Name Variances in Deeds
Contributor, Dave Jones
Under Texas Law, there is generally a presumption that differently spelled names in deed records refer to the same person when they sound alike or when the “attentive ear” finds difficulty in distinguishing them. This is true even though the difference in spelling places the two names in different subdivisions, but under the same letter, in the official indices.
To decide what variances affect marketability of title, an examiner should pose one simple question; “Given the name variance, will someone searching the deed records know that the grantee in a deed is the grantor in the subsequent deed of the same property?”
To answer that question, an examiner may generally make the following presumptions:
1. If the names are spelled differently, but sound the same, they are generally considered the same;
2. Abbreviations of names, such as “Bill” for “William” are acceptable;
3. The use or non-use of a middle name or initial is inconsequential;
4. Recitals that identify a person as the same as in another deed may generally be relied upon, unless the examiner has reason to doubt the recital;
5. Generally, suffixes are inconsequential, unless they imply that the same name is used across familial generations (i.e. John Smith, Jr., John Smith, III, etc.).
6. The certificate of acknowledgment contains the official name of record for the grantor/grantee where there is an inconsistency in the instrument;
7. Company, corporation, and other business names are considered the same even where they omit the prefix, “the” or suffixes such as, “company,” “corporation,” “partnership,” or location of the business.
However, the presumptions regarding the similarity of names are always rebuttable. Any instrument or recital that contradicts these presumptions must be identified by the title examiner. For example, a deed in the name of John Smith, but later conveyed by John Smith, Jr., will rebut the general presumption that suffixes are inconsequential, and requires further scrutiny to confirm John Smith, Jr., is the same person as John Smith of a prior deed.
In conclusion, an examiner may exercise a fairly liberal amount of discretion when determining whether differently spelled names identify a particular person or entity, however, they must do so using tremendous caution.
 Texas law is unclear where the difference in spelling regards the first letter of the surname (e.g., “Pfister” and “Fister”).
 The Ancient Document Rule may or may not apply. It should be considered, and carefully evaluated. Also, to be effective, recitals cannot be controverted, or self-serving and uncorroborated.
 This applies where there is a difference in the signature and the body of the instrument.
 E.g. First Bank of Midland is the initial grantee, and First Bank is the grantor in the subsequent deed. Exercise caution, as this presumption is based on a proposed, not accepted, rule.