Sunday, 26 July 2015

So That's Why There Are 5 Johanns in One of my Families!

I've been catching up on my unread blogs on Feedly & came across an interesting article on German naming traditions.  The post was written by Diane Haddad for Ancestry Insider, Family Tree Magazine's blog.  This article explained why German families gave their children the same first names.

I know that some of my German ancestors named all of their sons Johann.  In one family there is a Johann Friedrich Erdmann, Johann Gottlob, Johann Carl Heinrich and Johann Carl Friedrich.  The feminine version, Johanne, was also very popular amongst my ancestors. In another family group there is Johanne Caroline, Johanne Salome & Johanne Auguste.  This is further confused by the fact that their brother is called Johann Christian, their mother Johanne Christiane & their father Johann Gottlieb!

Apparently German children were given two names.  Boys were commonly baptised as Johannes or Johann.  It is the second name, the Rufname, that they were known by.  So in my second family group example from above, the members of the family would be known as: Christiane (mum), Gottlieb (dad), Caroline, Salome & Auguste (sisters) & Christian (brother).  I wonder how that works with the other siblings though, as there are still some conflicts in this family group.  The other siblings are Caroline Christiane, Eleanore Ernestine, Marie Elisabeth, Ernest Gottlieb, Gottlieb Traugott, & Ernst Wilhelm - still results in more than one Christiane & Gottlieb.  I had just assumed that they were known by both names.  This naming tradition may help to explain why, generations later, family members where still known by their middle names, which I had thought was just a family 'quirk'.

Another tradition in German-speaking areas was to name children for one of their baptismal sponsors. The most common patterns used is similar to Scottish naming traditions.  Sons were named in the following order / pattern:

  • First born, named after paternal grandfather
  • Second born, named after maternal grandfather
  • Third born, named after father of the child
  • Fourth (& any further born), named after uncles of the child.
The same patterns applied to daughters - first born named after paternal grandmother, second born named after maternal grandmother, third born named after mother, fourth & successive named after aunts.  I will have to have a closer look at my ancestors to see if they followed this tradition, & then I might be able to have a guess at unknown parents & siblings!

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