Much more should be possible. For example, it is too early to say how helpful DNA tests will be for validating family tree data. I eventually hope to identify on the family tree the individuals who connect our DNA relatives to us. This will take education and time. Too few of our relatives have taken DNA tests and made the results public. It doesn’t take much. John Elcik, an Ilcik, entered only one name and proved the two Elcik families are related.
Failures in Spelling
Finding a European cousin will take more research. We know to look in Parchovany, Czechoslovakia, and we have two possible spellings of the surname. John Elsik’s family used Ilsik, and John Ilcik’s family used Ilysik. Of course, I, the jokester, broke out in song, repeatedly singing, “Why is there no Y in Ilcsik?” to the tune, “The Monkey’s have no Tails in Zamboanga.” There is no way this song makes the Billboard top 10. But it makes a point.
On the Ancestry.com Messenger Board, JPmiaou, responds to my song. He shares that’ ly’ in Hungarian orthography is a digraph (two letters treated as one). Digraphs denote a sound lost from the standard dialect. Sometimes they have hung around just long enough to screw up modern spelling rules.
He continues, “keep in mind is that surname spelling was variable right up into the twentieth century. In a society where illiteracy was normal, it was only the sound that mattered.”
Beth and I have found countless examples of families who didn’t agree on a single spelling, with brothers or cousins using and passing down different versions. We sometimes felt that relatives spelling their names the same is the exception.
Zlatica Beca, a Slovak expert, agrees and adds another consideration, human ignorance. Priests were responsible for recording each surname using proper Magyar spelling. “If the priest was not of Magyar ancestry, he most likely was unsure how to put a Slavic/Slovak surname into correct Magyar spelling. You might see Ilycsik, which would be Ilcik, and also you can see Ilcsik or Ilczik. In Magyar, LY would be the Ľ sound in Slovak.”
Zlatica, our cousin, as promised, gets the last word on this.