When researching early American history, it is important to remember that many, many families whose ethnic and linguistic history was “non-Anglo”, almost reflexively seem to have referred to themselves in the plural or patrynomic form of their chosen surname.
Perhaps this was a reflection of differing cultural attitudes to names, family, and community?
This means that people who had assumed, adapted, or “borrowed” an English suranme (such as indigenous peoples, Métis, Africans, Jewish, Romani, Germans, et al) seem to have been more likely to add an “S” to surnames.
Aiken/Akins, Beaver (Bieber)/Beavers, Clower (Clauer)/Clowers, Elkin/Elkins, Field/Fields, Leffert/Lefferts, Mullin (Moulin)/Mullins, Salyer/Salyers, Spear (Speer) /Spears, Wood/Woods, and so on.
This can lead to some serious confusion. An example would be the surname “Cate“. There are people really named “Cate“, and there are people who took the name “Cate“, but then added the patrynomic “S”, becoming “Cates”
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Then there is still another group – families who were enumerated or named in early documents according to the sound heard by English-speaking record takers.
For this example, consider the German surname “Götz” (also rendered “Goetz“).
To a native English speaker with only a rudimentary level of literacy, this surname sounds to all intents and purposes like “Cates“; and so was it often recorded, along with variations such as “Gates“.
And thus did many ethnically German people in Appalachia appear as “Anglos” in early documents.
A surname used in America by people of multiple and mixed ethnicities.
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