Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's in a Name? Spelling and Civil War Web Research

I thought it might be helpful to share  a word on spelling while doing Internet research pertaining to the American Civil War. My own work here at The Picket serves as an example. Being stung by ones own mistakes can be the best form of instruction I suppose. Thankfully no one caught the "mistake" and took me to task for it but it did remind me that not all names are spelled the same all of the time!

I recently posted a short item on the capture of Newburg, Indiana by A.R. Johnson in 1862 and it occurred to me that the spelling of the towns name was incorrect. Or was it? I checked my source material to see that I had not misspelled the name, and sure enough I had used the spelling utilized in the Official Records, The Partisan Rangers of the Confederate States Army, and The History of Henderson County, Kentucky. So I edited the post title to reflect the modern spelling of Newburgh. I left the post body alone, using the original spelling. The History of Henderson... posed a pickle as it used both forms of the name. I have encountered this before and as an example Owensboro, Kentucky is frequently spelled as Owensborough in the old records and manuscripts.

It is a good idea to use alternate spellings when one does online research. Even if you do not know of any alternates, experiment! And do not be too proud to spell something phonetically if a site offers a text search. Old diaries and letter collections are full of misspellings and just because pigeon does not show anything, try pidgeon. Remember, too, that names are often shortened, as John to Jno. and Robert to Rob't. (Or A.R. for Adam Rankin. Remember those initials too!)

Robert, Rob't or R.E.?

Give it a try, you will be pleased with the results.
I hope I have not offended anyone by offering such a basic tip but really it is a way to remind myself that the search is not complete until all options have been explored!

The "go to" tools:

War of the Rebellion, Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (O.R.)  Ohio State University Cornell University

The Cornell University site is for the O.R. of the navies and they also have the O.R. for the armies.

The Picket

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