Saturday, June 4, 2022

Surnames from German

Czech lands are a place where many different language elements meet - there si Czech language, but there were parts where German was the most common language till the half of the 20th century. How did this happen?

As you most probably know, one third of the Czech lands inhabitants were Germans till the second half of 1940s. This was caused by the large medieval colonisation when owners of Czech estates invited people from quite overcrowded Bavaria and other German speaking regions to come and settle in almost uninhabited regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. As these people were living in quite secluded areas (such as mountain valleys) they kept their language and spoke German.

This of course means they had German surnames. You can indetify these surnames quite easily if you speak both Czech and German. It's a bit more complicated for those who speak English only, but what could help is the fact German is related to English.

When we take a loook on the list of the most common Czech surnames and search for those which originate in German, we would be surprised the one which is the most common sounds Czech - it's Šmíd (or Šmídová in female form). This surname comes from the word der Schmied, which means a blacksmith in German (see similarity between German Schmied and English Smith).

Second most common surname with German origins is Müller (or Müllerová) - der Müller means a miller (mlynář in Czech). Again, there is a similarity between English and German word.

Third one is Kraus - a word kraus is an adjective which means curly (kudrnatý). It is similar to Czech surname Kudrna and it's a reference to the hair of the first man named this way.

Fišer is the fourth in the list of the most common surnames originating in German. Der Fischer means - what a surprise - a fisher. Last one I'm going to mention here is the fifth one - it's Richter, where der Richter was a village reeve. 

As you can see, 4 out of 5 surnames refer to the occupation of the first holder. There are other surnames which do the same, such as Vágner (German der Wagner, a wheeler), Šnajdr (comes from der Schneider, a tailor), Šustr (from German der Schuster, shoemaker), Weber (a weaver) or Šulc (refering to der Schulze, also a village reeve).

If you are not sure which surname has German origins, you could always ask here in comments. 

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11 comments:

  1. Hello I was wondering if the surname Grešl was German or Czech it isn’t very common and I can’t find a lot of information about it Thank You

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    1. It comes from a small coin "grešle" = a mite, which was 1/4 of "groš" (groschen in German).

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  2. Jewish names are also usually German. My known Bohemian ancestors’ names are Neumann, Freit/Freud, Basch, Klauber/Klaber, Reich, Sandl, Rosenfeld, and Herzig. Among relatives there are many more. About the only check sounding names I can recall seeing in the records are the names of midwives.

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  3. I remember my Grandmother's brother teasing my Grandfather that he must have been German because of his name (Flemr). I have found the family in Skorice and the name is spelled both Flemr or Flemmer. Story goes that during WWI, his father changed the spelling to Flemr as it was "more Czech". I have traced the family back several generations in Skorice which seems a bit "inland" from where you maps show the German concentrations. Any thoughts?

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  4. Thank you for your informative posts. Can you help me determine the origin of the surname Subart? I have traced my line of the Šubart family to Dolí Dobrouč, Bohemia, as far back as the 1700s, but they may have originally come from Germany or Austria. Any thoughts?

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    1. It could be a variant of a German surname Schubert, which means shoemaker.

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  5. My research shows my father's line, surname HAHN, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1870's from the town of Stříbro (formerly Mies), in the Tachov District in the Plzeň Region of the Czech Republic. I assume the name HAHN is German and I believe the first 2 or 3 generations of my line in the U.S. spoke German at home. Although the family could have been in the Pilzen egion for hundreds of years, is there any way to determine where in Germany that surname is from? Or when that area was populated by German speakers. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Yes, the surname Hahn is German - der Hahn means a rooster. It's almost impossible to determine the area where the people came from if there are no records about it (there sometimes are, but I'm not sure if Stříbro is the case). Stříbro area was inhabited by people coming both from German speaking areas as well as Czech speaking areas in 13th century.

      There is a chronicle available online (in German) where there is much about Stříbro history, but I haven't seen there any location where the new people came from: https://www.portafontium.eu/iipimage/30960341

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    2. Thanks! I appreciate the information and will see what I can gather from the link you posted.

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  6. Milá Blanka! Blog, který píšete, je velmi užitečný! Báječné! Už 20 let zkoumám svůj rodokmen, jmenujeme se Blaschka (jiná verze Blaschke, Blasko) a žili v okrese Svitavy: Horní Hynčina (německy Ober Heinzendorf), Bělá nad Svitavou (německy Deutsch Biela). Nachází se asi 65 km severně od Brna. Navštívil jsem tam se svou rodinou před pár lety, což byl skvělý zážitek! Tady v Maďarsku jsem věděl, že jsme jediná rodina jménem Blaschka, ale teď vím, že tu byla ještě jedna. Může Blaschka pocházet ze jména Blasius? A příjmení Ducháček, Tureček?

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    1. Ano, Blaschka je ze jména Blasius. Ducháček je zdrobnělina ze slova duch, Tureček je zdrobnělina ze slova Turek.

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