Hanover (Hannover) Personal Names

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Germany Personal Names[edit | edit source]

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Be sure to see Germany Personal Names for major information. The following article only adds some regional specifics to that article.

Permanent family names for East Friesians (Ostfriesland)
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In the early 1800s the population was supposed to obtain permanent family names through the influence of the French Code Civile. In 1811 all administrations had to establish lists, but when the French occupation ceased (1813), the idea of civil registration and permanent names was abolished. Marriages again were legal when performed by the Church. The newly established civil registration books largely disappeared and the old patronymic forms of family names were re-established. However, this did not sit well with the newly formed administrations. Since 1815, Ostfriesland belonged to the Kingdom of Hanover. The officials saw problems with the ever changing family names and ordered that the sons should abide by the name of their fathers. Again, lists were ordered to be established in which all people appeared with their full names by which they had been known thus far as well as those names which were chosen as a family name. These lists were supposed to be based on the 1811 lists ordered by the French occupancy. The Landdrostei Aurich (administrative district) could not accomplish this task, therefore, the Hanover government ordered the printing of new forms and by 1829 all family names had to be determined. New guidelines were:
• The new name was to be decided by the oldest living ascendant, several brothers of age, whose father was deceased, were allowed to choose their own family names.
• A person not of age was to be advised by a guardian, however, was this person 18 years of age, his wishes had to be considered.
• A widow maintained the name of her deceased husband, the unmarried daughter received the name of her deceased father.

It was furthermore concluded that new family names should always be written after the given name.
In the lists of 1829 appear many family names which do have their origins in the 1811 lists. Some names were exchanged and in some cases brothers did not take advantage of choosing their own family names but decided on the same name, i.e., Alberts as they were recorded in the church book as Albert Alberst, Gerd Alberts, Jan Alberts and Meint Albers.

In 1855 the lists were again revised but with only few changes.

The family historian doing research in Ostfriesland between 1770 and 1850 has often a difficult time with family names, since the spelling of names was not always the same and the parish priests also did not always follow guidelines. Unfortunately, the lists of 1811, 1829, and 1855 have not been preserved everywhere so that the genealogist could compare names but has to rely on assumptions when no other documents are available for comparison.

With the introduction of “Zivilstandsregister” (civil registration) in Germany, the family name was finally permanent, although there can still be entries reminding one of the old ways, especially where women are concerned. Instead of referring to women’s maiden names, one can read an entry as follows: Gebke Hinrichs Müseler, wife of Jibbe Redelphs Folkerts. Sometimes a death entry can read:
Widow Gebke Hinrich Müselers died. The name of the husband is missing and one has to guess, is “Müseler” the married name or the maiden name of the deceased. Sometimes one finds a name “Janssen aka Gerdes”. In such a case, one deals with an illegitimate child of the wife. This is the earlier form of naming.

One also has to remember the Westphalian custom of taking on a farm name, such as Möller, also known as Riepe. In this case, Mr. Möller is managing the Riepe farm. In areas aside from Ostfriesland, farm names are commonly used, as well. Hereditary names of farm owners may make searching in Hanover very difficult if you aren‘t aware that a name change has occurred.

Rudolf Folkerts. Familienforschung und Namesrecht in Ostfreesland-Kalender, Norden: Kalender 1983, page 206 ff.