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A Knowledge of Family Names is not only of passing interest but may be of great value to students and researchers. Names, as we know, undertake to make many changes, even in the same family, even today.

"Pennsylvania German family names may be divided into three 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," says Kuhns, 2 and "in this last class may likewise be properly included nicknames, or those due to personal peculiarities, physical or mental."

The smaller type following is an excerpt from Kuhns’ book:

These personal names exist today in Pennsylvania, some of them but little changed; such are Albrecht: of distinguished race (P.G. [Pennsylvania Germans] 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: stong 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); Lühr: 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 Ottman), Traut (from Trautmann), Bär, Barr (from Berhard). To these stems diminutive suffixes were added; thus from "i" we have the forms Bürki (from Burkhard), Ebi (from Ebarhard), Egli (from Agilbrecht), Hägi (from Haginbert), Lichti (from Ludger: P.G. Light), Stäheli (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), Kündig (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 Hieruzleip: P.G. Hartzell), Hubeli (from Hugubert), Markel and Märgli (from Markwald), Meili (from Maganhard), Nägeli (from Nagalrich), Rubli (from Hrodebert: Robert), Schnäbeli (from root Sneo--snow: P.G. Snavely); from "z" plus "l" we get Künzel (from Kunrat), Reitzel (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, Heintzelman, Hirtzler, 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), Jäggi and Jäckli (Jacobus: P.G. Yeagy and Yackley), Jörg, Jorges (George: P.G. Yerrick and Yerkes), Brosius (Ambrosius), Bastian (Sebastisn), Flory (Florus), Johst (Justus: P.G. Yost).

The second class of Pennsylvania-German 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), Glöckner (bell-ringer: P.G. Klackner, Kleckner), Heilman (doctor), Huber (one who owns a "hube"--a small farm), Jäger (hunter), Kärcher (carter), Kohler, Koehler (coal-burner): P.G, Kaler, Cayler), Kaufman (merchant), Küfer and Küfner (cooper), Küster (sexton), Maurer (mason), Metzger (butcher), Lehmann (one under feudal tenure), Leineweber (linen-weaver), Müller, Probst (provost), Reifschneider, Riemenschneider (harness-maker), Sauter, Suter (shoemaker), Schaffner (steward), Schenck (cup-bearer), Scherer (barber), Schlegel (one who hammers), Schmidt (smith), Schneider (tailor), Schreiber (writer), Schreiner (joiner), Schütz (shooter, or archer: P.G. Sheets), Schultz (mayor), Siegrist (sexton), Spengler (tin-smith), Steinmetz (stone-cutter), Tschudi (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).

The first subdivision of names in the third class comprises those which denote the place where one lives or whence one comes; such are Algäuer (from the Allgau in Switzerland), Altendörfer (from village in St. Gall, Switz.), Amweg (beside the road), Amend (at end of village), Bach, Bacher, Bachman (who live near a brook), Berner (from Berne, Switz.), Basler (from Basel), Berger (lives on mountain), Beyer (a Bavarian), Biemensdörfer, Blickensdorfer (from village in Canton Zürich), Boehm (a Bohemian), Brechbühl (unploughed hill: P.G. Brightbill and Brackbill), Breitenbach (village in Solothurn, Switz.), Brubacher (village in Zürich), Büttigkoffer (from village Büttikofen, Berne), Detweiler (village in Canton Zurich), Diefenbach (Tiefenbach, in Canton Uri, Switz.), Dieffendörfer (from Tiefendorf), Flückiger (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 Zürich, St. Gall, and Berne), Eschelman (from Aeschi, village in Canton Berne), Imgrund (in hollow land), Imboden (in bottom-lands), Imhof (in farm-yard), Köllicker (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, Zürich), Schwab (a Swabian: P.G. Swope), Urner (from Canton Uri), Zug (Canton Zug), Zürcher (from Zürich). 3

During the Middle Ages the houses were not numbered as now, but had signs painted on them, something after the manner of hotels at the present time. From these many names were derived: Bär (bear), Baum (tree), Bieber (beaver), Bischof (bishop), Engel (angel), Fasnacht (Shrove Tuesday), Faust (fist), Fuchs (fox), Fünfrock (five-coats), Haas (hare), Hahn (rooster), Helm (helmet), Hertzog (duke: P.G. Hartsook), Holtzapfel (wild-apple), Kalb (calf: P.G. Kulp, Culp), Kaiser (emperor), König (king), Krebs (crab), Münch (monk), Oechsli (little ox: P.G. Exley), Pfaff (priest), Ritter (knight), Vogel (bird), Voegli (little bird: P.G. Feagley), Würfel (die, cube), Wolf.

Finally we have names given from personal peculiarities. Such are: Braun, Dürr (dry, thin), Fröhlich (cheerful: P.G. Frailey), Frei (free), Freytag (Friday), Gut (good), Hübschmann (handsome), Hoch (tall), Jüng (young), Kahl (bald), Klein (small), Kleindienst (small sevice), 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).

These German names almost all came from the Palatinate and Switzerland. Even today we can trace the Swiss origin of many--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 anglicised into Ferree. 4

The number of different of spelling even the simplest names is often surprisingly large: thus, for the original Graf we find today Graaf, Graff, Groff, Groft, Graft, and Grove. So Baer gives us Bear, Bare, Bair. Of course the vagaries of English orthography are largely responsible for this.

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.


2 Oscar Kuhns, in "The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania: A Study of the So-called Pennsylvania Dutch;" New York, 1901 and 1914; The Aurand Press.

3 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.--O.K.

4 Other Huguenot names in Pennsylvania are Fortuné (Fordney), Correll, Florey, De Frehn, Farney, Ruby, Saladé, Benetum, Bevier, Bertalot, Broë (Brua), Lefevre, Levan, Erny (this name may be Swiss), Gobain, Hubert.--O.K.

(See also Rev. A. Stapleton’s "Memorials of the Huguenots in America, With Special Reference to their Emigration to Pennsylvania," Huguenot Publishing Company, Carlisle. Pa., 1901.--A.)