Archiver > GERMAN-AMERICAN > 1999-03 > 0922369950

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Subject: Re: [GERMAN-AMERICAN-L] Naming Paterns
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 08:52:30 EST

Nancy, forwarding a file of interesr, Peter

German Surnames
From: (Avril Yoachim)

I noticed some queries on German surnames and in my travels of library
material I found a good source explaining how and why our German surnames may
have been changed. I have posted this to Penna-Dutch list, but thought it may
be helpful to some people on this list as well..... "Pennsylvania-German
Family Names" Appendix from The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial
Pennsylvania, a study of the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch by Oscar Kuhns,
A knowledge of family names is often of great value for the genealogist and
even for the historian. This is especially true when, owing to change in
environment, such names have under-gone great variations of form. For this
reason a brief outline of the subject is given here, so far as it concerns the
group of people discussed in this book. Pennsylvania-German family names, like
all other German names, may be divided into three distinct classes: first,
those derived from personal names; second, those derived from occupation; and
third, those derived from the place where the individual lived (including
house-signs) or whence he came. In this last class may likewise be properly
included nicknames, or those due to personal peculiarities, physical or

are by far the oldest, often running back to the early centuries of the
Christian era, and in every case are of noble and dignified meaning, in which
the old German love for war, belief in the northern mythology, and ideals of
life, are clearly seen.
1. These personal names exist today in Pennsylvania, some of them but little
changed; such are Albrecht = of distinguished race (P.G. Albright); Arnwald =
one who rules as the eagle; Bernhard = strong as a bear; Conrad = bold in
council; Dietrich = ruler of people; Eberhart = strong as a boar; Eckert =
strong sword; Garman = spearman; Gebhard = generous giver (P.G. Kephart);
Gerhard = strong spear; Gottschalk = servant of God; Hartman = strong man;
Heidrich = of noble rank; Hildebrandt - battle-sword; Hubert = bright of
intellect; Irmintraut = friend of the Walkyrie Thrudr (P.G. Ermentrout);
Luhr = war-people; Reinhard = strong in counsel; Reinhold = ruler of council;
Trautman = follower of the Walkyrie Thrudr.
In most cases, however, these double-stem names were shortened by dropping
the second stem, whence such names as Kuhn (from Kunrat), Hein (from
Heinrich), Ott (from Ottmann), Traut (from Trautmann), Bar, Barr (from
Berhard). To these stems diminutive suffixes were added; thus from i we have
the forms Burki (from Burkhard), Ebi (from Ebarhard), Egli (from Agilbrecht),
Hagi (from Haginbert), Lichti (from Ludger: P.G. Light), Staheli (from
Stahal), Welti (from Walther), Geissle (from Gisalhart): P.G. Yeissley); from
izo we get Boss and Butz (from Bodomar), Dietz (from Dietrich), Fritz and
Fritschi (from Friedrich: cf. Barbara Frietchie), Heintz (from Heinrich),
Kuntz (from Kunrat: P.G. Koons and Kuhns), Landis, Lentz, and Lantz (from
Landfrid), Lutz (from Ludwig), Seitz (from Siegfrid: P.G. Sides), Tietz (from
Dietrich), Waltz (from Walther), from iko we get Frick (from Friedrich),
Illig and the genitive Hilleges (from Hildebrand), Kundig (from Gundobert),
Leidig (from Luithart); from ilo we get Ebli and Eberli (from Ebarhard),
Bechtel (from Berchtold), Bickel (from Botger), Diehl (from Dietrich), Hirzel
(from Hiruzleip: P.G. Hartzell), Hubeli (from Hugubert), Markel and Markli
(from Markwald, Meili (from Maganhard), Nageli (from Nagalrich, Rubli (from
Hrodebert = Robert), Schnabeli (from root Sneo = snow: P.G. Snavely); from
“z” plus “l” we Kunzel (from Kunrat), Reitel (from Ricohard = Richard), and
Tietzel (from Dietrich).
From all the above forms patronymics in “mann”, “inger”, and “ler” are
formed: Bausman, Beidleman, Denlinger, Dietzinger, Gehringer, Grissinger,
Heinzelman, Hirzler, Hollinger.
In addition to the purely German personal names we have also many names taken
from Biblical characters and from the lives of saints: Bartel (from
Bartholomaeus), Klause (Nicholas), Martin, Theiss, and Theissen (Matthias),
Peters, Hensel (Johannes), Jaggi and Jackli (Jacobus: P.G. Yeagy and
Yackley), Jorg, Jorges (George : P.G. Yerrick and Yerkes), Brosius
(Ambrosius), Bastian (Sebastian), Flory (Florus), Johst (Justus : P.G.

family names are derived from the occupation of the individual; among the best
known are becker (baker), Baumgartner (orchard-grower), Brenneisen
(blacksmith), Brunner (well-digger), Dreher, Trachsel, Trechsler (turner),
Fischer, Gerber (tanner, currier: P.G. Garver), Glockner (bell-ringer: P.G.
Klackner), Heilman (doctor), Huber (one who owns a hube = small farm), Jager
(hunter), Karcher (carter), Kohler, Koehler (coal-burner: P.G. Kaler, Cayler),
Kaufman (merchant), Kufer, Kufner (cooper), Kuster (sexton), Maurer (mason),
Metzger (butcher), Lehmann (one under feudal tenure), Leineweber (linen-
weaver), Mueller, Probst (provost), Reifschneider, Riemenscheider (harness-
maker), Sauter, Suter (shoemaker), Schaffner (steward), Schenck (cup-bearer),
Scherer (barber), Schlegel (one who hammers), Schmidt (smith), Schneider
(tailor), Schreiber (writer), Schreiner (joiner), Schutz (shooter,
archer : P.G. Sheets), Schultz (mayor), Siegrist (sexton), Spengler (tin-
smith), Steinmetz (stone-cutter), Txchudi (judge : Swiss), Vogt (bailiff),
Wagner (wagoner), Wannemaker (basket-maker), Weber (weaver), Wirtz
(landlord), Widmeyer Widmer (one who has land from
church or monastery), Ziegler (brick-maker), Zimmerman (carpenter).
1. For the meaning of German names see Heintze, Die Deutschen Familiennamen;
Tobler-Meyer, Deutsche Familiennamen (Swiss); Steub, Oberdeutsche
Familiennamen. In the above list of names, P.G. = Pennsylvania German.

comprises those which denote the place where one lives or whence one comes;
such are Algauer (from the Allgau in Switzerland), Amweg (beside the road),
Amend (at end of village), Bach, Bacher, Bachman (who live near a book),
Berner (from Berne, Switz.), Basler (from Basel), Berger (lives on mountain),
Beyer (a Bavarian), Biemensdorfer, Blickensdorfer (from
village in Canton Zurich), Boehm (a Bohemian), Brechbuhl (unploughed hill:
P.G. Brightbill, Brackbill), Breitenbach (village in Solothurn, Switz.),
Brubacher (village in Zurich), Buttigkoffer (from village Buttikofen, Berne),
Detweiler (village in Canton Zurich), Diefenbach (Tiefenbach, in Canton Uri,
Switz.), Diffendorfer (from Tiefendorf), Fluckiger (village in Canton Berne),
Fahrni (village in Berne), Frick (in Aargau, Switz.), Haldi, Haldeman (from
Halden, common name for village in Switzerland), Hofstetter (name of several
villages in Zurich, St. Gall, and Berne), Eschelman (from Aeschi, village in
Canton Berne), Imgrund (in hollow land), Imboden (in bottom-lands), Imhof (in
farm-yard), Kollicker (village in Aargau), Longenecker (village in
Berne), Mellinger (village in Aargau), Neuenschwander (village in Berne),
Oberholtzer (several villages in Berne), Ruegsegger (Berne: P.G. Ricksecker),
Schollenberger (castle and village, Zurich, Schwab (a Swabian : P.G.Swope),
Urner (from Canton Uri), Zug (Canton Zug), Zurcher (from Zurich).
2. During the Middle Ages the houses were not numbered as now, but had signed
painted on them, something after the manner of hotels at the present time.
>From theses many names were derived: Bar (bear), Baum (tree), Bieber (beaver),
Bischof (bishop), Engel (angel), Fasnacht (Shrove-Tuesday), Faust (fist),
Fuches (fox), Funfrock (five-coats), Haas (hare), Hahn (rooster), Helm
(helmet), Hertzog (duke: P.G. Hartsook), Holtzapfel (wild-apple), Kalb (calf:
P.G. Kulp, Culp), Kaiser (emporer), Konig (king), Krebs (crab), Munch (monk),
Oechsli (little ox : P.G. Exley), Pfaff (priest), Ritter (knight), Vogel
(bird), Voegli (little bird: P.G. Feagley), Wurfel (die, cube), Wolf. Finally
we have names given from personal peculiarities. Such are Braun, Durr (dry,
thin), Frohlich (cheerful : P.G. Frailey), Frei (free), Freytag (Friday), Gut
(good), Hubschmann (handsome), Hoch (tall), Jung (young), Kahl (bald), Klein
(small), Kleindienst (small service), Krause (curly), Krumbein (crooked legs),
Kurtz (short), Lang (long), Lebengut (good-liver: P.G. Livingood), Rau, Rauch
(rough), Reich (rich), Roth (red), Rothrock (red-coat), Rothaermel (red-
sleeve), Schwartz (black), Seltenreich (seldom rich), Weiss (white).
3. Such were some of the names brought by the Pennsylvania Germans from the
Palatinate and Switzerland to the New World. It was but natural that these
names should undergo certain changes in their new environments - changes which
took place from the very beginning.
An interesting illustration of the way in which many names received an
English form is seen in the Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, vol. xvii.,
which contains a list of the German and Swiss settlers in Pennsylvania during
the eighteenth century, the names of the vessels in
which they came, and the dates of their naturalization. Often there are two
lists given, one called the original list, which apparently was made by an
English-speaking person, who took down the names as they were given to him
orally, and who spelt them phonetically. These duplicate
lists throw a great deal of light on the pronunciation of the names by the
immigrants themselves. We find the same person's name spelled Kuntz and
Coones, Kuhle and Keeley, Huber and Huffer, Gaul and Kool, Vogelin and Fagley,
Krautz and Grauce, Froehlich and Frailick. Often there are some marvellous
examples of phonetic spelling. Thus, Albrecht Graff is written Albrake Grove,
Georg Heinrich Mertz is called Jurig Henrich March, and George Born is
metamorphosed into Yerrick Burry. Thus even before the immigrant landed the
impulse toward a change of name was given.
Sometimes the change was gradual, and we may trace many intermediate steps
between the original name and its present form. Thus, for Krehbiel we have
Krehbill, Grebill, Grabill, and finally Graybill. So Krumbein gives us
Krumbine, Grumbein, and Grumbine, and Kuehbortz gives Kieportz and Keeports.
Often members of the same family spelled their names differently. In Lancaster
there once lived two bothers, one name Carpenter, the other Zimmermann, and we
are told by Francis Lieber (The Stranger in America), that one family in
Pennsylvania had the three forms, - Klein, Small and Little.
In some cases the changes were slight, owing to the similarity between the
English and the German, as in Baker (Becker), Miller (Mueller), Brown (Braun),
Weaver (Weber), Beaver (Bieber), Pepper (Pfeffer); of course Schmidt became
almost at once Smith. In other cases the
differences are so great that it is difficult to discover the original German
form, and it is only by searching public documents and church records that the
truth is found. Who, for instance, could see any connection between
Seldomridge and Seltenreich, or between Rhoades and Roth? Yet nothing is
surer than that in many cases these names are one and the same. It is
undoubtedly true that most Pennsylvania Germans of modern times have no
conception of the changes that have taken place. The remark of a farmer who
spelled his name Minich (with the guttural pronounced), Oh, that Minnick is an
Irishman; he spells his name with a k, illustrates the ignorance of the people
in regard to their own names; for Minich and Minnick both come from the
original Muench.
In the present discussion we must bear in mind that we are speaking of the
names of those Germans who came to America before the Revolution, and who were
subject to an entirely different set of influences from the German of recent
times, who changes his name consciously and according to forces with which
they had little to do. The difference between the two is like that between the
mots savants and the mots populaires of French philology.
These German names almost all came from the Palatinate and Switzerland. Even
to-day we can trace the Swiss origin of many, as, for instance, Urner (from
Uri), Johns (Tschantz), Neagley (Naegeli), Bossler (Baseler). Some are of
French Huguenot origin, which by combined German and English influence have
often received a not very elegant or euphonious form: examples are Lemon (Le
Mon), Bushong (Beauchamp), and Shunk (Jean); the original Fierre was changed
to German Faehre, and later became anglicized into Ferree.
4. The number of different ways of spelling even the simplest names is often
surprisingly large: thus, for the original Graf we find to-day Graaf, Graff,
Groff, Groft, Graft, and Grove. So Baer gives us Bear, Bare, Bair.

1. Of course the vagaries of English orthography are largely responsible for
this. An interesting fact to note in this connection is the difference yet to
be seen between the some names in town and country. The farmers of
Pennsylvania are a conservative people, and even to-day, after nearly two
hundred years of settlement in America, the people still speak their dialect.
Naturally, the cities were most subject to English influence, and it is there
that we find the greatest changes in names. Take as an example of this the
name of Kuntz (with the later forms of Kuhns and Koons) in the town and
environs of Allentown. In the town proper there are recorded in the directory
twenty-two Koonses, twelve Kuntzes, and fourteen Kuhnses; while in the smaller
villages around Allentown we find sixty-two Kuhnses, a few Kuntzes, and no
2. Some of these names may come from homonymous places in the Palatinate;
almost all the Lancaster County family-names, however, which are derived from
places, are of Swiss origin.
3. The author has written and extended treatment of this subject, which is
soon to appear in the Americana Germanica.
4. Other Huguenot names in Pennsylvania are Fortune (Fordney), Correll,
Flory, De Frehn, Farny Ruby, Salade, Benetum, Bevier, Bertalot, Broe (Braua),
Lebevre, Levan, Erny (this name may be Swiss), Gobain, Hubert. (See Keiper,
Franzosische Familiennamen in der Pfalz and Gerschichtsblatter des deutschen


There were three ways in which the change of names took place: first, by
translation; second, by spelling German sounds according to English methods;
and third, by analogy. The former is the most natural in cases where English
equivalents exist for the German; hence for Zimmermann we have Carpenter; for
Steinbrenner, Stoneburner; for Schumacher, Shoemaker; for Seidensticker,
Silkknitter; for Lebengut, Livingood; for Fuchs, Fox; for Hoch, High; and so
forth. Often only half the name is translated, while the other half is changed
phonetically, as in
Slaymaker (for Schleiermacher), Wanamaker (for Wannemacher).
But the true field for the philologist is found in the second class, that of
English spelling of German sounds.
The "a" in Pennsylvania German was pronounced broadly, like English "aw", and
this sound is represented in such names as Groff and Grove (from Graff), Swope
(Schwab), Ault (Alt), Aughey (Ache), and Rawn (Rahn). "E" was pronounced like
English "a", and this gives us the names Staley (Stehli), Gable (Gebel),
Amwake (Amweg). "I", pronounced "ee", gives Reed (Rith), Sheeleigh (Schillig),
also written Shelley. "U" in German has two sounds, one long and one short.
The long sound is represented by "oo" in the names Hoon (Huhn), Fooks (Fuchs),
Booker (Bucher), Hoover (Huber). The short sound, being unfamiliar to English
ears, was lengthened, as Kootz (Kutz) Zook (Zug). Sometimes an "h" was added
to indicate the lengthening of the vowel, as in Johns (Tschantz), Kuhns
(Kuntz). "O" is usually retained, although sometimes spelled "oa", as in Hoak
(Hoch), Boats (Botz).
Of the diphthongs, "au" naturally is spelled "ow" or "ou", as in Bowman
(Bauman), Foust (Faust), Mowrer (Maurer).
More interesting and complicated than the above is the change in the
diphthong "ei". The regular German pronunciation of this is represented by
English "i" or "y" : hence such names as Hines (Heinz), Smyser (Schmeiser),
Whitesel (Weitzel), Snyder (Schneider), Tice (Theiss), Rice
(Reis), Knipe (Kneipe). In the names Heilman, Weiser, and Beiler the German
spelling and sound are both retained. The Pennsylvania Germans, however,
pronounced "ei" as English "a", and thus we find the names Sailor (Seiler),
Graty (Kreidig), Hailman (Heilman), Espenshade
The mixed vowels were simplified, "o" (my note: I don't have the key so it's
the "o" with the umlaut) becoming "e" in Derr (Doerr), Sener (Soehner), Kelker
(Koellicker), Mellick (Moehlich), "ea" in Early (Oehrle), Beam (Boehm), and
"a" in Hake (Hoeck). "Ue" is long and short in German. The former fives "ee",
as in Keeney (Kuehne), Keeley (Kuehle); the latter usually gives "i", as in
Bitner (Buettner), Kindig (Kuendig), Bixler (BBuechsler), Hiss (Huess), Miller
(Mueller). In Sheets (Schuetz), however, short "ue" is lengthened to "ee".
In the following names the umlaut is ignored: Stover (Stoever), Shroder
(Schroeder), Shober (Schoeber).
Of course the changes undergone by consonants are not so great as in the case
of vowels, yet we have some interesting phenomena. "J" is naturally changed to
"y:" hence Young (Jung), Yost (Johst). "Z" becomes "s" in many names, as Curts
(Kurtz), Butts (Butz). "K" and "c",
and often "g", are interchangeable, as in Coffman (Kauffman), Cline (Kline),
Capehart (Kephart = Gebhard), Grider (Kreider), Givler (Kubler). At the end of
a word, "ig" usually becomes "y", as in Leiby (Leibig), Leidy (Leidig). "T" is
changed to "d" in Sides (Seitz), Road (Roth), Widmayer (Witmeyer).
"H" is omitted in Sener (Soehner), Cole (Kohl), Fraley (Froehlich), Leman
(Lehman). "Pf" becomes simplified to "f" in Foutz (Phautz), or to "p" in Kopp
(Kopf). "B" was often pronounced by the Pennsylvania Germans like "v", and
this gives rise to a large number of new names, among them being the following
: Everly (Eberle), Hoover (Huber), Garver (Gerber), --also written
Carver--Whitescarver (Weissgerber), Lively (Leibly), Snavely (Schnaebele),
Beaver (Bieber).
The change of "ch" into "gh" has also brought in a large number of names, as
in Light (Licht), Albright (Albrecht), Hambright (Hambrecht), Slaughter
(Schlachter), and the numerous class of names in baugh (bach), as Baugher
(Bacher), Harbaugh (Herbach), Brightenbaugh (Breitenbach), Rodenbough
(Rothenbach). "Ch" usually becomes "k" in the suffix "maker"; probably this is
largely due to translation. Of course "sch" is simplified to "sh" or "s" in
the names Slagle (Schlegel), Slatter (Schlatter), Shriner (Schreiner).
One of the most interesting of all these changes is that of "er" to "ar",
thus illustrating a phenomenon common to all languages. As the Latin
"mercantem" becomes French "marchand", as the English Derby is pronounced
Darby, Clerk Clark, and so forth, so the German Gerber
becomes Garver, Herbach becomes Harbaugh, Berger becomes Barger, Werfel
becomes Warfel, Merkley becomes Markley, Hertzell becomes Hartzell, and Herzog
becomes Hartsook. Similar to this is the change of Spengler to Spangler.
Interesting also is the tendency to introduce an extra syllable between
certain consonants, as Minich for Muench, Sherrick for Sherk, Widener for
Waidner, Keneagy for Gnege, Yerrick for Jorg.
As in all language-changes, so here analogy exerted more or less influence.
When the simple spelling of foreign sounds did not produce an English-looking
name, often a name which resembled the German in sound or appearance was
substituted, as, for example, Rush for Roesch. This is probably the
explanation of the inorganic "s" in Rhoades (for Roth), Richards (for
Reichert). Probably the spelling "baugh" for "bach" may be more or less
influenced by such names as Laughlin, Gough, or by American names of Dutch

The end

Please remember I have simply taken the above article from the appendix of the
book The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania - a study of
the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch, by Oscar Kuhns, 1971.....LC #F160 G3K9

At baptism, if two given names were given to the child, the first given
name was a spiritual, saint's name, originally developed from Roman Catholic
tradition and continued by the Protestants in their baptismal naming
customs. The second given name was the secular or call name, which is the
name the person was known by, both within the family and to this rest of the
world. The spiritual name, usually to honor a favorite saint, was usually
repeatedly given to all the children of that family of the same sex. Thus
the boys would be Johan Adam Kerchner, Johan George Kerchner, etc., or
Philip Peter Kerchner, Philip Jacob Kerchner, etc. Girls would be named Anna
Barbara Kerchner, Anna Margaret Kerchner, etc., or Maria Elizabeth Kerchner,
Maria Catherine Kerchner, etc. But after baptism, these people would not be
known as John, Philip, Anna, or Maria, respectively. They would instead be
known by what we would think of now as their middle name, which was their
secular name. Thus these people would be known respectively as Adam, George,
Peter, Jacob, Barbara, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Catherine in legal and
secular records. For males, the saint's name Johan or John was particularly
heavily used by many German families. The child's secular name was really
John, if and only if, at baptism he was named only John, usually Johannes,
with no second given name. Many researchers, new to German names, who find a
baptism of an individual with a name such as Johan Adam Kerchner, thus
mistakenly spend a lot of time looking for a John Kerchner, in legal and
census records, when he was known after baptism, to the secular world, as
Adam Kerchner. Also when reading county histories, etc., especially those
written by individuals in the 20th century, and the author is referring to
someone as John Kerchner, and you are not looking for a John Kerchner, but
the history sounds otherwise familiar, further research may turn up that
this person was really not a John Kerchner, but instead was someone else
such as a Johan George Kerchner. You would thus find all his 18th century
records recorded under the name George Kerchner and not John Kerchner and
therefore after checking the data and correlating the facts you may find
this is really a story about your missing George Kerchner.

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