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.