Surname Variants or Deviants?

As can be seen from the various sources quoted under History of Land Ownership, there appear to be a number of different spellings of RETTIE used in the past.

The permutations consist of either ‘ea’, ‘ai’ or ‘a’ instead of the initial ‘e’ together with either a single or double ‘t’.


I entered these permutations into ScotlandPeople with the following results:

Total Births

Variant Births 1538-1854 Births 1855-2009 Earliest Latest Mode Parish
RAITIE 24 0 1689 1781 New Deer (6)
RAITTIE 26 10 1675 1817 Monquhitter (18)
RATIE 13 0 1689 1817 Gamrie and Macduff (4)
RATTIE 8 0 1689 1892 Monquhitter (2) & Boyndie (2)
REATIE 19 0 1697 1783 Turriff (6)
REATTIE 4 0 1734 1777 New Deer (3)
RETIE 10 0 1610 1793 Monquhitter (5)
RETTIE 216 951 1610 2009

Example Births

Consider also the following examples listing parents, parish, date of birth and name of child:


William RAITIE & Christian ESLEMENT of New Deer
24 Feb 1751 Anne
31 Mar 1753 Alexander
14 May 1755 Isobel
01 Jun 1757 William
16 Sep 1759 James

William RATIE & Chirsten ESSELMENT of New Deer
01 Nov 1761 Adam


Alexander REATTIE & Christen HEPBURN of New Deer
10 Sep 1765 William

07 Mar 1767 Alexander

Alexander REATIE & Christian HEBREN of New Deer
30 Jan 1774 George
16 Jun 1777 Peter

Alexander RAITIE & Christian HEPBURN of King Edward
14 Aug 1781 Jane

Alexander RETTIE & Christian HEPBURN of King Edward
28 Sep 1785 Adam

Note also the variations in the Mothers’ names!


  • Barring one entry from Fife, all other entries are from Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in North-East Scotland. This strongly suggests the surnames are just alternative spellings of the same original family name.
  • RETTIE is by far the most popular spelling, both in Old Parish Registers and Statutory Registers.
  • RETTIE is the only spelling which survives into the 20th Century, with all others apart from RAITTIE terminating upon the adoption of Statutory Registers in 1855.

This suggests that RETTIE is the de facto correct spelling.

The Guild of One Name Studies differentiates between a surname variant and a surname deviant.
A variant is:

a name spelling used by officials on a consistent and persistent basis over a period of years.

None of the alternative spellings of RETTIE meet this rule.

A deviant, however, is defined as:

any other spelling recorded, including cases where the spelling occurs in official records, but only randomly and inconsistently.

Given the above examples, it appears that the alternative spellings are indeed used inconsistently.


The surname RETTIE has no variants, only deviants due to transcription errors and mis-spelling.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Introduction to One-Name Studies « One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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