HESSE-L ArchivesArchiver > HESSE > 2009-10 > 1254902995
From: Thierry Dietrich <>
Subject: Re: [HESSE] First name
Date: Wed, 7 Oct 2009 08:09:55 +0000 (GMT)
Questions have arosen about today's practice of first names.
Indeed the practice has changed since the end of the 19th century. Somewhen along with the emerging German Empire 1871 the kind of "Standard first Vorname" Johann or Johannes has more and more been replaced. Also in the 20th century more and more people have only one Vorname. But there still are many with several Vornamen but they only don't use them or refer to them. It is not common practice in Germany to use the U.S. standard "first name" + "Initial of middle name" + "family name". I sometimes do, as people confuse my family name and my first name (Thierry is french and not broadly known in Germany, whereas my family name Dietrich is a common first name in Germany. Thus many people think this is my first name).
The variety of used Vornamen has also increased. In former centuries it was sometimes difficult as many people had exactly the same Vornamen combination such as "Johann Peter" or "Johann Adam". This still today may be quite painful when researching for your ancestors as there is a tremendous potential for confusion and errors.
I had to change a complete branch of my family tree when I detected that my gran-gran-gran-mother actually was married twice with two distinct men with exactly the same first, middle and family name! The name was "Johann Peter Müller".
Going back to "Johann Adam" which was mentioned in this discussion. Actually I am almost 99% persuaded the actual Rufname (name used in daily practice) was Adam, NOT Johann. As I wrote in my earlier mail, Johann was just added as a kind of "standard" first Vorname refering to John the baptist. Such as Maria was often used for female as first Vorname..
In my emails I will continue to use the german words "Vorname" and "Rufname" as there is no clear translation for them. We just use and used names differently over here in good old Germany. Even in our passport you will see "Vorname" and "weitere Vornamen" (= "further Vornamen"). We don't use a term such as "middle name". But we do use the term Rufname in addition in case we want to make clear which of the many Vornamen, or which abbreviation or which other name not part of the Vornamen is used for calling a person (see my other email).
Hope these lines bring additional clarity from a native German.
Bye for now,