Since the pronunciation of any surname can vary, it is not surprising that it is often written incorrectly and/or transcribed in ways other than it should be. In searching transcribed indexes etc., it is worthwhile to also use 'wildcards' in any searches, e.g. using '**' or '?'. Of course sometimes the transcription is accurate, the original documentation is incorrect in the first place, as in Get the Name Right....
When deciphering difficult-to-read handwritten documents, a good tip is to try and identify how the vowels were written first. The capital letters can be looked at next, always try to find the same letter in other words that are not so difficult to read. Here are a number of examples taken
from various census returns for the Reffell family.
The last letter is quite a bit lower than the one next to it and hence the transcriber thought that the name was 'Reffele'.
Here is the opposite to the one above, the second letter is much longer. However, this was transcribed as 'Reffett'.
This example was also transcribed as 'Reffett'. It is actually 'Peppitt'.
It looks like this person is a 'Raffell' as transcribed, however he actually was a 'Reffell'. A point worth noting is that 'Will' was short for William and was abbreviated by the enumerator as such, although he was never called that in real life.
This Reffell was transcribed as 'Roffell'. Here is also an example how when a middle initial is recorded, it can separate out John A Reffell from the many others with the name John Reffell.
This example is not strictly a transcription error, but has been included as an example of what the census enumerator thought that he had heard. It looks like Rebecca had a son called 'Chiels' & a daughter called 'Ahama' or 'Abama'. Actually, they were Charles & Amelia.
Perhaps Rebecca had a strong accent or a bad cold that day!
This final example is not a name transcription error, but one where an age was wrongly transcribed. Clearly there are two parents aged 40 and 38, so why was the first child transcribed as being aged 77? It was because whoever transcribed the document did not take into
account the enumerator's marking (which can often obscure important information). Strangely, the next children were correctly transcribed as being aged 14 and 12.