The Many [Mis]Spellings of Pacanow … — #Genealogy, #Slavic, #Pacanow

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

One of the difficulties of locating records or data on a Polish (or Czech, Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, etc.) ancestor is the many ways a name can be spelled, misspelled, mistranscribed, indexed, etc. in a database. This is why you have to be creative when trying to locate your data.

Here is an example (from my paternal grandfather’s birthplace): Pacanow. That is the English rendering. In Poland it would be written as Pacanów. Now diacriticals aside, how many possible ways can I find Pacanow in Ellis Island (probably similarly for as well)? OK, you asked …

Bacanow Pacanszka
Pacanam Pacanu
Pacanan Pacauow
Pacananska Pacona
Pacanaw Paconon
Pacanciv Paconow
Pacani Pacunow
Pacanica Paczanow
Pacanin Pacznow
Pacannon Paeanow
Pacanoer Paezanov
Pacanon Paezanov
Pacanoro Paezanow
Pacanoska Pasanov
Pacanou Pasanow
Pacanov Pasonaw
Pacanow Pazanoz
Pacanowa Pocanaer
Pacanowe Pocaniz
Pacanowic Pocanoa
Pacanowka Pocanor
Pacanowka Pocanow
Pacanowki Preanon

Those are the ones I have found so far. That is 47 combinations! Now admittedly reading the handwriting from those ship manifests is difficult even when I am pretty sure what is being written;  So I can feel for the transcribers / indexers who harvest the data and do the data entry into some database.

Now, no searching by American Soundex,  Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex, or even Beider-Morse phonetic matching or even using wild-card searches, not even if you had regular-expression searches (like Oracle databases have) would I have found all of those. I do not know what to tell you to do. Be creative and persistent. Look at adjacent letters on a keyboard (for mis-typings) as data is entered. Look for letters that are swapped (i.e.  Eliasz vs. Elaisz) — mistyped or dyslexic. Just keep looking. I found ‘Bacanow’, because I said what might an handwritten letter ‘P’ look like to somebody? Of course, ‘R’ and ‘B’ suggested themselves to  my mind. No ‘Racanow’, but sure enough out popped a ‘Bacanow’. So you never know.

Now Stanczyk mentioned Pacanow, because I thought I was being slick and said, “What if I cannot think of all the ways a NAME can be misspelled?”. My answer was, “I know, I’ll just search on everybody coming over from the village of P-A-C-A-N-O-W.” Of course, as you might have guessed now I had a meta-problem because now I had to come up with all of the ways that Pacanow could appear. Well like the riddle, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie-Pop?”, I have an arbitrary answer … 47.


I now have two spreadsheets. My first spreadsheet is my work-in-progress on the ZASUCHA of Niagara Falls SNA. The second spreadsheet I have is a rather large spreadsheet of all of the names from Pacanow (and truth be told Biechow, Piestrzec, Wojcza, …) and all of the surrounding villages that came through Ellis Island that I have found so far [plus a few mis-matches].

One Comment to “The Many [Mis]Spellings of Pacanow … — #Genealogy, #Slavic, #Pacanow”

  1. REALLY clever – love the Tootsie-Pop reference dear husband!!!

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