It is not uncommon for changes in the spelling of names to creep into written records. Incorrect pronunciation can result in a change to the spelling of a name. Sometimes a change in a name can be intentional or be the result of deference to the community’s pronunciation of the name. Such were the cases in my family when my paternal great aunt’s son decided to change his surname from O’Sullivan to Sullivan and again in the case of my great grandmother’s maiden name Haveron which was written in a variety of ways such as Hafferon and Heffernan. My grandfather was a French Canadian whose given name was rendered either Hildelge or Eldage, perhaps in part the result of his Anglophones neighbours not realizing that a silent “h” preceded the first vowel. 


Jean Skilling of Kent, England has discovered some interesting alterations in the surname of her husband’s family. Jean is seeking information on Richard Skiller born circa 1718 and his wife Millis born circa 1723. The couple raised at least five children in Strood, Kent with the surname Skiller. The name was retained by all of Richard’s children and grandchildren with the exception of his son William’s off-spring John whose surname became Skillen. John Skillen in turn had eight children, six of whom retained the surname Skillen while his eldest son John carried the name Skilling and his daughter Mary Ann was called Skiller. It seems that the only deviation from the original surname Skiller came in the second and third generations of one family line. The sequence of names in that line of Richard Skiller’s descendents is Skiller, Skillen, Skilling.


A comparison of surnames in Great Britain for the years 1881 and 1998 at reveals that the surname Skiller does not register because there are fewer than 100 instances of the name. In comparison Skillen had a frequency of 202 in 1881 and 564 in 1998. Skilling had a frequency of 299 in 1881 and 622 in 1998. Skillen while occurring in Great Britian less frequently than Skilling has increased by 63% while Skilling has increased by 52% over a 117 year period. Since numbers for the occurrence of Skiller were not given for either 1881 or 1998 we can only say that the name continued over time to occur very infrequently.


Posted in the Family Tree section is the family tree of Richard Skiller as it is presently known to Jean Skilling. Jean has excluded the seventh generation onward since many of that generation are still living. She is interested in communicating with any member of the extended family who may wish to share information with her. She welcomes enquiries from anyone with an interest in the Skiller/Skillen/Skilling descendents of Richard and Millis Skiller. Jean can be contacted at For anyone doing research in the Medway area of Kent, the Medway Council Archives Service can be accessed at: A Google search using “Cityark” should bring up the site.  The original parish registers have been scanned and are all available online. Please see Family Trees on the main page for Richard Skiller’s Family Tree.


                                                                                      Terry Skillen

                             November, 2006