Monday, September 13, 2010

Hoffman or Huffman

My Aunt Bonnie tells a story about her father, our Grandpa Joe. When he was trying to gather his family (such as, when he was ready to leave church or a party) he would say to his wife, Versie "Come on Huffman" and he would say to Bonnie "Come on little Huffman".

Although our branch of the family used 'Hoffman' throughout the 1900s, it isn't hard to imagine that Joe had heard this phrase as a youngster, because we now know that his father definitely used the 'Huffman' spelling as a child.

Anyone who has spent much time looking at history knows that spelling just was not that important in the past. Most of our family names have several variations. It is important to keep in mind that spelling differences are usually meaningless. For example, Roe and Rowe could be the same family. Beesly and Beasley could be the same family. Bagley and Bagly could be the same family. Many times these differences were just the way the official happened to spell it. The census taker might spell it one way one year, and ten years later use another variation.

Our ancestor, Hans Henrich Hoffman, spelled his name exactly this way when he signed the book in Philadelphia upon his arrival to America in 1734. By 1747, when he began buying land in Virginia, he is known as Henry Huffman, and this is the way it remained the rest of his life.

By the mid 1800s the family's name is again spelled both ways. William bought land in Greene County, Illinois as William Hoffman in the late 1830s, and is listed as such in 1840. The Huffman spelling is again used in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census. When William and Margaret gave their land to the youngest son, William A. Hoffman, the 'Hoffman' spelling was use, but when William A. sold the land he used the name William A Huffman. The graves of William and Margaret have the Hoffman spelling. So you can see that during the mid 1800s, we may find either spelling at any given time. There is even one census in the early 1800s in which the spelling is 'Hoofman'.

The family in which our S. C. Hoffman grew up, used both Hoffman and Huffman. But after the move to Texas in the late 1800s, the only variation we find is Hoffman.

In this blog we will generally use the modern day spellings for our family names. In cases where a specific historical document is referenced, the variation in the document may be used.

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