Cumberbatch has been spelt so many different ways. See here for a list of just some of the spelling variations that I have found and for an explanation to to how they may have happened.

Cumberbatch Surname Spelling Variations

So how did COMBERBACH become CUMBERBATCH?

There were many factors that resulted in surnames being recorded in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Pronunciation changes
  • Cultural background of the church official
  • Spelling standardisation
  • Misinterpretation of regional dialects and pronunciation

Pronunciation Changes

Most commonly known as the "Great Vowel Shift" it represents differences in expressing long english vowels. For example, before the Great Vowel Shift, i.e. the Chaucerian pronunciation, of 'route' would have been 'rowt', as the Americans pronounce it today, whilst Shakespearean pronunciation, post GVS, would pronounce 'route' as 'root'. However, I do not think that this impacted the Comberbach name.

However, I am told that the locals now pronounce Comberbach as 'Commerbach' i.e. with a silent 'b'. Had this been the case is early times then another set of spelling variations would have resulted.

The Clergy

Until the end of the 16th century the standard of education of the clergy was pretty low. During the 1600s the clergy became better paid and better educated. They were influenced by Latin and this would have been reflected in the way they recorded surnames. Many of the church's congregation could not read or write and had no way of confirming the spelling of surnames.

Spelling Standardisation

Spelling is thought to have become standardised in the late 1600s with the advent of printing presses and with the publication of dictionaries. Shakespeare is said to have had between 5 and 14 different spellings of his surname.

Common spelling changes:

  • Added 'e' or 'es' suffix; for example 'bach' meaning stream cold have become 'bache'
  • Doubling or singling consonants; for example allways and ffirst
  • Doubling or singling of vowels; for example good was spelt gode
  • Interchangeable vowel sounds e.g. o/ou, i/ie/y and w/u; for example: tailor became taylor (i/ie/y interchange), fyrst became first (y/i interchange) and COMBERBACH may have become CUMBERBACH (o/u interchange)
  • J written as I
  • U written as V; for example, another surname of interest to me is Shuffler, of Barbados, who may be descendants of the Shovellers of Portsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire and/or to the Shoulers of various counties of England. An IGI search of Shoveler, or of Shouler, reveals 1269 life-time events.

The study of such spelling variations is called Etymology: the history of words. There are some great examples illustrating the interchanging of letters in the will of Roger Comberbach 1606

Migration and Misinterpretation

Following migration to an unfamiliar place with a parish priest unfamiliar with a surname, the clergyman would have made his best guess as to how to spell a name, there was little point in asking the person! So if the surname 'sounds like' the spelling then this is often enough to pass the 'test'. Phonectical similarity can often be used to find variants.

However, occasionally and especially with international travel and settlement a 'foreign' and therefore unfamiliar name can be mutilated by a 'best guess' spelling. So 'D'Orleans' could have been recorded as Darling as the local clergy tried to understand and record the surname.

Migration often resulted in the corruption of surname spelling.

Cumberbatch Variant Spellings These following spellings of the surname have been found in the study so far:

CAMBAGE, CAMBARLIDGE, CAMBERBACH, CAMBERBACK, CAMBERBATCH, CAMBERLEDGE, CAMBERLEDGEP, CAMBERLEGE, CAMBERLIDGE, CAMBORLEDGE, CAMBURLIDGE, CAMMERBACH, COMBABACH, COMBABATCH, COMBACH, COMBARLIDGE, COMBERACK, COMBERBACH (the most ancient spelling), COMBERBACHE, COMBERBACK, COMBERBACKE, COMBERBAGHE, COMBERBASH, COMBERBATCH, COMBERBEACH, COMBERBECK, COMBERBEECH, COMBERBIRCH, COMBERBRACH, COMBERBRECK, COMBERBUSH, COMBERLACHE, COMBERLADE, COMBERLADG, COMBERLADGE, COMBERLAGE, COMBERLBEICH, COMBERLEACH, COMBERLEDGE, COMBERLEGE, COMBERLETH, COMBERLIDG, COMBERLIDGE, COMBERLIEG, COMBERLIGE, COMBERLITCH, COMBERLYCH, COMBERPATCH, COMBIRBACK, COMBUBACH, COMBUBACK, COMBURLIDGE, COMELAG, COMELAGE, COMERBACH, COMERBATCH, COMERLEGE, COMLAGE, COMMERBACH, COMMERBACK, COMOBACH, COMPERLIDGE, COUMBERBATCH, CUMALACHE, CUMALAGE, CUMALEACHE, CUMALIDGE, CUMBABATCH, CUMBACH, CUMBARBATCH, CUMBERBA., CUMBERBACH, CUMBERBACHE, CUMBERBACK, CUMBERBAG, CUMBERBAGE, CUMBERBAHT, CUMBERBALD, CUMBERBATAH, CUMBERBATCH, CUMBERBATCHE, CUMBERBATH, CUMBERBATILS, CUMBERBEACH, CUMBERBECH, CUMBERBECK, CUMBERBEECH, CUMBERBEECHE, CUMBERBERCH, CUMBERBICH, CUMBERBICK, CUMBERBIECH, CUMBERBIRCH, CUMBERBIRTCH, CUMBERBITCH, CUMBERBOTCH, CUMBERBREECH, CUMBERBRIDGE, CUMBERBTCH, CUMBERFATCH, CUMBERLACH, CUMBERLAD, CUMBERLADG, CUMBERLADGE, CUMBERLAGE, CUMBERLATCH, CUMBERLDGE, CUMBERLEACH, CUMBERLECH, CUMBERLECHE, CUMBERLED, CUMBERLEDG, CUMBERLEDGE, CUMBERLEECH, CUMBERLEGE, CUMBERLEICH, CUMBERLEITCH, CUMBERLGE, CUMBERLICH, CUMBERLIDG, CUMBERLIDGE, CUMBERLIGE, CUMBERLITCH, CUMBERLOACH, CUMBERLODGE, CUMBERLOGE, CUMBERPACH, CUMBERPATCH, CUMBERSHALL, CUMBERSLEDGE, CUMBERTH, CUMBLEDGE, CUMBLIDGE, CUMBORBACH, CUMERBATCH, CUMERBATCH, CUMERLEICH, CUMERLIDGE, CUMERTACH, CUMILACH, CUMMALEGE, CUMMALIDGE, CUMMALIGE, CUMMBERLEAGE, CUMMELADGE, CUMMERBATCH, CUMMERLAGE, CUMMERLETCH, CUMMERLIDGE, CUMMILACH, CUMMILEDGE, CUMPERPATCH.

Many of these sound alike even though the spelling varies.

The exceptions being COMBERLIDGE, CUMBERLEDGE, CUMBERLEGE, CUMBERLIDGE and CUMBERSLEDGE. These have been included as some of the early people having these surnames had a coat-of-arms similar to those of Comberbach families. Clearly this family of names is related to each other, but only some may be related to Comberbach.

Some of the above variations may have occurred due to a more modern reason that being transcription of records and indexing. For example, a Cumberback may have been mis-transcribed for a Cumberbach. The confusion occurring in the similarity of the written 'h' and 'k'. These variations make retrieval of information from databases which do not use 'fuzzy' name matching problematic.

I have excluded the surname CUMBERLAND from the study. This I believe to be a distinct and unrelated surname having similarities in its compound structure to CUMBERBATCH. This may well mean that a Cumberbatch, who is misinterpreted as a Cumberland may well go 'missing'.