How Do You Spell That?

AKA “How do I spell thee? Let me count the ways.”

I didn’t spend even five seconds choosing the most misspelled name which I’ve come across in my life and my research – it’s my married name – Stufflebean.

My husband’s family emigrated from Langenlonsheim in the Palatinate area of today’s Germany in 1740. The Palatinate is in western Germany and Langenlonsheim is a little over 300 miles northeast of Paris, France.

Problem #1 – When the first members of this family emigrated during the Palatine waves in 1709 and 1740, the original name was Stoppelbein. It was sometimes transcribed as Stoppelbine or Stopplebein/Stopplebine, which is close enough to not really be any problem in research, but it did create four possible spellings for the surname.

Problem #2 – Revolutionary War soldier and pensioner Johannes Stoppelbein was not recorded that way at the time he applied for his pension or in any of the records created during his adulthood. He was the first of the family to be known as a Stufflebean. He also dropped “Johannes” for the American version “John.”

Stufflebean became much more problematic in family history research. First, it was a very uncommon name. John was the father of at least ten children, only one of which was a daughter. Most Stufflebeans are all descended from John.

Back in the pre-internet days, when I searched the old AIS census index books for my surname, I came across almost too many variations to remember, but the misspellings are certainly not limited to that era. However, most of these variations came about because of difficulty in reading an unfamiliar name in the records:

Stufflebeam/Stuffelbeam
Stufflebam
Stufflebine
Stoffelbean
Shofflebean
Stuffelbea
Stufflebun/Stufflebum
Stufelbean
Staffelbean
Steffelban
Stuffelbann
Stufelbeam
Stottelbin
Stubblebeam
Shufflebeam
Steffelbran
Staffelbern

I’m sure that I’ve left out some of the more obscure spellings, but my personal favorite isn’t even on this list. I am a retired teacher. One day, I had an appointment with a parent to review her child’s progress that year. The principal’s office was adjacent to the reception area in the office and he was rolling on the floor laughing, as the parent proudly announced to the school secretary that she had an appointment with Mrs. Beanstalk!

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