M*CH*MORE One Name Study
How do you spell M*CH*MORE?
Bob Muchamore & Mike Mitchelmore
What is my name?
In our search for ancestors we are dependent on the skills of those who could write, the scribes or record-keepers. The churches recorded baptisms, marriages and burials; courts recorded judgements, agreements and penalties; and administrators (of parishes or larger areas) needed to know what resources of men and money would be available to support, defend or develop their particular communities.
Prior to the 1850's there were relatively few people who could read and write. Why would people need such skills unless they were associated with church, academic or administrative careers? Ordinary people went through life without the need to do any more than make their mark (usually a shaky "X") on a document that had been explained to them by a literate and trusted adviser.
The scribes had no choice except to record a name according to the sounds they heard. There was also the complication that different dialects and accents could dramatically change the sound of many names, a problem which persists today when we find it difficult to catch what is being said (in English) by a person from another area or country.
We all make mistakes at some time or other, and some variant spellings have been introduced unintentionally by modern transcribers and well-meaning family historians.
As a result, there were a great number of variant spellings of M*CH*MORE. The following list of no less than 108 variant spellings has been compiled from historical documents, the International Genealogical Index, indexes published by the Devon Family History Society (DFHS) and the NameX surname thesaurus. Modern mis-spellings (such as Mitchell-Moore) and obvious mis-transcriptions (such as Mitchelman) are not included.
An analysis of the DFHS's marriage indexes for 1754-1837 shows that the most popular spellings in that period were MITCHELMORE (36%), MICHELMORE (33%), MUCHAMORE (6%) and MUCHMORE (6%). The "i" vowel in the Devonshire dialect is often pronounced quite darkly, and it is easy to see how it was frequently confused with a "u" sound.
Can my name change?
Exactness of spelling is a modern development following the availability of education to everyone and the increasing need for personal documentation. We have all insisted, almost as soon as we could read and write, that our surname is spelt correctly¾usually the same way it is spelt on our birth certificate. But in the past, a completely illiterate person, who probably did not even possess a birth certificate, could not insist on the "correct" spelling. So scribes often transcribed the same name differently on different occasions, and sometimes people's names changed when a new clerk or minister moved into the parish or they moved to another parish.
Bob Muchamore noted that his family name was consistently spelt MUCHAMORE in civil records since 1840, although the 1841 census does list one ancestor as William MICHEMORE. In Plymouth, England, William was recorded as MICHEALMORE for his wedding in 1834; the same vicar wrote MICHEALMORE for the first child baptised in 1836 but recorded MUCHMORE for a second child baptised in 1840. William's baptism was recorded as MICHELMORE in 1809, although his parents had been married in the same church in 1808 as MITCHELMORE.
Mike Mitchelmore's ancestors' surname was spelt MUCHMORE, MUCHAMORE, MICHELMORE, MITCHELMORE and MICHIMORE up to 1839, but after that only MITCHELMORE.
Other examples include contemporary MUCHMORE families whose ancestors were MICHELMORE or MITCHELMORE before 1700, and a contemporary MOUCHEMORE family whose ancestors were recorded in the early 19th century in the parish registers of Dartmouth, Devon, as MAUCHEMORE, MITCHEMORE, MOUCHEMORE, MUCHIMERE and MUCHMORE.
At the same time as surnames began to stabilise around the middle of the 19th century, the less frequent variants died out. Today, the most common spellings are still MITCHELMORE and MICHELMORE, but there is still numbers of people who spell their surname MITCHAMORE, MITCHMORE, MOUCHEMORE, MUCHAMORE or MUCHMORE.