Y-A-N-C-Y  versus Y-A-N-C-E-Y
or as one person referred to it
" that pesky <E>! "



Among members of the Yancey family of America who have a common descent from a group of families coming  out of Virginia around 1700 - the consistency of spelling seems to vary ONLY between YANCEY and YANCY - -  with only a few very minor exceptions in other spellings.  This is relatively unusual to have so few spelling variations for a given surname. One example being the KAVANAUGH family  which intermarried with the early Yanceys.  There are numerous spelling variations of this surname that have developed over time.  However just from the pronunciation and normal spellings of Yancey/Yancy - one can see how spelling variation would be much less than a name like Kavanaugh,

What s the ratio of "Yancys" to "Yanceys"  in America? -  - Here are some different measures:



YANCY = 4,429

YANCEY = 13,226



YANCY = 1816

YANCEY = 6720



YANCY =  3919
YANCEY = 11736



YANCY =  1,180,000

YANCEY = 2,810,000


It would appear as if those branches of the family who spell it YANCY - descend from persons who originally spelled it YANCEY and the name was changed or corrupted at some point.   Most corruptions/changes from Yancey to Yancy appear to have happened in the early to mid 1800’s.   Virtually all Yanceys of the 1700’s who have descendants living today – have a majority (or totality) of such descendants who currently spell the name YANCEY. Corruptions away from Yancey in the 1900’s and beyond  seem to be pretty uncommon – none-the-less – I have heard various stories from persons of various surnames as to a person joining the military and the military getting heir name spelled wrong – and it being such an incredibly difficult thing to get it fixed – they simply changed their name to correspond with military records  - - such was the case of one Joseph L Yanc(e)y of Alabama.


Here are some cases of branches of the family who spell their name Y-A-N-C-Y and have done so for various generations now.


Ambrose Yancy  (1807-???)


John & Archie Yancy of early Texas


Descendants of Daniel Boone Yancy


Descendants of Floyd Yancey (1835-1870) of Georgia

Some descendants of Philip H Yancy (1825-1906) of Mississippi


Descendants of one Kavanaugh Yancy  (1790-1850) of early Tennessee


Descendants of Stephen James Yancy (1819-1894) of Georgia


Children of Thomas J Yancy (1793-1833) of Kentucky.


Descendants of Thomas Jefferson Yancy (1806-1870) of Tennessee


Descendants of William Mann Yancy


What were some of the reasons for changing the name from Yancey to Yancy ?  I have heard various theories over the years – most of them being just some wild guess without any real substance.  My general impression is that at least in some cases it was due to illiteracy.   Illiteracy in the 17 and 1800’s was more common than one may think.  Bartlett Yancey in writing about the people of his county in 1811 states that even in the most basic of literacy the rate was no more than about 50% of the people. <Interestingly the same report - records his name wrong as YANCY - when all known members of this branch of the family are known to have spelled it YANCEY> . One measure that researchers have some times used in measuring literacy rates is how wills were signed by the testator – either a signature or just a simple X for those who couldn’t write.   As would be expected  name spelling inconsistencies across generations of given Yanceys – is less when they are educated.  Among African American Yancys one can find much more variance in spelling than among whites – some of this probably due to illiteracy as well as other cases where the name change was intentional to differentiate them from White Yanceys.


Another real cause of spelling variations/corruptions between generations is simply that people cared a lot less about spelling and consistence of spelling than we do today. It is not uncommon to see things like wills or court records of the 18th and 19th century where the name is spelled variously - - - even in the same one document.   Some times people changed their name to avoid or dis-connect them from something in their past.

Here is a great site that discusses various reasons for name changes:


Most genealogical consultants – emphasize NOT placing too much emphasis on how a persons name was spelled on a given record - - - and not to read too much into it (such as assuming it is a different family just because it is spelled different on a given record).


Here is further reading as to surname spelling and changes



and for those of you who have heard the story about someone’s name being changed in Ellis Island or some other place when they came to America – simply because someone spelled it as they heard it – read this:



 See also this site about "Transcription errors"