I know that h is used to signal the hard g sound when i or e follows, but is there anything like this, perhaps historical, for the letter a, i.e., gha?

I ask because I've been researching Italian genealogical records and found some last names spelled alternatively with -ga or -gha sometimes even in the same document. I've seen this many times, so I'll provide an example:

If you type "gha" into the Cognome box on this search page for the Italian government genealogical records, you'll see that one of the more common names returned is Bragha. If you then type "Bragha" instead into the Cognome box the first name returned is Annonziata Bragha whose parents were Lorenzo and Lucia, as shown in the top of this image:

enter image description here

The first image below that shows a portion of the source document showing the parent names, with the "Bragha" spelling, as expected. I know the handwriting is poor -- that's how it is in genealogical records sometimes.

The final image at the bottom shows that in the index (on this page) Annonziata's last name is spelled "Braga"

I could give more examples, if needed; I just gave this one because it's the first Bragha on that search page. The point is, I've seen this many times and want to know if there's any basis in Italian for use of "h" in gha. Perhaps historically? These records are from the 1800's.

If there is not, my best guess is that the folks who made these records were barely literate and simply mistakenly applied the rule about h at times.

Here's another example with better handwriting, again with an image from the source document on top and from the index page below, and both with links so you can check where I got those screenshots if you like. Notice here that even the father/child last names are spelled differently. enter image description here

  • On the first image I read "figlia di Lorenzo e di Lucia..." (daughter of Lorenzo and Lucia) and in both cases the "a" has a curl at the end, as opposite to the last word that you wrote as Bragha but it could maybe be "Braghe" Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 20:38
  • @RiccardoDeContardi I added another example because the handwriting was so poor in the first one. Please trust me, this happens a lot in these genealogical records -- I hope someone can address the substance of my question.
    – Tony M
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 20:55
  • @RiccardoDeContardi: In fact, if you use Dizionario storico dell'italiano antico and you search forms that contain the string "gha" (Ricerche avanzate --> Forme --> Espansa), you will find lots of them. These are words from the XIV century, but it seems plausible to me that this orthography survived in some proper names for some centuries.
    – Charo
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 21:05
  • @Charo Thanks for providing enough info so I could reproduce your search. However, to be honest, I'm no linguist and don't really understand what all this means. It's seems relevant to my question and so I'd appreciate if you could expand on what it means when you use this tool this way. Perhaps you could develop this as answer rather than just a comment, with more examples. It might be the closest I get to an answer. Thanks.
    – Tony M
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 21:56
  • @TonyM: This is a database of words present in Italian texts until the end of the XIV century. It's still under construction (not all words are present nowadays). I simply wanted to show that there was a time in which this orthography was common.
    – Charo
    Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 22:12


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