Broket variants in the USA - The Broket Archive

Broket variants in US records

This page aims to support findings of the Statistics of US Brokets page with some examples of scribal errors, scribal variants and actual surname variants in US records, ancient and modern. The US context is different in several ways to the UK’s but it will be interesting to see if the division of the topic into the 3 categories used for the UK works also for the US. These are:

Scribal variants
Scribal errors
Similar but unrelated surnames

The first category is oral—scribes, clerks, census-takers, etc often wrote names as they heard them. This applies especially with illiterate and semi-literate bearers of the name. The second category is written—scribes, clerks, compilers of indexes, etc sometimes made errors as they copied written documents. The third category isn’t a variant as such, but at root a different surname altogether, like Brock or Brickett. In the UK, the name Bracket/t falls into this category, but in the USA, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, and furthermore it can also be an alias—the conscious and sustained use by someone of a different name to their original one.

1. Capt William’s Will of 1819-21
2. North Carolina scribal errors

1. Capt William’s Will of 1819-21

This example has elements of all 3 categories mentioned above—scribal variants, errors, a similar but unrelated surname, and also of an alias:

1.1 A personal copy

William signed and sealed his Will on 7 Aug 1819. This personal copy would have been kept by himself and/or his family and is now probably lost.

1.2. A contemporary court copy

As well as the personal copy, William also signed—but didn’t seal—a court copy before his death. The signature, while shaky, was clearly his.

It would have been carefully checked against the personal copy. This copy was probated at Smith Co court nearly 2 years later on 13 Jun 1821 with 2 witnesses present, and has survived as a loose original in a box in the Tennessee State Library and Archives, and has been microfilmed by them.1 That this is a court copy of the Will can be seen by the word ‘Seal’ written within a circular device next to William’s signature to the Will. It represents the presence of his seal on the personal copy. Nash had a photocopy made of this court copy and his photocopy is reproduced by Poland and transcribed well.2 Fry’s transcription is equally good.3 A digital copy of the microfilm is now also available from

A variant spelling of William’s surname is found in the probate details written in the more elegant hand of the Court Clerk on the dorse of the Will’s last page. included this dorse as the 5th of 5 images. You can see that the Will was originally folded into three with this dorse as the outer cover. To the left of the center panel you can see an inversion of William’s signature coming through from the other side of the page, and top left “7” is visible from the previous page. The probate details are in the top panel as follows:

State of Tennessee Smith County Court May term 1821 The last will and testament of William Bracket dec’d was produced and duly proven in open court by the oaths of Milton Young and Charles Parkhurst witnesses thereunto and ordered to be s…d and the Executors therein named qualified &c
Attest J Pickett Clerk of Smith County Court

The center panel has what is probably “Wm Brocket’s Will” in the same Court Clerk’s handwriting, although it could be an ‘a’ imperfectly written. Below it are some details of where and when it was recorded and what looks like the date of 7 Jun 1821. Then the 3rd and final panel has “W. Brocketts Will” written by the copyist of the Will. The recording of the probate and other details on the dorse of this court copy may have been done later than the court copy itself.

1.3. A further court copy

Then on 13 Jun 1821 a clerk apparently copied up the loose court copy into a Smith County record book.5 In this further court copy not just the word ‘Seal’ in a circle was written by the clerk but William’s signature also. Another noticeable feature of this further court copy—which is identical in all other respects to the loose signed court copy in the Tennessee State Library and Archives—is that the surname whenever it appears is spelt Bracket rather than Brockett—even with William’s signature and that of the witness Elizabeth Bracket at the end. In the UK this would be an example of a scribal error with an unrelated surname, but in the USA at this time there was considerable cross-over between these two surnames and this case shouldn’t be seen as a scribal error, or even variant, but that the scribe—at least—considered it an alias. There is at least one other written example of a member of William’s family using the Brackett alias.

1.4. A modern-day index

The story continues with an example of another category of variant mentioned above—a similar but unrelated surname. indexed Capt William’s Will under ‘William Boock’:

William Brockett 1819 Will Ancestry entry Boock snip

And this is actually correct when you look at the microfilm of its opening sentence:6

William Brockett 1819 Will TN microfilm Intro

“In the Name of God Amen I William Boock
-ett of Smith Counly & State of Tennissee

Furthermore, another similar-but-unrelated-surname variant occurs at the end of the Will with witness Elizabeth Boockell, probably Capt William’s son Benjamin’s wife. The indexer correctly transcribed this microfilm copy of the court copy of the Will, literally reproducing what they saw: “Boock”, and regardless of how it may have come about. They do include a suggested variant “[William Brockett]” in blue underneath the William Boock Name. Perhaps they followed the entry “Brockett, William, 1821” in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ Master Index at the front of the microfilm. But incorrectly gave the Probate Date as 7 Aug 1819. That was the date of writing the Will, and probate appears to have been 7, or perhaps 13, Jun 1821. However, that was a misunderstanding not a mistranscription.

2. North Carolina scribal errors

As of 27 Oct 2018 included references to two North Carolina land grants to William Brockett [sic], one in Jones Co 1790 and one in Burke Co 1829.7

2.1. William Barnett of Jones Co NC 1790 indexed a Grant to William Brockett of 200 acres in Jones Co NC on 16 Nov 1790. The attached image of the index card was partially faded:

Wm Barnett 1790 Ancestry entry
and transcribed the surname as Brockett. The record in the State Archives of North Carolina, however, shows that the grantee was actually a William BARNETT:8

Wm Barnett 1790 Jones NC p 8

The land was on the south side of Tuckahoe Creek, where James Barnett was also granted 150 acres in 180O.9

2.2. William Brackett of Burke Co NC 1829

Similarly, indexed a Grant to William Brockett of 50 acres on the N fork of S Muddy Creek, Burke Co NC on 3 Apr 1829. In this case the surname on the attached image of the index card clearly reads Brockett:

Wm Brackett 1829 Ancestry entry

However the surname on the entry in the original NC State Land Patent Books, shows that the grantee was actually a William BRACKETT.10

Wm Brackett 1829 Burke NC

The NC State Land Patent Books record 13 different Grants 1814-29, including William’s, to members of a Braket family at Muddy Creek, Burke Co, situated NW of Charlotte, up to 500Km inland from the New Bern area, and clearly unrelated to the Brokets there.11 This was a case of mistranscription at the time of filing the patents in the shucks.

Page Last Updated: June 12, 2020


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] Smith County Microfilm, Roll no. B-2064; Wills, Loose Records, 1803-1870; alternatively Roll no.104; Bk 6 May 1820 - Feb 1823, p 103.

[2] 1996 vol 1 following p 2, but without citing Nash as the source.

[3] 2001 pp 14-15, available at (accessed 18 Mar 2018).

[4] In their 'Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1779-2008' collection, cited as 'Smith County, Tennessee Will Boxes 1-4 1803-70'. They also refer to 'Will Boxes 1803-55' which is the physical box range for these documents located in Smith County that were microfilmed (information from Darla Brock, Archivist 24 Oct 2018).

[5] Smith County Microfilm, Roll no.104; Bk 6 May 1820 - Feb 1823, p 103. With thanks for the explanation to Darla Brock, Archivist, 24 Oct 2018.

[6] Reproduced by kind permission of the Tennessee State Library and Archives 19 Oct 2018, scanned by Archivist Darla Brock from Smith County Microfilm, Roll no. B-2064; Wills, Loose Records, 1803-1870.

[7] In's North Carolina, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960 Collection.

[8] Image courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh NC, microfilm call # S.108.160.19N frame 37, vol 76 p 8.

[9] Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh NC, Patent 807.

[10] See, accessed 11 Jun 2020.

[11] See, accessed 11 Jun 2020.

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