Variants of the Family Name

by Walt Schoenly

For a number of years now, I have been researching the Schoenly / Schanely family tree. I have been helped by a good number of generous family members who freely volunteered much information regarding their particular branch of the family. However, one question that was never answered to my satisfaction was why so many variations in the spelling and pronunciation of the family name. I have not found a definitive answer, but below is an outline of what I did discover. If anyone has more information about the ‘development’ of the family name, let me know and I’ll pass that along.

During my research I found that many ancestral documents were actually updated over the years. As a result, I found Friederich Schienlein (the immigrant, abt 1754) listed as Friederich Schoenly, a variant of the family name which he most certainly did not use. I also found individuals with last names spelled differently at different times. Since I was unable to trust these second and third hand documents for correctness, I decided to gather the spelling variations for the family name from the headstones of family members. I surveyed about 80 stones. My reasoning was that the spelling used on the stone would accurately reflect the spelling used at the time of death. This is what I found.

Friederich Schienlein immigrated to America in 1754. No record of ship passage has been found, although I suspect he was listed as Friederich Schallin on a ship arriving in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1754. I believe the name was mis-transcribed when copied to more recent documents in recent years. In various church document transcripts he is listed as Fred’k Schoenle, Schonle, Schonly with an umlaut. In the Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd Series, volume 6, p.275 (1777 -1778), he is Frederick Shanely. His will which was made about 1808, has his name listed as Friederich Schonlein (with umlaut), but his headstone was inscribed with the name Friederich Schienlin two years later in 1810.

Friederich’s wife, Elisabeth, and only son, Andreas (sr), are buried in Good Shepherd cemetery in Boyertown and both use the spelling variant of Schonly (with umlaut) in the 1840’s.

Andreas Schonly and his wife Maria had five sons; Jacob, Friederich, Andreas (jr), George and Michael (sr).

Andreas (jr) and his wife Elizabeth used the spelling Schonly (with umlaut) on their headstones in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Two infant grandchildren, buried in the same family plot, carry the name of Schonle (with umlaut) in 1862. Their parents, Alexander & Sussanna, are buried as Schoenlys. Alexander’s was the first headstone that used the Schoenly variant and he died in 1865.

Andreas (sr) and Maria’s son George lived until 1877 and he is buried as George Schanely. His wife Rebbecca lived only one years longer but her headstone is inscribed as Rebecca Schonely. Their daughter Kitty lived until 1890 and is buried under the name of Kitty Schoenly.

George’s brother Michael lived until 1892. He and his wife Elisabeth are buried under the Schoenly family name. However, their son Michael (jr) died in 1862 but is buried as a Schonly (with umlaut).

Andreas (jr) and Elisabeth Schonly, mentioned above, had a number of sons one of whom was Jacob B. Schoenly. Jacob and his wife Maria are buried under the Schoenly family name. However, the writer did see the actual baptismal record of one of their sons who was named Marcus Latshaw Schanely in 1861. A daughter was buried as Matilda Schanely in 1895. However by the 1900s, when Jacob & Maria died and all of their sons passed away, all used the Schoenly spelling of the name. The one exception was Wallace who used the variant name Schonely.

It appears that about the time of the Civil War, the family began using the name Schanely & Schoenly variants. Schanely was following the phonetic spelling of the family name, while Schoenlys were replacing the umlaut with an ‘E’ following the ‘O’ in the name. Over the course of time, the later spelling began to replace the phonetic variant. However a sizable segment continued to use Schanely and other variants as Schanley, Shanely & others.

I plan to continue this research and will from time to time update this webpage with the most recent findings. Should any one have corrections to what I’ve stated or pertinent information regarding this topic, please feel free to contact me and I’ll correct any error which I’ve made or modify the above to make it more accurate.