From a purely historical point of view, the old records in Virginia invariably spell the name "Orea" from the earliest up until 1729. It was then spelled as "Oriar" (probably a phonetic spelling) until 1740, then spelled as Orrear for a few years (as late as 1771) when it became Orear and finally about 1800 most member of the family and the old records used the present form O’Rear although Orear has survived to some extent to the present time. O’rear is also sometimes used. The oldest signature we have, that of no. 2 Daniel O’Rear, is given as Orrear (1734)
The O’Rears are, however an opinionated people. In my research and correspondence with the family I have come under considerable fire because of the spelling of the name. My policy has been this:
I have always spelled my name so, as have my father, grandfather, and great grandfather, and custom is overpowering.
In spite of seeming crystal clear logic of this policy, it has not been acceptable to all of the O’Rears. I quote from letters from several members of the family.
Mrs. J. Wells Wilkerson of Huntington, W. Va. wrote to me in 1947:
"I would like very much to know who conceived the idea of spelling the honorable Orear name O’Rear. I am 73 years young and always it was Orear which I think is one of the most beautiful names I ever saw in print. The O’Rear seems absolutely foreign to the name as I have always known it."
Mrs. Paul Jones Whitehead (Jessie O’Rear) then of Mississippi, wrote in 1946:
"Please don’t ever write our beautiful name as Orear"
My grandfather wrote: "There is neither law for keeping nor rule for spelling surnames. "One can spell his name as he sees fit. The various spellings set out above probably are a result of phonetic spellings or spellings at the caprice of the clerks and schoolteachers of the day. In my lifetime I have had my name spelled as Orea, Orear, and Orrear by various ignorant clerks and schoolteachers. "There is nothing new under the sun."