This week’s writing theme for 52 Ancestors is “Fun Fact.” Not everything in family history has to be serious. This week, we can be creative and think of something fun you’ve found during your research. With that in mind, I decided to write about German surnames in my tree, where I previously researched the meaning of the name and recently discovered with beginning to learn German on the Duolingo app that I already knew many German words due to the oodles of German ancestors I have in my family tree.
I have a large amount of German ancestry on my maternal side. I have a more recent link to Germany on my paternal side. One of my paternal great-grandmothers, Alice Elizabeth Nutick Armstrong, her parents were immigrants from Klingenmünster, Germany and Rawitsch, Wielkopolskie, Poland (which at the time was part of the Kingdom of Prussia), her maternal line was 100% German, her paternal line was mostly German with at least one Polish line.
On my paternal side, other than this one great-grandmother, the only other German ancestry is way back in New York when it was still Dutch. I have German and French Huguenot ancestors that lived in Dutch New Amsterdam and intermarried with the Dutch. But on my maternal side I have a ton of German ancestors. Many coming in 1710, others by 1750, and a few came later in the 1700’s.
I am including twenty surnames, out of multitudes in my tree, that I had prior researched their meaning, and that the words or related words popped up in my German language studies. I am not including German surnames that their meaning is related to personal names or placenames in Germany or surnames from old middle or high German that no longer are used or any that don’t correspond directly to words I could learn in my language studies.
As you can see below, my primary language studies at Duolingo have been in Norwegian. I only recently began to do more German language learning. Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache! A very true German idiom that means – German is hard/German is a difficult language.
- Ackerman 👩🏼🌾 – acker means field in German. The name means a man who works the fields. Examples in German: en Acker bestellen – to till the soil. die Äcker bestellen – to plow the fields. My Ackerman ancestors were from Fußgonheim, Rhein-Pfalz-Kreis, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Prindle – Doman – Bingaman – Ackerman.
- Scherer 🐑- From the German verb scheren meaning to shear as in shearing sheep. Occupational name for a sheepshearer or someone who used scissors to trim the surface of finished cloth and remove excessive nap. Example in German: Ich kann meine Schafe jetzt nicht scheren. Es ist noch immer kalt. – I cannot shear my sheep now. It’s still cold. My Scherer ancestors were from Barbelroth, Südliche Weinstraße, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Paternal side. Armstrong – Nutick – Weiss – Fried – Propheter – Scherer.
- Ohl 🌼🌸🌾 – From the German word öl which means oil and is a German occupational name for an extractor of linseed oil. Examples in German: Ich möchte mit Öl kochen. – I want to cook with oil. Öl und Essig sind mein liebstes Salatdressing. – Oil and vinegar are my favorite salad dressing. My Ohl ancestors were from Klingenmünster, Südliche Weinstraße, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Paternal side. Armstrong – Nutick – Weiss – Fried – Ohl.
- Weinmann 🍇🍾🍷 – Wein means wine in German, literally translated the name is vine-man or wine-man. It is an occupational name for someone who produced and or sold wine. Example in German: Ich möchte Wein zu meinem Pasta-Abendessen. – I want wine with my pasta dinner. My Weinmann ancestors were from Klingenmünster, Südliche Weinstraße, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Paternal side. Armstrong – Nutick – Weiss – Fried – Propheter – Weinnmann.
- Weinrich/Wenrich 🍇🍾🍷 – which is from the word Weinreich which means Wine Kingdom. Wein means wine and reich means rich i.e., rich with wine. Examples in German: Die Prinzessin lebte in einem Weinreich. – The princess lived in a wine kingdom. Die Winzer waren reich mit wein und Glück. – The winemakers were rich with wine and luck. My Wenrich ancestors were from Edigheim, Ludwigshafen Am Rhein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Spatz – Wenrich.
- Weiss 🥚👰☁️ – which is from the German word weiß which means white. Example in German: Ich bevorzuge weiße Schokolade mit Erdbeeren. – I prefer white chocolate with strawberries. Der Schleier der Braut war weiß. – The bride’s veil was white. My Weiss ancestors were from Klingenmünster, Südliche Weinstraße, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Paternal side. Armstrong – Nutick – Weiss.
- Großhans (Grosshans) 👨 – from the German word groß which means large, combined with the personal name Hans i.e., a big man named Hans. Examples in German: Die Vase war groß. – The vase is large. Berlin ist eine große Stadt. – Berlin is a large city. My Grosshans ancestors were from Klingenmünster, Südliche Weinstraße, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Paternal side. Armstrong – Nutick – Weiss – Fried – Propheter – Grosshans.
- Keller 🍇🍾🍷 – In modern German the word keller means cellar or basement, but historically it designates a person who was a cellarer or winemaker. A cellarer was a person, usually in a monastery, responsible for providing food and drink. Examples in German: Der Kellermeister macht Wein. – The cellar master makes wine. Im Keller des Hauses herrschte Spuk. – The basement of the house was haunted. My Keller ancestors were from Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany but migrated to Enzweihingen, Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Losure/Lozier – Schwenck – Keller.
- Loew 🦁 – From the German word Löwe which means lion. Examples in German: Ein Löwe schlief unter dem Baum. – A lion was sleeping under the tree. Der Löwe, die Hexe und die Garderobe ist eines meiner Lieblingsbücher. – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of my favorite books. My Loew ancestors were from Diedenshausen, Siegen-Wittgenstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Losure/Lozier – Womelsdorf – Kemper – Loew.
- Kaes/Kase 🧀 – from the German word Käse which means cheese. Denoting a person who made and sold cheese. Examples in German: Ich liebe alle Arten von Käse! – I love all kinds of cheese! Köstlichen deutschen Butterkäse finden Sie i Wisconsin. – Delicious German butter cheese can be found in Wisconsin. My Kaes ancestors were from Westfalen, Anhausen, Neuwied, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Price – Mateer – Chambers – Linaberry – Kuhl – Kaes.
- Jung 👧🧒 – from the German word jung which means young. Example in German: Der Junge war sehr jung. – The boy was very young. My Jung ancestors were from Anhausen, Neuwied, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Price – Mateer – Chambers – Linaberry – Kuhl – Kaes – Jung.
- Kuhl 🧊🆒❄️ – from the German word kühl which means cool. Examples in German: the verb kühlen which means to cool, chill, refrigerate, be cooling. kühl und sachlich – cool and factual, no-nonsense. kühl halten. – keep cool. kühl werden. – to become (to get) cool. kühl ab. – cool off. abends wurde es kühl. – in the evenings it got cool. My Kuhl ancestors were from Zurbach, Maxsain, Westerwaldkreis, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Price – Mateer – Chambers – Linaberry – Kuhl.
- Silber 🤍🍶💍👩🦳 – means silver in German. It was an occupational name for a silversmith. It can also be a descendant of Silber, a pet form of Sigilbert (victory); one who came from Silber (silver), the name of various places in Germany; one with gray or silvery hair. Example in German: Ein Silberschmied stellte Becher, Schmuck, Silberwaren und andere Gegenstände aus Silber her. – A silversmith made cups, jewelry, silverware, and other items out of silver. My Silber ancestors were from Dettingen, Alb-Donau-Kreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Williams – Swartzlader – Silber.
- Sonntag ⛪📅 – means Sunday is German. It was a nickname for someone who had some particular connection with Sunday. It may have arisen from a personal name for a child born on Sunday, for this was considered a lucky day. Example in German: Sonntag ist ein Ruhetag. – Sunday is a day of rest. My Sonntag ancestors were from Nordhofen, Westerwaldkreis, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Price – Mateer – Chambers – Linaberry – Kuhl – Staats – Sonntag.
- Spatz 𓅪🐦 – means sparrow in German. Example in German: Der Spatz flog hoch in den Himmel. – The sparrow was flying high in the sky. My Spatz ancestors were from Söllingen, Pfinztal, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Spatz.
- Kirchenbauer ⛪✟🙏👼 – the word Kirchenbauer in German actually means church builders. Examples in German: Meine Vorfahren waren Kirchenbauer. – My ancestors were church builders. Die Namen der Erbauer der Kirche sind unbekannt. – The names of the builders of the church are unknown. But if you divide the name into two parts, Kirchen means church and bauer means farmer, peasant. Bauer has some additional meanings / usages, such as a pawn in a chess game. Additional examples in German: Der Bauer verkaufte Obst auf dem Bauernmarkt. – The farmer was selling fruit at the farmer’s market. Der Bauer revoltierte gegen die Macht des Königs und der Kirche. – The peasant was revolting against the power of the king and church. Der Bauer ist eine wichtige Schachfigur. – The pawn is an important chess piece. My Kirchenbauer ancestors were from Noettingen, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Spatz – Kirchenbauer.
- Hafer 🌾🥣 – means oats in German. It was an occupational name for a grower of or dealer in oats. Example in German: Ich möchte Hafer zum Frühstück. – I want oats for breakfast. Der Hafer war verkocht und trocken. – The oats were overcooked and dry. My Hafer ancestors were from Durlangen, Ostalbkreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Spatz – Hafer.
- Druckenmiller (Druckenmüller) 🌾🍞– was a name for a miller whose mill was situated in a dry place. Although the German word drücken means press and the German word drucken means print, this surname Druckenmiller comes from these two German words: trocken meaning dry and Müller meaning a miller. Examples in German: Der Mann war ein Trockenmüller. – The man was a dry miller. Der Hafer war verkocht und trocken. – The oats were overcooked and dry. My Druckenmiller ancestors were from Ediger, Cochem-Zell, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Spatz – Hafer – Druckenmiller.
- Kasebier (Käsebier) 🧀🍺 – in German Käse means cheese and Bier means beer, so literally cheese beer! An occupational name for a tavern keeper who served only cold food. Examples in German: Ich mache Käsebier. – I am making cheese beer. Ich esse Käse und Bier. – I am eating cheese and beer. My Kasebier ancestors were from Schwarzenau, Siegen-Wittgenstein, Arnsberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Losure/Lozier – Womelsdorf – Kasebier.
- Schwarzländer (Swartzlander) 🖤 – from the German words schwarz which means black and länder which means countries / land which means the same in English and German. It is a name for someone from an area of Bavaria known as Schwarzland ‘The Black Land’. My Swartzlander ancestors were from Steinhart, Donau-Ries, Bavaria, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Williams – Swartzlader.
Honorable mention, a few names that didn’t make it unto the above list of the twenty surnames:
Busch 🌳🦗🌲- – the German word Busch means a bush or shrub. A surname for someone who lived by a thicket or wood. Examples in German: brennender Busch – burning bush. Buschfeuer – bushfire. dorniger Busch – thorny bush. Maternal side.
Lindenmeyer 🟢👨🌾💚🥦- from the German word Linde which means lime tree. A surname for a tenant of a farm identified by a lime tree. Meyer, the second part of the surname, is not helpful to my language learning – Meyer is from the High German meier, a status name for a steward, bailiff, or overseer, which later came to be used to denote a tenant farmer. Example in German: Ich habe mehrere Linden ist mein Garten. – I have several lime trees in my yard. My Lindenmeyer ancestors were from Großgartach, Heilbronn, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. Maternal side. Cole – Kennedy – Palmer – Wolf (Nolff) – Lindenmeyer.
Since I love to learn languages, to me, this week’s writings are very much inclusive of what I consider fun facts! 😏
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