Here are some key points to remember. The first important thing to remember is that most German children born in the 17th, 18th, and early to mid-19th century were given two names. This naming pattern originated with the Catholic faith and eventually spread to all faiths throughout most of Germany and Europe. The first given name was usually the name of a saint. This name is often referred to as a person’s“spiritual” name. It was not uncommon for all of the males in a family to be named after the same saint. It is estimated that in the 18th century nearly 1/3 of all male children in Europe had the first name of John. The second given name was often the name of a relative or close friend of the family and often the person’s sponsor at baptism. The second name is what the person was known as by both family and the
community. This second name is also the name usually found on marriage records and death records. Let me give you an example. My three great grandfather was baptized Johannes Henricus Horn. This was the name on his birth certificate. Johannes or John was his spiritual name and was probably in honor of St. John the Apostle. Henricus or Henry is what he was known as and is the name found on all of his children’s birth certificates, his marriage record, and his death record. Incidentally, one of his sponsors at his baptism was Johannes Henricus
Rolsch. Guess who my great great great grandfather was named after.
The second important point to remember in your research is that Germans and most other Europeans had a specific naming pattern when naming their children. The pattern usually went like this.
First son named after the father’s father
Second son named after the mother’s father
Third son named after the father
Fourth son named after the father’s father’s father
Fifth son named after the mother’s father’s father
Sixth son named after father’s mother’s father
Seventh son named after the mother’s mother’s father
First daughter named after the mother’s mother
Second daughter named after the father’s mother
Third daughter named after the mother
Fourth daughter named after the father’s father’s mother
Fifth daughter named after the mother’s father’s mother
Sixth daughter named after the father’s mother’s mother
Seventh daughter named after mother’s mother’s mother
This pattern can be altered slightly, but it has been uncanny as I have conducted my research how my ancestors used this naming pattern. Knowing this has opened many doors in my
The third important thing to remember in conducting your German and European research is that if a child died at infancy, the name was often reused when the next child of the same gender was born. I found this pattern consistently throughout my German and Irish research. For example, my paternal great great grandparents lost a child at infancy. Her name was Anna Katharina and she was born in 1872 and died that same year. Their next child was born in 1874 and she was baptized Anna Katharine.
Names can be confusing when conducting German research and I hope this information helps you as you discover your family!