A Tale of Two Surnames – 52 Ancestors’ Theme this week is, ‘How Do You Spell That?’

Instead of one ancestor, for this week’s challenge, I chose the two surnames that are the most important to me. My mother’s maiden name, Benefield, and my father’s surname, (my maiden name), Gaither. Both of these names are easily read and pronounced, but difficult for others to spell. Usually a letter or two is left out or added.

William Bedingfield came  from England to America probably around 1760. He had several children, and passed his surname along to his sons, who passed it to their sons, for at least a couple of generations. Then, one generation changed everything. Of course, it was my ancestor and his siblings. Needham was married in 1801, North Carolina as Nedham Bedingfield, and buried in Alabama sometime after 1850, as Needham Benefield. He passed the last spelling down to his sons, and it has remained for several generations. Although some families use a double ‘nn’, we spell our version with one ‘n’.  Considering the fact that the name is pronounced as ‘Ben-a-field’, it is little wonder that people always ask, “How do you spell that?”

John Gater came from England to America sometime in the 1600’s. He had several children, and passed his surname along to his sons, who passed it to their sons, but for how many generations is still up for debate. By the time my father was born, the family name was fully entrenched as ‘Gaither’. Now, thanks to the famous singer of Southern Gospel music, Bill Gaither, the name is fairly well-known. However, when I was a child, people would spell it every way except the right way: Gater, Gather, Gator, Geter,  and when I said, ‘with an ‘I’, it would be spelled, Gaiter. I quickly learned to spell it for them before they had the chance to ask, “How do you spell that?”

selfie

My parents self picture, before ‘selfie’ was a word.

As much as I loved my surname because of its uniqueness, I was tired of always having to correct the spelling. When I married, I thought, ‘Cline’…what an easy name to spell. Now no one will ask, “How do you spell that?”

And I was right!

Now they ask, “Is that with a ‘C’ or a ‘K’”?      *sigh*

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