What is the correct way to spell Teator?

Church records, or transcriptions thereof, reveal the following four dozen spellings. Listed in alphabetical order, the spellings are matched with the earliest date I have found that spelling.

 Daether 1816  Detter 1744  Dittert 1743  Tator 1807  Teter 1754  Titer 1764
 Dater 1744  Dider 1774  Dittor 1823  Tater 1764  Tetor 1834  Titor 1823
 Dather 1710  Didter 1761  Doder c1730  Teater 1772  Tettor 1827  Titter 1799
 Deder 1760  Dieder 1715  Dodter 1745  Teator 1805  Thater 1715  Tittor 1825
 Dedhardt 1765  Dieter 1718  Doher cl730  Teder 1717  Theder 1745  Toder 1749
 Deeter 1787  Diethardt c1730  Dother 1697  Tedter 1772  Theeter 1754  Todter 1750
 Deter 1743  Diether 1804  Dotter 1708  Teeter 1722  Tidter 1772  Toeder 1750
 Dether 1777  Ditter 1761   Taetor 1818  Teetor 1788  Tieter 1778  Toedter 1752 

Why so many spellings?

Widespread public education is a key answer. As soon as most people could read and write in America, which generally happened during the mid-19th century, the spelling of names (and other words) became standardized. Quite simply, since many of our ancestors were farmers and had no special need to know how to read and write, most were illiterate into the mid-1800's, at least by our standards.

Thus, when our forebears had their children christened or were married (probably in a Lutheran or Dutch Reformed Church), and were asked their names, and since they probably spoke German for the first few generations, and since they probably could not spell their name ('twas of no significance yet), and since the person recording the answer did so in English (most of the time), Latin, or Dutch, many combinations of spellings occurred. One person hearing the same word could spell that word (name) differently from the next person hearing the same word.

In German, the d and t are very close in sound. In addition, the recorders must have had a difficult time agreeing on the same vowels. Thus, most of the spellings above are really variations of the d and t, as well as a vowel change. Even within the same family, the name is recorded differently. John Teter's grandfather's family had five different spellings for eight children (as shown in church records)! Not until John Teter's adult years did the spelling stay with Teter and even then his son Alexander changed the spelling that most of us use today. Even then, Alexander's daughter Mary even changed back to Teter!

So, what is the correct spelling for Teator? I, for one, will not be presumptuous to give an answer. Any writer of Teator genealogy needs to be sensitive to this issue.