the original transcribers — and some leave me laughing.

My 2nd great-grandfather’s name, Xavier Thomas Prentis, was transcribed from the 1850 census as Havier Runtz! I kid you not. No wonder it took so long for me to find it. The name of his widowed mother, above his, was correctly transcribed as Mary Prentis. Ten years later, the 1860 census was transcribed correctly — but his name is incorrect on the original as Exavier Prentiss, handwritten with the long s: Prentiſs.  In 1870, it’s transcribed as Xame Prentiss, again handwritten as Prentiſs, but reads Xavier on the original. According to my family, he typically used only the initials, X. T., and no wonder! Also living with them in 1850 and 1860 was Mary’s unmarried, older sister. In 1850, she was Philona R. Edwards. In 1860, she is Philora. (Was it Philona or Philora?) On the Iowa WPA Graves Registration site, Xavier’s name is recorded as Xaviert Prontis! and on Findagrave.com, his name was Xavier T. Prentice (until my correction was accepted), while his actual headstone is correct according to my father. (Edit: Thanks to a volunteer photographer, this can now be verified). Even his name in his obituary printed in the 1884 Ringgold Record was misspelled (and while the year of death in the obituary is 1884, by golly if the year doesn’t appear to be 1885 on the headstone photo). Transcribers for WGA blessed my great-grandfather with the Prontis alias, too, and in the 1870 census, he was Elizier E. Prentiſs.

Xavier Thomas Prentis

Xavier Thomas Prentis

My grandfather, with the same name as his grandfather — except he didn’t know it for about 40 or 45 years — used only the initials, even as a child.  Oh, he knew he was named for his grandfather, but he apparently thought his grandfather’s name was only X. T. too. Anyway, in several census records, all handwritten correctly if you look at the actual documents, Granddad’s name is transcribed incorrectly as A.T.  Prentice, K.T. Prentis, and N.T. Prentis.  Only in the social security death index is he X. Prentis. If I hadn’t known the names of others in the family, I would probably still be looking for those records.

Besides errors like those — and the fact that there have been three predominant variations of my maiden name in this country since the 1600s (PRENTIS, PRENTISS, and PRENTICE — all here at that time believed to be somehow related to one another), there were also a few “creative” variations with extra t’s, s’s, or e’s thrown in here and there for about the first hundred years  in America (PRENTIES, PRENTTIES, PRENTS and others — possibly even some colonial familes called PARENTS and PRINCE may be related too).  Prior to 1600 in England there were yet more variations of the name with z’s instead of s’s (PRENTZ, PRENTIZ, PRINTZ), etc.

Before my great grandfather, who complicated matters more with the spelling of his first name (was it Glasier or Glazier?), the spelling of our surname varied even within generations, or in one instance between husband and wife! The headstones of my 7th-great granduncle and his wife, side by side, show two different spellings of the couple’s last name.  Yes, really. Their children’s and grandchildren’s headstones in the same cemetery show other variations, as do those of other relatives. Many of these were educators, doctors, businessmen, community leaders and politicians, so it wasn’t a case of uneducated people misspelling their own names.

Capt. Jonathan Prentties, 1657-1727

Capt. Jonathan Prentties, 1657-1727

Elisabeth Latimer Prentis, 1667-1759

Elisabeth Latimer Prentis, 1667-1759

Names in church and parish records weren’t always recorded correctly, or spellings sometimes changed depending on who entered them — a name on a birth record may be spelled differently on a marriage or death record. The same minister could have even written it different ways at different times. Further complications arose with errors on deeds and military records and when typesetters for newspapers made mistakes in obituaries.  I’ve even seen records with the names in the body of the document reading Prentiss and/or Prentice, then signed Prentis — or vice versa. That’s not even accounting for nicknames or being called only by initials or a middle name rather than a given name, or the delivering physician (who happened to be an uncle) filling out a name on a birth certificate incorrectly — and forgetting to correct it — then realizing 40-some years later when you lose a bet because the birth certificate you thought didn’t exist does, and you “suddenly” have a full name by which you’ve never been called.*

I’m not even going to get started with the TENNANT, TENANT, TENNENT fiasco… yet.

One thing after another, and something as simple as a name can get pretty complicated!

* Granddad was always “just X” or “just X. T.” and didn’t know he had any name but the initials until when serving in the Iowa Senate, a news reporter asked his full name. Like the many other times he’d been asked, he told the man his name was  “just X. T.” The reporter bet him that he had a full name on his birth certificate, but Granddad didn’t think he had one of those either. The reporter had done his homework and had either already found a copy, or then went and searched for it, but a birth certificate bearing a full name of Xavier Thomas Prentis was produced. Apparently when he was born, his uncle Percy was the doctor who delivered him, and when he asked what name he should write in the register, my great grandfather told his brother to “name him after Dad.” “Uncle Doc” wrote down the full name of his father, Xavier Thomas Prentis, but Granddad was only ever referred to thereafter as X. T.  On all other official (and correctly transcribed) records — besides his birth certificate, apparently —  he was “just X. T.”

Six Generations

Six Generations

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I wish we could do what they do in Katroo. They sure know how to say “Happy Birthday to You!”
Happy Birthday, Ali!

Happy Birthday, Ali!

You’re nineteen today. I can hardly believe it! The year you were born, we were planning a move to Knoxville, Tennessee. My, how things change! Now you’re all grown up and going to school too far away. While watching Sesame Street today with Zoe, the word of the day was “amazing.” Ali, darling, YOU are amazing. 🙂

We’ll be seeing you soon to celebrate!

Much love from all of us!

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September 8-19, 2008

It was supposed to be a leisurely trip moving our youngest daughter and a carload of her belongings 800 miles away to her university dorm, stopping to visit her grandparents along the way,  and leaving Phoebe to stay with my parents as we continued on. We were advised to make it a memorable trip, but little did we know…

100-year flooding in Lubbock, a hurricane in Houston, oh, and might as well take down that tree in Garland while you’re at it.

— Twitter

Our car’s trunk was carefully loaded and packed to the brim. Ali took her place in her half of the back seat surrounded by even more of her belongings piled window high in the other half. Not willing to let Phoebe ride in my lap the entire way to my parents’ house, Steve rolled down the back window and I slid her in to perch on top of Space Bags (what a godsend!) filled with bedding and clothes. We weren’t sure she’d want to stay there, but once she settled in, she seemed to enjoy the view.

On the way to Iowa we received a call from Jenna lamenting that Lubbock was having a 100-year flood. By the evening of Thursday, Sept. 11, her Saturn Ion3 stalled out in high water that other cars were still managing to drive through. She called police who arrived quickly, but left to attend to others when she said she had called OnStar; however, the tow truck they arranged was unable to reach her that night due to closed streets. Thankfully, she and Jens were able to walk home and their apartment had no flood damage. Due to ridiculous lack of communication and miscommunication on OnStar’s part that resulted in several wasted trips on foot back to the stalled car, her car was finally towed to a Saturn dealer just before closing time on Saturday. On the following Monday, we were told her engine block was cracked and she’d need a new engine. We then had to deal with antics from State Farm for several more days.

Meanwhile, Steve was busy planing a sticking bathroom door and setting my dad up with a laptop computer we’d brought with us to eventually replace his outdated system. I was feeling bad and sucking cough drops, hoping I wouldn’t pass the cold I’d gotten from Ali to my parents, and Steve was coming down with it. Hurricane Ike was aiming at our kids in Houston and even our area near Dallas was under tropical storm warnings and extremely wet and windy because of it. Joel and Blake were busy deciding whether or not to evacuate. Our home was vacant and we suggested they use it. In our absence, we’d left our cats in the charge of a sweet neighbor girl who came in frequently to care for the cats, take in mail, and water plants. Before Joel got there, her dad called to let us know that a tree leaning over our main yard from our creek property had fallen, and he offered to take care of it for us. Fortunately, no one was near it at the time and there was only minor damage to the retaining wall and sprinkler system. It wasn’t close enough to the house to be a threat, but somehow, our mailbox was spared.

After Joel and his family evacuated, Hurricane Ike pummeled Galveston, Houston and much of the Texas coast. We were glad they were safe in our home and not in the midst of it, although they did have to deal with the inconvenience of getting the house ready to show just after they got settled in with their stuff, the stairway was adequately Zoe-proofed, Blake began studying, and Nana’s stash of toys had been found. Steve continued to deal with our insurance company about Jenna’s car as we drove to Minnesota, and that’s when we learned that her claim had been grouped with those of the hurricane, even though Lubbock’s flood preceded it by several days and was totally unrelated. Regardless,  they seemed to think Lubbock was a coastal city instead of about as far away in Texas as one could get, and no insurance adjuster would look at it until yesterday. Finally, we’ve learned the repair will consist of a rebuilt engine rather than a new one and the warranty we had wasn’t quite what we thought.  After some hassle, the warranty situation still turned out to be pretty good, however. Although her friend Sarah has been a big help to her with transportation, as of tomorrow, Jenna will have been without her own car for two weeks. Perhaps it will be ready by the end of the week.

With the damage and power outages in Houston, Blake’s classes were canceled for several days, giving them all an unwanted vacation. While staying in our home, they received a call that Chief and Sarge, the two dogs they had reluctantly given  up to new owners just a few weeks prior had been found. A friend of theirs was able to pick them up and keep them until Joel’s family arrived back in Houston. They enjoyed our air conditioning while they had it and have still been coping with the lack of it and intermittent electrical power since their return.

In Minnesota, we saw Dan, Sally, Brandy and Jake, as well as Steve’s mom. Matthew even arranged an overnight visit to see Ali on his way (out of the way, really) to take his car back to Dallas from Chicago. We had offered to drive it home for him, but our timing was just a few days off of when he needed. and so we ended up crossing paths. On the 15th, we repacked the car and somehow Steve even managed to find space for a box fan Matthew had brought for Ali (unbeknown to us until we got to Minnesota — he would have air conditioning this year and wouldn’t need it. It was a nice gesture, but we didn’t expect to be able to make room for it!). Loaded down again, we headed through Wisconsin on our way to Illinois, — but just outside of Eau Claire, our alternator warning light came on. As there was no Mercedes dealer in the area, we were referred to a locally owned repair shop in Chippewa Falls. The owner went out of his way for us and tried his best to get us on our way quickly. He offered to take us to a restaurant when he thought the alternator could be rebuilt within a couple of hours. When he found out that one of the necessary parts couldn’t be had until the following morning, he offered to take us to a motel. We had to be in Chicago by a specific move-in time the next day, so we started searching for rental cars big enough to handle our load. None would deliver a car to his shop so he lent us a car to drive over to their small airport and pick one up. We picked up a Toyota Rav4, drove it back to his repair shop, transferred the load, and were on our way again. We had planned to take Blake’s dad up on his offer to stay at his apartment with him for a couple of nights, but our delay meant we were very late arriving. We called ahead to let him know, offered to get a motel instead, and he graciously said it wasn’t a problem. He stayed up to let us in and give us a “parking pass” for our dashboard.

On the 16th we did some shopping and moved Ali in. We took advantage of the Rav4 to try to buy a 3.0 cu. ft. mini fridge, but all the stores near the campus seemed to be sold out. They were also sold out of hangers and several other miscellaneous, but necessary items we needed to buy. Parking on campus was difficult and we did a lot of walking. The campus and weather were beautiful, but my feet were blistered and eventually my hip complained too. While Ali had meetings, we unpacked her room. She brought less than most, but even in a single room, space was pretty tight. We filled nearly every nook and cranny then left Ali for the night, drove along the lake and into downtown Chicago before heading back to Blake’s dad’s late again. We let ourselves in, slept, said our thanks and goodbyes before he left for work in the morning, and then headed to some stores further out for the rest of Ali’s supplies.  We realized that we’d forgotten to put our “parking pass” back on the dash the night before and were grateful the car hadn’t been towed during the night. That’s all we needed after everything else.

There was no 3.0 cu.ft. mini fridge anywhere to be found, but we did find one at a Home Depot near David’s apartment with a capacity of 3.5 cu. ft. — and it was even on sale. Ali’s list clearly said the size restriction was 3.0, but we decided to remove it from the labeled box before taking it in and give it a shot. Would anyone inspect it that closely anyway?

We unloaded the fridge and last few items, hugged and said a teary farewell reminiscent of a similar goodbye to Jenna a few weeks ago, then drove back toward Chippewa Falls to retrieve our car.  Still transporting a refrigerator box we needed to rid ourselves of, we managed to deposit it in a recycling station at a rest stop along the way. We started looking for a motel around 10pm, but our first couple of stops proved fruitless. Wondering why all the motels in the middle of Wisconsin were full on a late September Wednesday night, we continued on to the next town. We found a nice room with a noisy refrigerator, a noisy air conditioner, free wifi that didn’t work, and an electronic beeping noise that woke us at 3:45am. BUT it had TV,  a comfy bed, a shower, and a free breakfast we took advantage of before heading out once more, stopping to pick up our car, return the rental, and then on to my parents’.

In all our driving, we must have counted a dozen dead deer along the road and a few live ones (nothing like the herds we saw in Texas between Houston and Dallas a few weeks ago — probably 200 head or more!), but thankfully, we avoided any deer-related accidents, had no further car trouble, and arrived safely in time to say a quick hello to our dog, only to leave her again right away for dinner out with Mom and Dad. We stayed the night and headed home the next day. The remainder of the trip was uneventful (thank God). We arrived home to find two well-fed cats pretending to be attention-starved during our absence, although we know better. The house was left spotless and whaddya know  — when I went to cook dinner the next day, a twenty dollar bill jumped out of the kitchen cupboard!

Many thanks to all who helped make this a memorable trip. 🙂 We are so very grateful that in spite of  numerous inconveniences, nothing REALLY bad happened and everyone is safe!

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Today I spent about four hours digitally restoring a photo for a distant relative who recently contacted me in regard to a common Main family ancestor. I’ve restored photos previously, but this one was a particular challenge requiring about 36 Photoshop layers of enhancements to get to the “final” stage. I probably could have obsessed over it longer, but decided that after four hours, it was probably good enough.

Joseph Main Family Farmhouse

Joseph Main Family Farmhouse - Original Scan

Joseph Main Family Farmhouse - Digitally Restored

Joseph Main Family Farmhouse - Digitally Restored

Joseph Main Family Farmhouse - Restored Sepia

Joseph Main Family Farmhouse - Restored Sepia

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My sister-in-law, Merry, is the sweetest, most amazing person and she doesn’t even know it. She’s more than an in-law, she’s in every sense of the word, a sister. I hope you have a wonderful birthday.

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Today I’m craving one of my Dad’s special Sunday breakfasts — something off his regular restaurant menu like fancy pancakes with fruit and jelly, or glazed apple turnovers. Yum.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers everywhere, and especially to Dad, Steve, and Joel. Much love to all of you.

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Graduate

Congratulations, Ali. 😀

graduation comic

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