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Finding original spelling of Polish name Vazuka which was anglicized on arrival to US? currently has 4 close votes and a comment suggesting it is a duplicate to Determining correct spelling of Polish last name?

We have a problem with these and similar questions, in that the answer to "My surname was changed at Ellis Island" is always going to be the same: "Oh No it wasn't". But the rest of the question, namely, the specific surname in question, will differ in the same way that a palaeography question does. Suggesting possible surnames or surname variants will require individual answers.

How can we find an elegant solution to this problem? Are there enough resources in the answers to Determining correct spelling of Polish last name? to justify using it as our 'canonical', or do we need to beef it up with a more general answer on Polish surname resources?

(Polish is outside my area of expertise, so I can't write an answer based on linguistics that would be of use for people trying to assemble a list of possible variants.)

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Copied from my comment:

"The correct spelling" of a surname is a 20th-century (and later) phenomenon and is idiosyncratic. I was about to say "to each household" but that isn't the case. E.g. two immigrant brothers from my own research who can be found as Dreikorn and later Dreicorn. I asked an older relative if she knew how the two spellings came into play, and she said the brothers had done it deliberately because they were getting each other's business deliveries and mail!

I would like to see all the "correct spellings of my surname" questions edited to say "what spelling variations might I look for" or some variant of that -- with our 'canonical' Q/A given as the reason for why we are making the change.

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Is there really such a thing as "the correct spelling" for any surname, Polish or otherwise? I'm looking at some very old records as I write this, and realised that More/Moor/Moore were not only alternatives for the same surname but it was pretty much up to the cleric (or other recorder) which form was used. There was no civil registry, no central list, and many of the folks mentioned could not write their own name. Distinguishing the various types of recording error from accepted forms is one thing (and fairly well known, even if software still has to catch up), but the absence of any one specific accepted form is quite another.

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    "The correct spelling" of a surname is a 20th-century (and later) phenomenon and is idiosyncratic. I was about to say "to each household" but that isn't the case. E.g. two immigrant brothers from my own research who can be found as Dreikorn and later Dreicorn. I asked an older relative if she knew how the two spellings came into play, and she said the brothers had done it deliberately because they were getting each other's business deliveries and mail! – Jan Murphy Dec 19 '18 at 18:41
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    Thanks Jan but my question was really rhetorical ,the point being that there was no "correct spelling" back then, and maybe there should be a stock answer to that effect. I have the same problem with my own name, which is "Proctor" although there are modern "Procter" branches. Way back, though, there was also "Prockter" which I have never seen in modern times. I suspect that the people who ask these questions are also the ones who feel that the surname somehow carries their genes. – ACProctor Dec 19 '18 at 20:04
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I wonder is we need both a canonical 'My ancestors name was changed in immigration?" question (which will be country agnostic, and handle the Ellis Island/Castle Garden/other points of entry myth), plus one (or more) country-specific "How can I identify the original surname options for X which I believe came from country Y?". And maybe one about "Is there a 'definitive surname' spelling [for X]?" (which will address the fac that definitive spelling is a really recent concept and can't be relied on for historical research).

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It may seem unrelated but I think your question can be addressed using, as background, my answer to Should we have a canonical resource (or series of them) about the records available for a particular locale?

I am not a Polish speaker, and for other reasons would not feel qualified to write it (in this instance), but I think a new Canonical Q&A set to Community Wiki would be useful.

Rather than re-purposing Determining correct spelling of Polish last name? to do that, which would remove ownership from the posts in that Q&A, I think the Canonical Q&A should use that as a source for content.

I think the Canonical Question should be something like "Proving surname was changed at Ellis Island?" and the Canonical Answer should be advice on what types of specific questions should be asked, as separate G&FH SE questions, about finding the first spelling used in the US, and finding other spellings used prior to emigration and possibly in transit.

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I'd like to see fewer "what does my name mean?" or "how was my name spelled?" questions and more actual genealogy questions. If dividing them up by language makes sense to people, then I'm all for it. The Polish one seems strong. Maybe creating a few more would be a way to go.

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What's been done for Nottinghamshire tag wiki would indeed be useful. I'm not sure, though, how likely new people are to realise those tags contain useful information?

And then there's the problem that, being a native Polish speaker, one can offer educated guesses. In some cases those are useful, in others, there's nothing to really start with (e.g. first linked question, looks nothing like a Polish surname). I understand those generally don't fall into "useful for other visitors" type of answers, though.

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