Sunday, January 20, 2013

When the Name's the Same

Elizabeth Hauser and Mathias Meier are
my great-grandparents born in 1850 in Irsch.
He called her Lis; she called him Theiss


When I decided to write a novel about my Kreis Saarburg ancesters, I perceived a real problem almost immediately. My 2nd great-grandmother and her sister were both named Magdalena, and there was no good way to distinguish between them. The practice of naming the child after the godparent of the same sex resulted not only in two Magdalenas in the Rauls family but also two brothers named Mathias as well.

How was I going to distinguish which child in the Rauls family I was writing about? I considered Magdalena the older and Magdalena the younger. Or Mathias, (1818) and Mathias (1822). Those options did interfere a gread deal with the smooth flow of the story. For example: "Magdalena the older took the butter dish from the cupboard and handed it to Magdalena the younger." Or "Mathias (1822) bent to retrieve the dish while Mathias (1818) used his fingers to mop up all of the butter that had fallen from the plate." It was indeed a conundrum to be solved.

Many genealogist friends suggested I use the middle name, since that was commonly done in their ancestors' parts of Germany. However, in Kreis Saarburg, for whatever reason, there is rarely any church record showing that the newly baptized inhabitant of the village had a middle name. Perhaps that would have been frowned upon - a bit like stepping out of their class and imitating their betters. Was this some part of the sumptuary laws for the region of Kreis Saarburg?

I decided that using derivative names for my characters was the way to proceed, and I asked Ewald Meyer to give me those derivatives in the old Mosel Frankisch dialect, which he did. Also, he included information about the feast day of the Saint to whom each baptismal name pertained. He reminded me that in earlier centuries, children celebrated their Saint's name day, not their birthday.

Here are the derivative names and feast days for the majority of my Kreis Saarburg ancestors:

Matthias: (The Apostle who took the place of Judas. The grave of the Apostle Mathias is believed to be in Trier.)
The feast day of St Matthias/Matthew is the 21st of September.
The dialect names derived from Matthias are Mattheis, Theiss, Thias, Maeddi, Mattes, Mathes, Maddy, Matz, Maetz



Johann/John: (I have a problem here, since we have both St. John the Apostle and St. John the Baptist to consider)
The feast day of St Johann/John the Apostle is the 27th of Dezember, the feast day of St. John the Baptist is the 24th of June.
The dialect names derived from Johann are : Hanni, Häns, Hansi

Nikolaus/Nicholas:
The feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra is the 6th of December. The dialect names of St. Nikolaus: Kläs, Kloas, Nikla, Nekla,

Peter/Simon Peter
The feast day of St. Peter is the 29th of June (Peter and Paul)
The dialect names derived from Peter are Pitter, Pitt

Michael
The feast day of the Archangel Michael is the 29th of September
The dialect names derived from Michael are Michel, Mechel

Heinrich/Henry
The feast day of St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor, is the 13th of July
The dialect names derived from Heinrich are Heinz, Reckes

Gerhard
The feast day of the Holy Gerhard of Cologne is the 23rd of April.
The dialect name derived from Gerhard is Gerd

Phillipp
The feast day of the Apostle Phillipp is the 11th of May
The dialect name derived from Phillipp is Fips

Magdalena/Magdalene:
The feast day of Mary Magdalene who stood under Christ's cross is the 22nd of July.
The dialect names derived from Magdalena(also in high German) are Magda, Lena, Leni, Lenchen

Anna:
The feast day of Saint Ann, the mother of Mary is the 26th of July
The dialect names derived from Anna are Ann, Annchen, Änni

Elizabeth:
The feast day of St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist, is the 5th of November.
The dialect names derived from Elizabeth are Lisbeth, Lissi, Lis, Ella, Elli

Margaretha;
The feast day of St. Margarete of Antioch is the 20th of July.
The dialect names derived from Margaretha are Margret, Gret, Gre’it, Gretel, Gredel,

Maria: (A name so beloved that from the 18th century on, the name of Mary was often given as the second name of male children, such as Carl Maria von Weber)
The feast day of the Holy Name of Mary is the 12th of September
The dialect names derived from Maria are Márie, Mari`, Ria, Merri

Susanne:
The feast day of St. Susanne, martyr, is the 11th of August
The dialect names derived from Susanna are Suss, Sanni, Sannchen

Agnes:
The feast day of St. Agnes, martyr, is the 21nd of January
The dialect name derived from Agnes is Angnes

Helena:
The feast day of St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, is the 18th of August
The dialect names derived from Helena are Lena, Leni, Lenchen, Len, Hella, Helene


I chose to send only the above names to Herr Meyer since they are the most prominent in our family tree. There are many more names and their derivatives in the Mosel Frankisch dialect as well as in other dialects. Possibly you will never need to know them because you don't have two or more living children with the same name in the same family. But there are other reasons for being aware of derivatives. A knowledge of derivative names might help one realize that Grandmother Lena was not Magdalena, but rather Helena; or that an ardent list transcriber made an assumption that the record keeper had put the names in the wrong column. Take the very unusual derivative name for Heinrich, which is Rekes. The transcriber helpfully switched the order because the surname happens to be identical to a given name. Pity the genealogist who is searching for Heinrich Adam on a passenger list but is unable to find him because he is transcribed as Adam Rekes. Talk about a brick wall!


Postscript: even though I had not asked for a derivative summary of my name, Herr Meyer included a great many short and pet forms for Katarina: Kaija, Kaja, Kari, Karin, Karina, Karen, Kareen, Katalin, Kate, Käte, Käthe, Kathy, Karna.  The feast day of St. Katharine of Alexandria is the 25 of November.


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