I am by no means an authority on the subject, but I've run into this frequently. 1)The fact that so many people could not read nor write in the 1800's and prior attributed to the different spellings of names, for one thing. 2)When immigrants arrived, if they couldn't tell the clerk how to spell their name, the clerk spelled it the best way he knew how, based on how it sounded to him. 3)Dialects and accents could have influenced how names were spelled. 4)I have been told that when census takers came around, often only the small children were at home, while all the older children and able-bodied adults were out in the fields working. The children may not have known how their name was spelled, as well as ages and birthdates, or what state Papa & Mama were born in. My father's surname was Oxford, and you might think that would be pretty obvious, but I have found Oxeford and Auxford, too. 5)On my husband's side of the family, when his grandfather was being dismissed from the Army after WW1, the sergeant misspelled his name from Joyner to Joiner. Grandpa was so ready to get out of there and get home, he didn't want to go through the hassle and paperwork to correct it. Dating back to the 1600's and 1700's, the name is found spelled interchangeably among brothers in the same family. So...when doing genealogy research, you have to consider the possibilities and leave no stones unturned. You may be overlooking records because the name was spelled differently that time and in that place. Feel free to jump in and add your 2-cents worth!