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Last Updated on Monday, 18-Jul-2005 18:54:29 MDT

Date: Mon, 31 May 1999 17:07:21 EDT From: <>
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I have had numerous questions about the various spellings of the Yarbrough name, as well as questions about why an anscestor known to be in an area can't be found on any indexes. I hope the information below will be of use (and I also hope the tabs hold!)


Tip of the day - do not rely totally on census indexes to find your families. My archive committee and I have found dozens of Yarbrough families on original census records in every state who are not listed on the index. Also, be aware of spelling variations, and errors made by transcribers who were doing the best they could to correctly read the old records and sometimes, because of practically illegible records, had to resort to their "best guess"

Below are two articles that appeared in the Yarbrough Family Quarterly. In addition to these tidbits, I also have a very thorough history of the Yarbrough name researched and written by the late Raymond Yarbrough. I will share it with anyone interested.

Other name variations not on the list below: The Catholic Church of Louisiana had at various times priest of Spanish, Portugese, French and English priests. The names are often inscribed in the records in the language of the priest of the period (including Latin). In the Diocese of Baton Rouge Records of the Catholic Church, the name is found spelled Yarberry, Yabre, Yabri, Jabary, Yarbury, Yarbri, Yarbourou and Uarbry (as well as Yarborough). Guillelmo Yabre and Diana Esmit of Virginia translate to William and Diana Smith Yarborough.

by Karen Mazock, C.G.
Published June 1994 in Yarbrough Family Quarterly

When searching indexes, especially printed indexes, keep the many spelling variations in mind. Transcribers have done their best to read the old script - but sometimes it is dim and illegible. Various clerks made the "Y" look like other letters look to us today. Occasionally you will see a "Y" with a short loop at the top, which makes the Y look more like our present day script "T". Other times, the lower loop of the "Y" is almost closed as has been misread as a "A". In a few cases, a very fancy "Y" has been read as "Sc". Additionally, clerks often spelled the name phonetically. I always check printed indexes for Tarbrough, Zarbrough, etc. Listed below are a few of the spelling variations where the original record showed the name as Yarb(o)rough or Yarbro. My advice is to always go to the original source do not put all your trust in indexes.

Variation  First Name  Record Location
Yarba   George  Coahoma Co., MS
Yarbah  Sarah   Gadsden Co., FL
Yarbar  Martha Ann  Greene Co., TN
Yarbaro  Mason   Cumberland Co., NC
Yarbarough  James F.  Knox Co., TN
Yarbary  Elizabeth  Wilkinson Co., MS
Yarbath  Nathan  Franklin Co., GA
Yarbaw  Sarah   Gadsden Co., FL
Yarbe   Peter   Coshocton Co., OH
Yarbeory  Jane   Rutherford Co., NC
Yarber  Caroline  Scott, MO
Yarberoth  Jeptha   Franklin Co., GA
Yarberrey  Robert   Monroe Co., TN
Yarberry  A.L.   Monroe Co., TN
Yarbery  Elisha   Haywood Co., NC
Yarbey  Celeste  Hancock Co., MS
Yarbo   Daniel   Decatur Co., TN
Yarboarough  Lewis   S. Carolina
Yarbois  Marie P.  La Fourche Par. LA
Yarbon  Patsey   Rowan Co., NC
Yarbor  Charles A.  Tipton Co., TN
Yarborah  J. W.   Green Co., AL
Yarborary  Thomas J.  Harris Co., TX
Yarboraugh  Benjamin  Appling Co., GA
Yarborey  William  S.C.
Yarborg  Nancy   Gibson, TN
Yarboro  Atlas   Montgomery Co., NC
Yarborough  Ambrose  Giles Co., Tn
Yarborow  Richard  New Kent Co., Va
Yarborow  Tilletha  Haywood Co., NC
Yarborro  Catherine  Surry Co., NC
Yarborrough  Addie   Lee Co., MS
Yarborugh  S.S.   Jackson Co., FL
Yarbory  Lydia   Tishomingo, MS
Yarbough  Benjamin F  Cooke Co., TX
Yarbour  Fanie   Crockette Co., TX
Yarboura  Maggie  Warren Co., MS
Yarbourah  Lavonia L.  Lee Co., AL
Yarbourgh  D.M.   Atascosa Co., TX
Yarboury  Henry   Ascension Par., LA
Yarbouy  Samuel J.  New Madrid Co., MO
Yarbow  Rufus M.  Decatur Co., Tn
Yarbra  Anna   Pemiscot Co., MO
Yarbrah  William  Gibson Co., TN
Yarbraugh  Alice   Fayette Co., TN
Yarbraw  Elily   Ripley Co. MO
Yarbreay  Elizabeth  Ascension Par., LA
Yarbree  Greenberry  Walton Co., GA
Yarbrey  Jemima  DeKalb Co. GA
Yarbrigh  John   Tunica Co., MS
Yarbro  Emmin  Tipton Co., TN
Yarbrogh  Nancy E.  Tallapoosa Co., AL
Yarbroh  Catherine  Tipton Co., Tn
Yarbrough  William  Amelia Co., VA
Yarbrouy  James   Benton Co., AL
Yarbrow  Robert   Lake Co., TN
Yarbrugh  Mary   Cooke Co., TX
Yarbry  Betsy   Hardeman Co., TN
Yarburgh  Richard  Williamsburg, VA
Yarburough  John A.  Iberville Par., LA
Yarbury  Harriett  Pope Co., AR
Yargorough  George  Sumter Co., AL
Yarrbough  Edward  York Co., VA
Yartmigh  Littleton  St. Clair Co., AL
Yartrighe  Mary   St. Clair Co., AL
Zarbrough  Charles  Davidson Co., NC

by Researched and written by Peter C. Yerburgh of Salisbury, Wilts, England

In the June 1994 issue of the Yarbrough Family Quarterly there is a fascinating list of the family name spelt in 65 different ways!! The article by Karen Mazock contains good advice to modern researchers.

I was amazed that the name could be spelt in so many ways and yet it is understandable. After all, the letters on the page are only doing their best to represent sounds and the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are not enough. This is why the phonetic alphabet has over seventy symbols to represent English sounds and more for other languages! We manage fairly well with the twenty-six letters but this is only because we hear the sounds from our parents from the start of our life. We learn the sounds first and only later associate those sounds with certain combinations of letters.

When people see my name spelt YERBURGH they naturally pronounce the 'Yer" to rhyme with 'her' and the 'burgh' to rhyme with 'berg'. But in the old days the 'er' letters were pronounced 'ar'. In England I am a Clerk in Holy Orders but clerk is pronounced clark. Likewise, Derby, a city in England, is pronounced Darby. The important thing is to try and find out what the spelling of a name sounds like to the holder of the name. How to pronounce one's surname is something a young boy or girl learns from their parents before they go to school. I learnt that my name was pronounced Yarbra long before I could spell it Yerburgh!

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Bill and Reba Rice. Reba's maiden name is Yarbrough so I asked her how she pronounced it. She said "Yarbro". It is easy to understand that the English 'Yer' sound should be pronounced and spelt logically as 'Yar" but I was, however, surprised that she pronounced the 'brough' with an 'o' sound - 'bro' to rhyme with 'fro'.

She told me that in America most Yarboroughs (of various spellings) pronounce the name with that 'o' sound at the end. I wondered why this should be. Could it be that the 17th century Yarborough emigrants retained a very ancient way of pronouncing the name?

There is some ancient evidence to support this theory. In 1495 the Inquisition Post Mortem of John Iwardby mentions Richard Yerborowe. The end part of this spelling suggests an 'o' sound rather than an 'a' sound.

While I was thinking about this, I came across a photocopy of a document dated around 1200. (Lincoln Muniment D ii 38.3.54). The document has a Gikel de Jerdburg making a gift of 20 acres of arable land to the Canons of Lincoln. The deed is witnessed by Robert de Jerdburgh. Over the 'burgh' part of both names is a dash. The dash means that some letters are omitted.* I remembered that in Latin 'de' (= from or of) as a preposition takes the ablative case. Thus Willel de Edinburgh (with dashes over the final 'l' and the final 'burgh' would represent Willelmus de Edinburgo. (i.e. William of Edinburgh.) On a similar basis Robt de Jerburgh (with a dash over the 't' and over the 'burgh' would be, in Latin, Robertus de Jerburgho. In time the 'de' would be dropped but the 'o' ending was retained.

This is my theory. The weakness of it lies in the fact that Latin, though the language of the learned, would have been little understood in the villages of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Has any Yarborough got a better reason for the 'o' sound?

For those interested, I add a lit of early Yarborough spelling variations found in documents. As I have not seen most of the original documents, I am unable to add the dashes etc. As there are many examples of the same spelling, I have given the earliest date, known to me, of each variant spelling.

1085  GEREBURGH  (The village Yarburgh in Domesday Book)

1195  IERBORC   (Pipe Rolls lst series Vol 17, p. 26-27)

1200  JERDBURG Robert de  (See previous paragraph)

1200  JERDEBURCH Hamelin de  (Kirkstead Chartulary)

1242  JERDEBURGH Richard de  (Patent Rolls)

1345  YERDEBURGH Robert de  (Patent Rolls)

1400  YERBERGH Sir Thomas de  (Lincoln Assize Roll)

1401  ZERBURGH John Z de  (John Z de Zerburgh. Feudal Aids III)

1431  YARBURGH Richard de  (gentleman) (Feudal Aids III)

1447 YERBURGHT John (Court Rolls of Edlyngton)

1490 YERBURGHE William (Court Rolls of Edlyngton)

1495 YERBOROWE Richard (Inquisition P.M. See above)

1541 YARBRUGHE John (Will of) 1541 YERBURGHE Roger (Will of)

1545 YARBROUGH Richard (Will of)

1552 YERBURGH Thomas (Inventory of)

It may puzzle some readers why the earliest spellings have the initial letters as G, I, J and Z. The answer is that those letters in an initial position represented the same consonantal sound as was later (or at the same time) represented by Y. Hence Gereburgh in Domesday Book (1085) would be written Yereburgh in the 1300s but both would have sounded the same.

*The document I quoted has indeed got a dash over Jerdburg. On further study, I think it probably only indicates a missing letter 'h'. I see further on in the document is 'herb de Saltfletby' (Herbert of Saltfletby) but there is no indication of an ablative ending, so I think the 'de' must be just a Norman 'de' and not a Latin de with an ablative.

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