Raitt name variations in early US censuses

I have gone through all the early US Federal and State Censuses up to 1899 on Ancestry and made a list of all Raitt and similar names - Rait, Raite, Raitte, Rate, Wraight, Reat, Reate, Reatt, Reatte, Rheat, Rheatt, Rhet, Rhett, Rhette - not Raith, Reathe or Rathe though - enough already! - and there are possibly even an odd one or two other variations. Actually, I thought quite long and hard how to order the list - by date or by state or by name. However, it turns out that there are such a large number of names, especially when Rate is added in, that a single list would be a bit unwieldy and so I decided in the end to separate them out for convenience especially for those only interested in say Reat or Rhett for instance. So there is a page for names beginning Rait, another for names beginning Reat (including Rheat), one beginning Rhet, another for Rate, and finally one for Wraight (see below). I have ordered each list first by date, then by State, then county, then city or township (where given), then by the variational name in alphabetical order. Members of a family in the same household are given on the same line, but separate households in the same township are given on separate lines in alphabetical order of head.

This is possibly not the ideal way to have ordered the names, because sometimes the same family is spelled differently in various censuses - the same John Rate in New York might be spelled Rait and Raitt for example over the years. This causes a problem in which list to place them, especially if we know the "real" name - in 1870 we have Sylvester Rait and family from Germany living in Tennessee (Rait written quite quite clearly in the census) - but this has been corrected to Rate by someone in 2013 and he does appear under Rate in other censuses (1850, 1910 - though also Rae (1880) and Kate (1860) - and seems to have been born Raidt - but buried as Rate!)

In the earlier censuses it seems that only the head of the family was named, whereas in the later censuses then all members of the family are included. At this stage I have not given all the details provided in the later censuses (not usually provided at all in the earlier ones) such as occupation (actually almost everyone seems to have been a farmer!), birthplace, relationship, and whether married or widowed - though I have noted ages where given and also where they were born (particularly the head) if resident in another State - again if given. I may have missed one of two females who were in a Raitt household and who were married daughters (entered under their married name) - but this is because the relationship to the head of household was provided in some censuses. I have also usually given first names and initials as spelled in the census - some of which are incorrect, of course. I have also left, in most cases, the names as spelled in the censuses themselves.

Some families have totally disappeared between censuses, e.g. Charles H. Raitt and family in Harford, Maryland in the 1850 census, but not in the 1860 one - I imagine the names have been incorrectly transcribed in the latter one. In Kittery, York, Maine the same person is variously spelled Rait, Raitt and Rate in different censues. And where is Felix Raitte and family before or after 1870? Equally in the 1860 census there is the family of Henry A. Raitt from Belgium and Holland in New York - but I read this name as Raett and thus have not included it. And where, particularly in the name Rait, searchers have subsequently corrected the entries to say Boit or Roet, then I have not included these names either especially as they don’t appear elsewhere. I have not yet checked up on these anomalies. I have also not followed up on the relationships between the various families; however, of course, many of the people in certain States (e.g. Maine, New York, Maryland, California, Mississippi, Virginia) will already be covered fairly extensively on their respective pages on this website. And many families with Scottish ancestry in the 1880 census are also covered on a separate page.

It was difficult to decipher some names said to be Reat, but corrected (by presumed descendants) to various other names like Riot, Root, Ruth, Kent, even Treat and O’Rear! I looked at the images where available (the quality of some was very poor) and if I was unsure at all then I have not included the name. Some names, however, even though they are definitely written as Reat are also probably incorrect (e.g. the family in 1860 of Francis Reat, born Germany) because they do not show up in other censuses or records.

Although all the censuses appear to show the name Rhett quite clearly, it is likely that some names have been misheard and subsequently misspelled by the census takers because other records show different names for the same person - especially those with German ancestry. Though quite why the spelling Rhett was used is not clear - presumably the head of the household knew how to spell his/her own name - though if they did not and could not read or write, then pronouncing it with a thick or broad accent may have caused the census taker to note it down incorrectly. And just as we have Raitt and Rait, we also have a few instances of Rhett and Rhet (also Rett) and Reat and Reatt - sometimes they are actually the same people spelled differently in different censuses.

Another strange thing that sometimes occurs is that members of the same family - husband, wife, children - are entered individually in the index even though the census itself shows they are all at the same address, even if out of age order. I have put them back together in the lists. In the case of Hannah Rate of Rose, Wayne, New York, I am pretty sure she would be the daughter of James Rate, but she is listed half a dozen or more names down the list after the other family members. Since she is said to be at home, rather than a serving wench, then she is probably simply listed in the order that the enumerator reached her. I have thus not put her on a separate line, but included her with her family. There is an excellent overview of the history, strengths and limitations, problems with accuracy and competency of the eumerators of the US census at https://www.ancestry.com/wiki/index.php?title=Overview_of_the_U.S._Census

Interesting in the case of Rhett is that most of the people bearing that name seem to reside in South Carolina and where families appear in other States, then the head of household was usually born in South Carolina. There are also several black (b) and mulatto (mul) Rhett families - they may have been slaves that took their owner’s name, or even the offspring of a white slave owner. It seems that many Rhetts had a penchant for giving initials rather than full first names.

There are quite a lot of Rates (some actually Pate, Rote or Rule instead it appears - and therefore not included - but the family transcribed as Kate is) - more than a few born in England and Germany and some in Switzerland. Should these Europeans (as opposed to the English) be included? Not every Raitt is from Scotland or England - as we have seen with the Michigan Raitts whose original Polish name was changed to Raitt once in the United States. So since we know that the name Raitt existed in Scotland from centuries ago with forms of Rate (and indeed Reat and Rhett etc) then I have elected to include them at the present time. What is telling too is that most of their first names are in fact Anglicized. And to emphasize the vagaries of the enumerators, the wives of two chaps named Rate, had their surnames (along with one daughter) spelled as Wraight!  In fact, though, perhaps in this case Rate is wrong and Wraight is right since there are corrections in places and the name Wraight does appear in other censuses. In fact, as I came across a few more Wraights I decided to look up this name in all the censuses and have included them also in a list. Since it seems to have been confused with Rate, then I am supposing that it was pronounced the same. What is interesting, though, is that most of the families with this name come from England. Checking the English censuses it does appear to be a name that has been used quite a lot since the 1841 census - it also appears a few times in the Scottish censuses.

In another family in New York (born Hesse Darmstadt, Germany - as other Rates) half the members were called Rate, the rest Raba (which actually appears to be correct and accepted as such in later censuses!) The family Prate (called even Plate in one census) had two children with surname Rate! Whilst in the 1894 census for Michigan, there seemed to be quite a few individuals with the first name of Rate! One Rate family in Iowa in 1895 turned out to be actually called Rathe - from Hannover in Germany! Since our putative progenitor was Gervaise de Rathe (in at least one spelling) then I decided to also look up the surname Rathe in the censuses. However, it turns out that they were virtually all from Germany, and so I have chosen not to include them at this time.

As noted above, where a married daughter originally named Rhett, Raitt, Reat etc may be living in the household with her husband (and children) under her new surname, then I have not included her. Some children are also mentioned on their own - most likely their mother remarried, but the child kept its father’s name. The child is included but the mother (probably formerly Raitt) is not.

This has been an interesting (though lengthy) exercise which I hope will be useful to others with our variable name. From the list we can quickly see who were the first Raitt settlers and where they resided and subsequently moved to and how their families grew. Relationships, e.g. brothers and fathers and sons can also be inferred. The earliest mentioned seems to be Colonel William Rhett in 1720. The earliest Raitt was in 1748, Rait in 1790, and Reat in 1810. Bear in mind, though, that this information is only extracted from available Federal and State census records online - there may well be other Raitts (and variations) already in the country, listed as immigrants, recorded in family history books, and noted in official and unofficial documents and papers etc.

I intend to add to the existing Raitt State pages on the website if necessary with any new census information and also include some of the detail on the American Raitts page. I will also eventually create another page for the censuses after 1900, as well as for Raitts (and variations) in the UK censuses and perhaps elsewhere.