Spelling Variants in Dutch Documents
In this day and age of high literacy and standardization, we are used to, indeed expect, that what we see in print will be uniform. For example, we can look up words in dictionaries to find the ‘correct spelling.’ However, such has not always been the case. Centuries ago, there were no dictionaries available to dictate ‘correct spelling’ and most dictionaries that were available were designed to give definitions, not spelling. Most writers from before the 18th century would have found the idea of a single spelling for any particular word rather odd. If several possible spelling variants are available, why should one be limited to only one choice? Early writers certainly took advantage of the many possibilities available to them. After all, variety is the spice of life. In modern Dutch, the sound represented by the English word ‘I’ can be rendered by several letter sets, including ‘ij’ and ‘ei.’ Again, writers from previous centuries could and did use either of these in addition to several others that are not in common use today to render the ‘I’ sound.
In this article we will look at spelling that deviate from standard modern Dutch that appear in genealogical documents. In the vast majority of cases, the variant spellings represent the same pronunciation as the standard form. Some are simply antiquated; others are dialect forms. We will not consider personal names or words that have Latin endings, such as ‘Aprilis.’ We will, however, consider some place names. The traditional dialect of northern Germany, Low German, is very closely related to Dutch.
So, the researcher should not be alarmed, nor think the scribe ‘did not know how to spell,’ when he encounters these variants. Many of these variants will be found well into the 19th century. In some cases, it is impossible to tell whether the scribe wrote ‘ij’ or ‘y’. Although we list a few of these, to list every possible variation with this set would be superfluous.
|'s nachts||'s nachs|
|zoon||soon, sone, soone|
This list will grow over time as we encounter more spelling variations.