Michael J. Leclerc at Mocavo.com has written a wonderful blog post, "3 Tips for Overcoming Spelling Variations" about spelling and spelling variations. His third tip is the best: ask a friend to write out the family name that you give to them orally. Don't tell them how to spell it but see all the variations they come up with from just hearing it. This is exactly how the town or county clerk or the census taker recorded our families' names--they never asked "how is that spelled?"
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