How do you spell that name?

olga
Roehlke tombstone, Calvary cemetery, Fond du Lac, WI

One of the challenges in genealogy research is the spelling of a name. Let me illustrate one example I have come across. My dad’s grandmother’s maiden name is Roehlke. This is how it is spelled on her tombstone. So, I was looking for her with that spelling on the various websites I search. I wasn’t finding much plus I am not very familiar with this branch of the family so it was getting frustrating. I suspected that they lived in Minnesota as my grandmother was born there. So one evening, I put the name ROEHLKE into the Family Search website. I didn’t use her first name or any dates to narrow my search. I just wanted to see how many files would come out with that name. There were 53,638 nationwide and 3,651 in Minnesota. I decided to only search Minnesota. Now, after the ROEHLKE files were exhausted, the rest of the files revealed possible matches with alternate spellings. This happened after only 436 Roehlke’s. I went ahead and continued to look and found a whopping nine other ways the name was spelled in association with my family. The following documents are what I found that night:

1880 census: Rolke
1895 Minnesota census: Rolky
1895 Minnesota census: Rolkey
1910 census: Rhoelke
1920 census: Roalkha
1920 death: Roelke
1924 death: Raehlke
1940 census: Rahlke
1940 death: Rohlke
Furthermore, the manifest spelling from a different website showed:  Röhlke

There are a total of 10 people in the family that came over from Germany. Between all of them I have identified 11 variations in the spelling of their surname. I haven’t delved deeply into that side of the family yet but when I do, hopefully there won’t be any more creative spellings to be found.


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