Whether a genealogist is sitting down at a keyboard using on-line sources or at a courthouse or archives, she or he is conducting a search for the names of ancestors whom she or he never met and to whom he or she has never spoken. Therein lies an extremely complex problem.
Pronunciations evolve over the ages, and most Americans today are unable to utter the words Mary, merry, and marry in such a way as to distinguish among them. They do not speak like their ancestors. When they fail to find their ancestors, they seldom give any consideration to the possibility that their lack of success is due to pronunciation and spelling.
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