I am lucky enough to have one of those surnames in my family tree that is unique enough that it is likely everyone with it is fairly closely related to me and “english” enough that there are few variations on its spelling and most variations have to do with the last few letters. McRandal. McRandall. McRandle. and variations with “s” on the end and such, but generally a search for Mcrand* brings up a page or two of entries for most searches. There is some possibility that back in it’s native North of Ireland that it was sometimes written as McCandless for some reason, but the way my nana said her maiden name it definitely had an “r” in it, slightly rolled even…McCrandle sort of. In any case, she assured me she spelled it McRandal–my young self kept forgetting and had to ask her numerous times. My research since shows it was a fairly fluid surname, as most were, until the 20th century. Sometime in the 1800s various brothers and cousins of my McRandal ancestor seem to’ve taken a slightly different spelling of their surname (a great way to help sort out all the Hugh, Daniel, Bernard and Johns, btw).
Now before you all get jealous of my somewhat easy-to-find surname, let me assure you that I have a great grandfather Thompson (okay, yes, the “p” makes it slightly easier) and another great-grandfather Smith. And a surname like Deacon may not be terribly common, but a google search for it brings up all sorts of church deacons (and my Deacons were non-conformists, so unlikely church deacons), much the same as Painter which of course brings up artists and house painters alike none of whom are related to my US-German-ancestry Painters, who were farmers by trade.
Then there is Hansom. Yes, HansoM. No relation to the inventor of the Hansom cab, a horsedrawn carriage. But often mis-heard as HansoN or Hansen and mis-transcribed as such.
Turnbough is another story. Turnbo, Turnbow, Turnbaugh…any one will do. I haven’t quite gotten it back to it’s rumoured French (alsace-lorraine) roots.
Acheson and Akeson are also in my tree, the former from Ireland, the latter from Sweden. Both are often found as Atkinson.
Which, all in all, just reminds me that surnames were not that important to our ancestors not that long ago. And given that even today I find it hard to remember my long-time girlfriends’ by their married surnames, I’d say they’re still not that important to us except in an official capacity. But we have no trouble correcting officials now when they misspell our names–Hugh McRandal is NOT the same person as Hugh McRandle these days.