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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Naming Patterns In Germany - Part 2

Naming Patterns of Schleswig

The northern area of Germany was part of Schleswig-Holstein, a possession shared by feudal lords, the King of Denmark, and the Prussian empire over time.  It was not until the 1920s that the area was divided with the lower part of Schleswig and Holstein becoming part of Germany.  Fixed surnames became common in the 16th century for this area.  A specific German dialect had influence over the names.  Some examples of these names include the following:  Peters, J├╝rgens, Johannsen, Ruetke, Scheel, Hopner, and Classen.

Well into the 18th century, patronymic names were used in this area as influenced by the Danish.  The letters "s-e-n" were commonly added to the end of the surname as each generation progressed.  A son would end up as a "Petersen" out of their father's surname of "Peter".  The closer to Denmark you got, the more likely that the daughters' names were also influenced by a more specific tradition to differentiate the genders.  The letters "d-a-t-t-e-r" were added to the surname of a daughter creating "Peterdatter", for example.

These naming patterns were with purpose and based in an 1771 law that really, in my opinion, confused people.  This area used patronymic names for probate and for relatives to establish heirs but used farm nicknames for every day use.  Sometimes people completely changed their last name.  Again, this is more of a Danish tradition influenced by the customs of Denmark since this area was closely connected to Denmark.  I feel sorry for those trying to find their ancestors in this area between 1770-1800.  It took these 30 years or so for people to establish their fixed surnames.  Do I have relatives who originate in this area?

I often wonder about the note that I found on a U.S. Census that indicated the "Romaine" name and stated that they were Hesse Danish.  It seemed rather obscure to me at the time but now I wonder if this is related in some way to the above history of surnames in the Danish/Prussian/German area of Europe.  Were my Romaine's from this area?  I do not know but hope to find them someday.  My notes here may help me.

Naming Patterns for Ostfriesland

The very notherwestern corner of Germany borrowed naming patterns from their Dutch neighbors to the west.  They did not use a complex naming suffix as in Denmark.  Instead an "s" would be added to the end of a surname to make it possessive as in "Peters" meaning Peter's son or daughter.

In 1808, Napolean required the people of this area to take a surname by law.  His way of having people pick their surname was to pick their oldest living direct ancestor, at the time, and use that surname for all of the direct descendants.  That's logical to me.  I'm not sure how smoothly it played out at the time.

Naming Patterns in Westfalen

The Westfalen area of Germany borders Hannover, Rheinland.  The naming patterns in this location go back to medieval times.  A family surname was called a Hofname (farm-name).  Each farm had a surname associated with it.  The farm name would determine what the family's surname was rather than the family surname determining what the farm name would be.  This did mean that some men changed their surnames to their wife's when they were married.

During the intial changing of a name to the new surname, a phrase such as genannt, vulgo, modo, sive, or alias would be listed between them meaning that he had one surname but was called by another.  Hofname's are still continue even today this region so that the farm name continues.  To me, that is pretty interesting and could actually make it easier in some cases for people to trace their family surname to this area of Germany.

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