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What's In A Name
Home Up Foreword What's In A Name Conditions in Germany Our German Hometowns The Journey Arrival and Settling In The Glinz/Glintz Names

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What's In A Name?

(Some Explanations Are Necessary)

Throughout this document we make repeated reference to the four original Glintz settlers that came to North America. The four men in order of age, eldest first, were:

1.Johann Andreas (known as ANDREW or ANDREW JOHN) Glintz,

2.Johann Carl Friederich (known as FREDERICK or FRED) Glintz,

3.Ernst Wilhelm (known as WILLIAM) Glintz,

4.Christian Ernst (known as ERNEST) Glintz.

After some time in Canada, three of the men, Frederick, William and Ernest began recording their name as “Glinz” without the “t”, even though all shared a common lineage. Only Andrew and his descendants continued to spell the name “Glintz” with the “t”. To this day it would appear that members of each family branch have retained these conventions. (see the chapter entitled “The Glintz and Glinz Names” for further discussion).

As more family members are introduced into this document, confusion may arise as to which person is being referred to. This may be due to several factors. Changes in name may have arisen due to change of language, change of country of residence, and changing social and political factors. Witness the name changes that Germans world-wide have undergone as a result of two world wars, for example. These and other factors, conspire against us when we try to be precise and consistent when referring to people by name. An especially problematic issue is the reuse of the father’s given name when naming offspring. For example a person named William may have a son named William who also had a son named William. Rather than attempt to keep straight who is William Sr. vs. William Jr. etc., I will use the full registered birth names in conjunction with the commonly used name to eliminate confusion. In order to be precise about whom we are speaking, I will use the following notational convention: Registered birth name(s), followed by (COMMON NAME) in brackets and capitals, followed by last name. Examples are best used to illustrate.

Registered German Birth Name Commonly Used  English Name Printed in This History As
Johann Andreas  Glintz

ANDREW or ANDREW JOHN

Johann Andreas  (ANDREW) Glintz
Johann Carl Friederich Glintz FREDERICK or FRED           or FRED Sr. Johann Carl Friederich (FREDERICK) Glintz
Ernst Wilhelm Glintz

WILLIAM

Ernst Wilhelm (WILLIAM) Glintz
Christian Ernst Glintz ERNEST Christian Ernst (ERNEST) Glintz

 In the example of Johann Carl Friederich Glintz, he was commonly known in Canada as FREDERICK, which is one of his registered birth names. Therefore his commonly used name is in all capitals within the brackets to draw attention to it as the common name. In the example of Ernst, he is commonly known as Ernest. As in the previous example, his commonly used name is in all capitals within the brackets. It is the brackets that denote this name is not part of his real, or registered birth name.

In the process of research it was discovered that many familiar names used in everyday reference to people, were not their actual, officially registered birth names, or that the names had been Anglicized. For example, my grandfather was known to all around him as “Alvin”, yet is registered in numerous official records as “Frederick Alban”. Again, for absolute accuracy’s sake, I have chosen to refer to people by their registered birth names, (i.e. “Frederick Alban”) if known. By using the registered birth name(s) together with the commonly used names I hope to clarify that the two names refer to one and the same person.

Cultural conventions also are at work against us when trying to be clear about whom we are speaking. In North America we have a somewhat universal standard in that we most often refer to people by their first given name, not the second (not always, but for the most part). Especially in earlier years in Germany, children usually received several “given” or “Christian” names at baptism, as in North America, however, the first name was often that of a religious saint, or person with religious significance. I can personally give witness to this fact as I have reviewed literally thousands of Lutheran records from eastern-central Germany, and I would l safely estimate that between 80-90% of all boys’ first names in this geographic area during the early 1800’s were “Johann”. The second name then was the name the person was commonly referred to as, for the rest of their lives, and the first name was for the most part disused except for official purposes. Therefore we might conclude that the person Johann Andreas Glintz, in Germany, would have been commonly called “Andreas”, or that Ernst Wilhelm Glintz, in Germany, would have been commonly called “Wilhelm”.

One must also consider that anglicization of names has taken place. So we must understand that “Johann Andreas” translates literally as “John Andrew”.  But because of the German convention detailed above, which used the person’s second name for common everyday usage, we can now see how “Johann Andreas Glintz” became “Andrew John Glintz” when anglicized. Hence Johann Carl Friederich Glintz became know to most as FRED(erick) Glintz, Ernst Wilhelm Glintz we knew as William Glintz, and Christian Ernst Glintz became Ernest Glintz.

Several articles have been written regarding some of the naming conventions used by people of German origin. One in particular, entitled “18th Century PA (Pennsylvania) German Naming Customs” by Charles F. Kerchner Jr. is particularly helpful. It can be found in it’s entirety at http://www.kerchner.com/germname.htm. The following is a brief excerpt.

At baptism, if two given names were given to the child, the first given name was a spiritual, saint's name. The second given name was the secular or call name (Rufname-pronounced "roofnama" in German; literally translates as "call name"-ed.), which is the name the person was known by, both within the family and to the rest of the world. This custom was originally adopted in Germanic and other regions in Europe from Roman Catholic tradition and continued by the Protestants in their baptismal naming customs. The immigrants from these areas brought the custom with them to Pennsylvania. The spiritual name, usually to honor a favorite saint, was used repeatedly and was usually given to all the children of that family of the same gender. Thus the boys would be Johan Adam Kerchner, Johan George Kerchner, etc., or Philip Peter Kerchner, Philip Jacob Kerchner, etc. Girls would be named Anna Barbara Kerchner, Anna Margaret Kerchner, etc., or Maria Elizabeth Kerchner, Maria Catherine Kerchner, etc.  But after baptism, these people would not be known as John, Philip, Anna, or Maria, respectively.  They would instead be known by what we would think of now as their middle name, which was their secular name.  Thus these people would be known respectively as Adam, George, Peter, Jacob, Barbara, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Catherine in legal and secular records.

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Copyright © 2003 Paul Frederick Glinz, London, Ontario, Canada
Last modified: February 11, 2003