Researching a Surname with Varied Spellings – Bixby
Researching a family tree gets complicated when you run into spelling variations. Here’s a case study with Mary Bixby who links into our family through the Babcocks to our family. Here’s the line: Mary (Bixby) Babcock, then Ezra B. Babcock, then Nancy Jane Babcock (who married Henry Vining).
This happened to me with Mary Bysebe who also showed up as Mary Byxby, Mary Byxbe, and Mary Bixbe. From the dates, I was pretty sure that all of these were the same Mary, but how could I decide which was the correct spelling of her last name.
Continuing on with her line would be difficult if I chose the wrong spelling. Are you a Bixby or perhaps a genealogists with a similar name confusion?
If so, read on and I hope we can straighten it out.
My First Encounter with the Bixby Name and the Variations
I was searching industriously on ancestry.com, following the Babcock name. When I reached Ezra Babcock, it listed his mother as Mary Bysebe. As it brought up further family trees that overlapped Ezra Babcock’s parents and siblings, I saw other variations of Mary’s last name.
One tree listed her as Mary Bysebe, another as Mary Byxby, and even one with Mary Bixbe. I was guessing that Bixby was the correct version since one of her children had Bixby as a middle name.
Bixby is also spelled
Bixbie, Bixbee, Bixbe, Bixbey, Bigsby, Bisbee, Bekesby…
She’s listed as the daughter of EBENEZER BYXBE and HANNAH BABCOCK. I found that quite interesting that her mother was a Babcock and then Mary married a Babcock. I haven’t yet figured out the relationship of Mary’s mother and her husband.
Following the Bixby Name Back to the 1300s
In reading the old documents of the 1700s, I see the name spelled differently even within the same will. The “e” and the “y” are used interchangeably in a number of common words. This is probably where some of the confusion originates.
- Information about John Bixby
John Bixby was born in 1475 in Thorp Morieux, Sussex, England. This page shows the church where he marries Alice Paxson in 1498. Click on the site to see a better picture of the church.
- Information about Walter Bixby
This page shows Walter Bixby, born in 1390 in Thorp Morieux, Suffolk, England. His father is listed as John Bekesby (another variation of the name).
- Information about Ezra Babcock
Ezra Babcock was born 18 May 1821 in Illinois to Joseph Babcock and Mary Byxbe.
Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby
Birth: 8 Jul 1799 in Pennsylvania, Somerset, Pennsylvania, USA
Death: 13 Jul 1851 in Wabash, Wabash, Indiana, USA
There’s a book titled, A genealogy of the descendants of Joseph Bixby, 1621-1701 of Ipswich and Boxford, Massachusetts, who spell the name Bixby, Bigsby, Byxbie, Bixbee, or … Bekesby, 1427, of Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk. It’s quite likely that this would answer all our questions on Mary Bixby and her last name. The whole book is available to read online or can be downloaded for Kindle or as a PDF.