M*CH*MORE One Name Study
How do you spell M*CH*MORE?
How many variants of M*CH*MORE are there?
In our search for ancestors we are dependent on the skills of those who could write, the scribes or record-keepers. The churches recorded baptisms, marriages and burials; courts recorded judgements, agreements and penalties; and administrators (whether of parishes or larger areas) needed to know what resources of men and money would be available to support, defend or develop their particular communities.
Prior to the 1850's there were relatively few people who could read and write. Why would people need such skills unless they were associated with church, academic or administrative careers? Ordinary people went through life without the need to do any more than make their mark (usually a shaky 'X') on a document that had been explained to them by a literate and trusted adviser.
The scribes had no choice except to record a name according to the sounds they heard. There was also the complication that different dialects and accents could dramatically change the sound of many names, a problem which persists today when we find it difficult to catch what is being said (in English) by a person from another area or country.
We all make mistakes at some time or other, and some variant spellings have been introduced unintentionally by modern transcribers and well-meaning family historians.
As a result, there is a great number of variant spellings of M*CH*MORE. The following list of no less than 152 variant spellings has been compiled from records included in this study. Modern mis-spellings such as Mitchell-Moore, and obvious mis-transcriptions such as Mitchelman, are not included.
What is the most common spelling?
An analysis of the DFHS's marriage indexes for 1754-1837 shows that the most popular spellings in that period were MITCHELMORE (36%), MICHELMORE (33%), MUCHAMORE (6%) and MUCHMORE (6%). The 'i' vowel in the Devonshire dialect is often pronounced quite darkly, and it is easy to see how it was frequently confused with a 'u' sound.
The distribution of M*CH*MORE spellings worldwide today is somewhat different. Among the M*CH*MOREs included in this study who are not known to be deceased, only three surnames exceed ten percent in frequency, namely MITCHELMORE (55%), MICHELMORE (20%) and MUCHMORE (14%). However, these figures do not include the unknown number of MUCHMOREs living in the United States who are included in records of the Muchmore Family Association. Four others spellings have a very low relative frequency — MITCHAMORE (4%), MUCHAMORE (3%), MOUCHEMORE (2%) and MITCHMORE (1%) — and four others (MITCHELLMORE, MITCHELMOR, MOUCHMORE and MUTCHMORE) are each restricted to a single family.
Can my name change?
Exactness of spelling is a modern development following the availability of education to everyone and the increasing need for personal documentation. We have all insisted, almost as soon as we could read and write, that our surname is spelt correctly—usually the same way it is spelt on our birth certificate. But in the past, a completely illiterate person, who probably did not even possess a birth certificate, could not insist on the 'correct' spelling. So scribes often transcribed the same name differently on different occasions, and sometimes people's surnames changed when a new clerk or minister moved into the parish or they moved to another parish.
Bob Muchamore noted that his family name was consistently spelt MUCHAMORE in civil records since 1840, although the 1841 census does list one ancestor as William MICHEMORE. In Plymouth, England, William was recorded as MICHEALMORE for his wedding in 1834; the same vicar wrote MICHEALMORE for the first child baptised in 1836 but recorded MUCHMORE for a second child baptised in 1840. William's baptism was recorded as MICHELMORE in 1809, although his parents had been married in the same church in 1808 as MITCHELMORE.
Mike Mitchelmore's ancestors' surnames were spelt MUCHMORE, MUCHAMORE, MICHELMORE, MITCHELMORE and MICHIMORE up to 1839, but after that only MITCHELMORE.
Other examples include contemporary MUCHMORE families whose ancestors were MICHELMORE or MITCHELMORE before 1700, and a contemporary MOUCHEMORE family whose ancestors were recorded in the early 19th century in the parish registers of Dartmouth, Devon, as MAUCHEMORE, MITCHEMORE, MOUCHEMORE, MUCHIMERE and MUCHMORE.
It is tempting to conclude that, as literacy spread in the 19th century, the less frequent spellings became regarded as 'errors' and so died out.