52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 3:
Unusual Name

Leferre to LaFara

Names in my family tree are, for the most part, fairly usual. Given names are mostly from the Bible and, more recent generations, from popular culture. The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara. It has not always been spelled this way, only the past 110 years, or there about. If you meet someone with my surname, spelled in this manner, you can be sure they are a close relative of mine.

Having an unusual name has its benefits, but also some pitfalls. I have known both the positives and negatives first hand, but while doing genealogy research it becomes more amplified. The most challenging has been when my surname is made into two words, such as La Fara. The census indices sometimes interprets this combination as a middle name and last name. If I do not find an ancestor searching for LastName equals ‘laf*’ I then turn to ‘far*’. Also, using Soundex codes has been beneficial, L160 covers most of the spelling combinations, plus F600. (Discussing Soundex is beyond this post, but suffice to say it takes a name down to a numerical representation of the consonants.)

My immigrant ancestor was Johann Jacob Laffer of Niederlinxweiler (now in Saarland, Germany) in 1753. He was 19 years old when he arrived on the ship Edinburgh. I find his name being spelled Laffer, Leferre and Laffery [1,2,3]. None seem particularly German, his place of birth was in an independent duchy and bordered France.

1790: Lafaree
1800: Lafferrey
1810: Laffer
1820: Lafaree
1830: Leferey
1840: Lefary
1850: [Lee] Ferry
1860: Lafferry
1870: Leffry
1880: Lafary

[4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]

For the first ten United States Federal Censuses taken, 1790-1880, my surname was spelled a different way in nearly every single one.

Perhaps the ever changing spelling was due to the family being illiterate and unable to tell the census taker their preferred spelling, if they had one. The 1850 to 1880 censuses asked if the respondents “cannot read” and/or “cannot write”, and sadly my 2nd great grandfather, George Lafary, and his parents, John and Sarah [Tucker] ticked off an affirmative to both questions. However, my great grandfather, John Lafary, was 16 during the 1880 census and answered in the affirmative the question of “attended school within the year” and the spelling of my surname continued to change. So was literacy a factor? I’ll never know.

Earl LaFara, 1908

Earl LaFara, 1908

Although there is not an 1890 census, I do have my great grandparents’ marriage certificate from 1887 and the name is spelled Lafara [14]. In the 1900 census my great grandparents and their children are listed with the name spelled Lafarra [15]. For some reason, long forgotten, the family changed the spelling sometime between 1900 and 1907 to the current spelling. In my grandfather’s 1907 Tipton (Indiana) High School yearbook the name is spelled LaFara [16]. And so it has been for over 100 years! I have not found documents for the family to narrow down when the change occurred, or why. But, my grandfather’s senior yearbook quote is “I’m Not in the Roll of Common Men”, which may give some clue to the why. The quote is from Shakespeare’s “Henry IV”, spoken by Glendower and meaning he was not ordinary, but rather extraordinary. I prefer a more modern interpretation, I’m not usual but unusual.

 

Sources:

  1. “Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808”, Vol. I, page 572. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/48379/PAGermanPioneersI-004920-521/320397
  2. Entry for Johannes Laferre, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, Gale Research, Place: America; Year: 1753; Page Number: 117. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=pili354&indiv=try&h=355135
  3. Entry for John Laffery, Pennsylvania, Septennial Census, 1779-1863, [database on-line] Box 1026, microfilm, 14 rolls, Year: 1786, page 9. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2702/33017_263380-00218/524122
  4. Entry for John Lafaree, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1790; Census Place:  Fannet, Hamilton, Letterkenney, Montgomery, and Peters, Franklin, Pennsylvania; Series: M637; Roll: 9; Page: 321; Image: 176; Family History Library Film: 0568149 https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/5058/4440871_00176/313015
  5. Entry for Jno Leferrey, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1800;  Census Place:  Frankford, Cumberland, Pennsylvania; Series: M32; Roll: 38; Page: 101; Image: 108; Family History Library Film: 363341 https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7590/4440906_00108/405400
  6. Entry for John Laffer, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1810; Census Place: Franklin, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania; Roll: 51; Page: 785; Image: 00215; Family History Library Film: 0193677  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7613/4433289_00215/479367
  7. Entry for John Lafaree, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1820; Census Place: Brown, Ohio; Page: 407; NARA Roll: M33_86; Image: 225 https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7734/4093884_00225/311280
  8. Entry for John Leferey, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1830; Census Place: Perry, Brown, Ohio; Page: 496; NARA Series: M19; Roll Number: 127; Family History Film: 0337938 https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8058/4093937_00990/269322
  9. Entry for John Lefary, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1840; Census Place: Perry, Brown, Ohio; Page: 337; Family History Library Film: 0020159  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8057/4093775-00688/1661710
  10. Entry for John Lee Ferry, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1850; Census Place: Johnson, Ripley, Indiana; Roll: M432_169; Page: 240A https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4192474_00109/2289855
  11. Entry for George Lafferry, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1860; Census Place: Scott, Brown, Ohio; Roll: M653_938; Page: 188; Family History Library Film: 803938  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4304697_00380/43677547
  12. Entry for George Leffry, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1870; Census Place: Rushville, Rush, Indiana; Roll: M593_356; Page: 448B; Family History Library Film: 545855  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4263270_00364/18164136
  13. Entry for George Lafary, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1880; Census Place: Jackson, Hamilton, Indiana; Roll: 281; Page: 320C; Enumeration District: 035  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4240592-00290/26559783
  14. Entries for John Lafara and Minnie M Illges, 24 Oct 1887, Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 [database on-line] Tipton County, Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com, 2014. Vol3, p303, Film# 002315270 Years: 1884-1888, Volume 6.  https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=5059&h=1453869
  15. Entry for John Lafarra, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1900; Census Place: Cicero, Tipton, Indiana; Page: 14; Enumeration District: 0120; FHL microfilm: 1240406 https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4118659_00186/23027019
  16. Entry for Earl LaFara, U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012; [database on-line] Yearbook Title: Tipton High School Yearbook, 1907; page 34, Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com, 2010.  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1265/40146_b083921-00028/254650680

Frank Takeo Flucawa

Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.

David L. Osborne: His Indianapolis Homes

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.

The Marriage of David and Jennie Osborne

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.

Do You See A Resemblance?

While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.

Probate of Jesse King 1868

Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.

Letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary

A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.

Sarah Smith: Challenge

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Challenge
So much about genealogy research is a challenge, perhaps the most common challenge is the ‘brick wall,’ meet Sarah Smith. 18?? – 1846

Laferre to LaFara: Unusual Name

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 3: Unusual Name
The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.

Luella Pressell: Surprise!

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.

Rumple Family Photo 1895

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 8: Family Photo
For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one in particular I found very informative.

Conrad Rumple: Bachelor Uncle

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.

George Lafary and Catherine Landon: Large Family

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 11: Large Family
My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.

In The Paper

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.

Genealogy Brick Walls

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.

Catherine Landon: Out of Place

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 16: Out of Place
I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.

Immigrant Ancestors, Fresh Start

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week1: Fresh Start.
The varied reasons my European ancestors immigrated to North America for a fresh start.

William and Uva Lafara: Favorite Photo

I have many favorite photos among my collection of family artifacts. Currently, my favorite photo is of two little children from 1916 who were a complete mystery to me until last spring.

Close to Home

My grandparents. Earl and Pearl, met at church, close to home, in 1914,

So Far Away

My great-uncle Frank immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1905 to further his education, so far away

Same Name

I get excited when I discover an ancestor with the same name as a friend, or co-worker, or neighbor. Maybe we are related!