Spelling of Surnames and Given Names
There has never been a time when names have had a standardized spelling. In early church records it was up to Priest how the names were spelled and different priest within the same parish had different ideas on how names should be spelled. When census takers records people names it was up to the census taker how the names were spelled. You may need to be creative when trying to identity how a family names was spelled by a specific census taker.
The soundex system was invented to help researchers check many variations of surnames at the same time. If the soundex option is not available in the records you are searching try to spell the name you are searching for in as many ways as you can think of….for example Reed, Reid, Ried, Read, Reedt, etc and check under each spelling. First names were also spelled in many different ways and nicknames were frequently used such as Sally for Sarah and Patsy for Martha.