Mahaffey, Mahaffee, Mahaffie…. Oh so many spellings

I’m currently researching my mother’s grandmother’s family.  Hattie Jane Mahaffey seems to have come to Illinois between 1900 when she appears in the census with her family and 1906 when she marries Elmer McArdle. She proceeded to have five children and then die young.   Finding information about her time in Illinois is fairly easy but beyond that….

When Hattie Jane Mahaffey was born on April 11, 1887, in Tennessee, her father, Benjamin, was 33 and her mother, Bettie, was 27. She married Elmer E McArdle on April 12, 1906, in Vermilion County, Illinois. She had five children by the time she was 28. She died as a young mother on January 14, 1922, in Vermilion County, Illinois, at the age of 34, and was buried in McKendree, Illinois.

I haven’t been able to find Hattie Jane in the 1890 census (but I’m not sure it’s all online yet!) and I’m also not positive Bettie is her mother. Looking back and trying to find her father Benjamin (He was listed in the census at B.Mahaffey and the spelling was different)  I’ve found some conflicting information, but it’s possible he was married three times,  he was born in South Carolina, moved to Tennessee and then possibly moved to Illinois or Colorado.

One of the things that is really interesting is that number of spellings of Mahaffey.  I assume some of these were transcription errors, poor handwriting – but others? Were they changing their name? Were they correct spellings?  It definitely makes following people through history more challenging.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve turned off my family tree matching because of all the incorrect, unsourced information I was finding that was being merged – related to Julius Caesar anyone?

My mother and I are discussing a trip to Tennessee to see if we can track down more information.  I would love to find people researching the same limb of the Mahaffey tree.  The only part we are 100% positive about is the Illinois portion of Hattie Jane Mahaffey’s life and that she was from Tennessee, her father is listed as being from North Carolina and mother from Tennessee.   The 1900 Census I found that seems to match though has B.T. Mahaffa as being from TN, as well as the rest of the family.  There is a Hattie J of the right age listed though. Correct?


1900 Census Hattie Jane