naming customs and traditions

UNDERSTANDING SOME OF THE 
NAMING CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS

OF OUR EARLY PA GERMAN ANCESTORS

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Over the years I have read many various articles and sections of books pertaining to the German naming customs and traditions of our early Pennsylvania German ancestors.  

Below is a summary of the information I have read and the notes I have written to myself on these topics.  Perhaps this will help someone understand these particular customs and traditions of our ancestors.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any information about these topics that you feel would be helpful to other researchers.


BAPTISMAL NAMES, CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS

At a baptism, sometimes a child would receive two given names, ie. Johan Philip Wentz or Anna Barbara Wentz.  That first name was known as the spiritual name.  This spiritual name could be used repeatedly for all the children of that family (of the same sex), ie. Johan Adam Wentz, Johan George Wentz, Johan Peter Wentz or Anna Margaret Wentz, Anna Dorothea Wentz or Maria Elizabeth Wentz, Maria Barbara Wentz.  

After baptism, using the above sample names, these people would be known as: Adam Wentz, George Wentz, Peter Wentz or Margaret Wentz, Dorothea Wentz, Elizabeth Wentz and Barbara Wentz.  

The 2nd part of their baptismal name became their call name or their "everyday" name.  

Many of the German families most often used the name "Johann or Johan" as a male child's first aka spiritual name.  

When one finds the name "Johannes" used in a baptismal record, with no 2nd given name, then the child was known as "John".  The name "John" was his "everyday" name.  

Many times you will find that the "2nd given name" of the child, was also the name of one of the baptismal sponsors.  Baptismal sponsors were usually relatives, but could be trusted friends and/or neighbors of the child's parents.  

Also, it was not uncommon to find a name "re-used", this occurred when a child died in infancy and the next child of that gender often received the name.  


FAMILY NAMING PATTERNS & CUSTOMS

It's not unusual to find, while researching our early Pennsylvania German ancestors, that the parents name the first born son after the child's paternal grandfather and the second born son after the maternal grandfather.  

1st Naming Pattern:

The 1st son is named after the child's paternal grandfather.
The 2nd son is named after the child's maternal grandfather.
The 3rd son is named after the child's father.
The 4th son is named after the child's paternal great-grandfather.
The 5th son is named after the child's maternal great-grandfather.
The 6th son is named after the father's mother's father.
The 7th son is named after the mother's mother's father.

The 1st daughter is named after the child's maternal grandmother.
The 2nd daughter is named after the child's paternal grandmother.
The 3rd daughter is named after the child's mother.
The 4th daughter is named after the child's paternal grandfather's mother.
The 5th daughter is named after the child's maternal grandfather's mother.
The 6th daughter is named after the child's paternal grandmother's mother.
The 7th daughter is named after the child's maternal grandmother's mother.


2nd Naming Pattern:

The 1st son is named after the child's paternal grandfather.
The 2nd son is named after the child's maternal grandfather. 
The 3rd son is named after the child's oldest paternal uncle.
The 4th son is named after the child's father.

The 1st daughter is named after the child's paternal grandmother.
The 2nd daughter is named after the child's maternal grandmother.
The 3rd daughter is named after the child's oldest maternal aunt.
The 4th daughter is named after the child's mother. 

 

 

 

 




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